Saturday, October 22, 2016

tropical Tropical Kingbirds

unlike the one in the UP, these pics are from Costa Rica.  I'm not sure if I'll go after the UP Tropical.  I haven't had a day off since it was found and don't have one any time soon either.  In the hopes of finding one here I've occasionally photographed them in the neotropics to work on comparison file photos.

Tropical is said to have a slightly more notched tail than the similar Couch's; certainly the notching is apparent on this bird.

 A look at the bill base.  It's thinner looking straight on than I would expect from the side views.
 This is the same individual with less back-light.  You can start to get a sense of the back color.  Tropical is said to average slightly greener than Couch's, but again this is an average difference and hard to evaluate on individual birds.

A side view of a different individual...
Pale edgings to the wing coverts likely indicate a first winter bird.

Next is my only pic of a Couch's Kingbird (from S Texas) back in the digi-scoping days.  Based on the wing coverts it's also a young bird (though photographed in late summer it's even younger).
This bird is still growing in its outer tail feathers so I'm not sure any comparison can actually be drawn between the degree of notching between this and the lead-off Tropical

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ugly and uglier

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you ... immature gulls!  Cue the sound of everyone closing their browser window.

 First is a juvenile Lesser Black-backed from Tiscornia.
 Fifteen years ago I doubt I could have appreciated the difference between this and a Herring Gull, but they've gotten a lot more common.
The bill is smaller than a Herring Gull's and stays darker much longer (more later).  In flight notice how all of the primary feathers are pretty solidly dark.

Contrast those flight feathers with this Herring Gull's.
 The outer primaries are dark, the inner primaries are a much lighter gray-brown.  The above Herring still has an all dark bill and probably is from much farther north than this next bird which is more typical of our Herrings which is well on its way to a two-toned bill (and is also getting some first winter feathers in the mantle).

Here's a first year Lesser Black-backed from New Buffalo with a similarly aged Herring behind.
I wouldn't make a huge deal out of how much darker the Lesser is; that difference is accentuated by the Herring being a couple months older as evidenced by the two-toned bill.  The Herring is a lot more faded and its brown juvenile feathers have had probably twice as much time to fade.  A juvenile Lesser is more crisply marked than a juvenile Herring, but this Herring isn't a juvie any more, it's working its way into first winter.

Just for fun here's the above Lesser now facing right with a 2nd winter Lesser in front of it.
The 2nd winter Lesser has a darker bill than the first fall Herring.  You can start to get a hint of the darker mantle.  The tertials (darker feathers with the bright white ends just short of the primaries) are pretty classic for 2nd winter Lesser Black-backed too.

Want more? Amar wrote a similar post last month...

Friday, September 23, 2016

a Falcon's wandering

or peregrination, if you will.  Clearly it's lost.

Do you ever wonder where the birds you see came from?  Certainly we get our share of high arctic birds with shorebirds and jaegers winging south.  Can't you just imagine a Peregrine high on some cliff overlooking the tundra?  Here's an adult Peregrine from Tiscornia last month.

And if you look carefully it's banded... black over red on the left, D83

Another look as it flies off
But from what farflung crag did this bird originate?  Where was its aeyrie sheltered from the sting of polar winds? Uhhh, well, after researching the band, that would be a steel mill in Gary, Indiana.  Oh well.

Not surprisingly there weren't a ton of shorebirds hanging out on the beach that day.  There've been a few since, here a first-fall Greater Yellowlegs, not a super-common species at Tiscornia.

I waited for the sun to rise to illuminate this young Black-bellied Plover a few days ago, it flew just before however.

I think a different bird in full afternoon sun actually turned out better.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

1000 trips to Tiscornia

1000. Give or take a few (with one documented by Satellite imagery).  But 1000 is what my spreadsheet says.  Of course Tim's number is probably at least quadruple that.

It was a pleasant morning, highlighted by a flyby Parasitic Jaeger that I think Josh Kamp picked up.  It was fairly close as far as jaegers go.

 They aren't great portraits, but you can get a sense of the overall warm coloration of the bird (wrong for anything but Parasitic), the tail projection, and the bill length (too long for Long-tailed), among other features.  The next pic shows pale terminal edging to the primaries which Olsen and Larsson state is diagnostic for Parasitic when present.

Jaegers are one of the hallmark birds of Tiscornia, so it felt right to have one this morning.  I've seen the other 2 species but never photographed them definitively enough for the committee.

An immature Great Black-backed Gull has been hanging out for about a week as well, fairly early for them here.
I've photographed 16 species of gulls at Tiscornia, highlighted by singleton Glaucous-winged, Black-headed and Sabine's (a bird I would have predicted I'd have had more frequently), Little Gull and Kittiwake a little over half the years, and Franklins and Laughing most years.  I probably had a Black-tailed once in February several years ago but it was too distant to be certain of.

Sanderling is surely the most common shorebird at Tiscornia, one that's quite rare any distance inland.
I'm missing a few odd ones since there isn't any mudflat.  Solitary Sandpiper has the opposite water preferences from a sanderling; I've never seen one at Tiscornia.  All 3 phalaropes are on the list though.  Upland is another that Tim's had several times and others have had at least once that I still need.

Warblers are moving; there's a few brushy corners that have had good birds over the years.  We had a Chat once in the tangle this Magnolia was in.
I've had 26 warblers at Tiscornia.  Blue-winged is probably the most common one missing.

All told I've had 254 species at Tiscornia.  The commonest one missing?  Probably Hairy Woodpecker; they just don't seem to explore outside the forest the way Pileated will.  I would have predicted I would have had White-fronted Goose (I have it from New Buff harbor), and that an eider or Barrow's Goldeneye would be on the list, but I guess maybe I'll have to go back once or twice more.  Or a thousand times.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The bird was Magnificent, the photos...

not so much.

Tim picked up another Frigatebird (the 3rd for each of us at Tiscornia, involving 4 different birds over the years) at the base of the pier and called those of us on the end to tell us to look back for it.  It was a much tougher spot than I expected, about 600 yards away, backlit, and frequently below the tree line.  Eventually it popped up above the trees.

What to do with not-so-great distant photos? Make a montage of course.  You can get a sense of the alar bars though it's pretty backlit.
I had the presence of mind to thumbwheel it up 2 F-stops to compensate for the backlighting trying to document the pattern of the underparts better.

I would say that the white underparts do not extend significantly onto the underwing, eliminating Lesser.  It would be hard to eliminate Great on these photos, but Tim's from a quarter mile closer has a nice pointed throat/bib; sub-adult Great Frigatebirds have the black of the head cut off where the throat meets the breast rather than extending in a point onto the breast.

My first Frigatebird at Tiscornia followed Hurricane Ike (which came out of the Gulf a couple weeks before), the 2nd (the bird that we watched land on the lighthouse) was not long after an Atlantic hurricane (but was photographed in Kansas before it arrived at Tiscornia); the previous Berrien records had followed Gulf Hurricanes.  This bird follows the tropical storm that flooded Louisiana a couple weeks ago and likely follows the Gulf pattern.

Monday, August 29, 2016

the Buffy peep

After showing pics of Least and Semipalmated Sandpiper the last few posts I graduated up to Baird's Sandpiper this morning on the pier.  I've seen a couple this year but this was the first one that stood more than a few seconds for a pic.

The bird stood out to the naked eye as being buffy and having the scalloped upperparts typical of this species, (the latter especially true in juvies).  A closer look shows the wings extending well past the tail.

I tried a montage of the bird running.
It would be nice if I had greater depth of field; it looks a little off with 2 focal planes in the same image.

Finally an awful photo of the real buff-breasted sandpiper, 3 Buff-breasteds that flew past a few days ago.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Sunrise shorebirds

A young Ruddy Turnstone was at the end of the pier this morning just as the first sunrays touched the pier.

I'm not sure what to make of the gray feather towards the back of the lowermost row of scapulars.  Most shorebirds turn gray in the winter, if this was a dunlin you'd just say there it's one feather down on its way to winter plumage; turnstones don't turn gray though.

There were some peeps on the pier last week, though that day dawned cloudy.
This is a juvie Least Sandpiper
ID points are the neatly tapering slightly drooped bill, warm foxy tones in the upperparts, and white bracing in the scapulars.  Oh, and the pale legs.  When in doubt cheat and just check the legs.

Like this bird.  Pale legs.
Palish.  Whoops.  Better not cheat.  That bird is a very young Semipalmated Sandpiper whose legs aren't as dark as they'll be in a couple more weeks.  Note how its bill doesn't taper as much as the Least's (this bird's bill is on the short side for a Semi btw, again a very young bird).  It has much less intensity of color in the upperparts.

Here's another Semi from that same flock (whose feet at least are also still pretty pale)

Same bird closer.  This one has a little more color in the scapulars than the first bird did, but nowhere near what the Least has.
You can see the semi-palmation of the toes.  (Western Sandpiper has it too).

I had hoped to get close enough to this group to get a good tight shot of the variation of several birds' scapulars, but they woke up and started feeding before I could manage it.