Friday, November 6, 2015

Gift Short-eared

Short-eared Owl is one of several (ok probably more like 20 or so) uncommon but regular birds I've missed this year.  I don't think I've ever seen one in Berrien away from the lakefront or a quality winter field.  So I was quite surprised when one flew over the road and landed at the edge of the subdivision along Momany after leaving Tiscornia.

Cars make for good blinds; I don't think I've ever been this close to a perched Short-eared before.
The car can only hide so much though, those amber eyes are clearly seeking one's very soul.

But the owl couldn't hide from the crows, which it tracked pretty actively.

And pretty rapidly flew off, escorted closely by them. (Unfortunately those pics are super blurred as I was shooting pretty slow shutter speeds in the low light.  I was pretty lucky to get this next pic panning along with the bird).
The owl is pretty heavily marked making it a female.  Here's old flight pics of a Short-eared Owl, one of my favorite pics.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Fall color

It's one of the best times of year for finding a decent rarity locally ... but it hasn't happened yet.  Aside from a very distant Eared Grebe a couple days ago, the diversity has been fairly sparse.  But, as long as you're taking pics of common birds they might as well have fun backgrounds.

I think this is the 4th photo of Downy Woodpecker that I've taken.

Bluebirds are starting to accumulate into little winter flocks.

Winter Wren is another bird that I've never had a lot of luck with photo-wise.  These are the best I've managed, but aren't much better than OK.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Clay-colored vs Chipping Sparrow

I had a Clay-colored Sparrow at Tiscornia about a week ago.
 The very pale ground color of the face sets off the markings around the ear patch and contrast nicely with the pale gray collar.
 Clay-colored has a stronger mark along the base of the auricular (ear patch) along the edge of the malar than Chipping.
 There was a young Chipping Sparrow in the same group. 
 The Chipping has a darker ground color to the face without the paler supercilium and midline crown stripe of the Clay-colored.  You can see it really lacks the streak between the auricular and the malar as well.

I can't seem to write about passerines at Tiscornia without a merlin pic.
This was one of the nicer flight shots I've had of one at close range.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

a pseudo Black-chinned excuse for ISO 8000

A female ruby-throat type hummingbird appeared in southern Berrien this week.  Given that ruby-throats are pretty much done migrating (I don't think I've had one at my feeder in at least a few, perhaps several, weeks), the possibility of a lost Black-chinned was raised.  It was dark and rainy and I was pushing the ISO up much higher than I ever really have before; the pics turned out fairly well all things considering.

So, who's been giving legitimate actual study to the Ruby-throats at their feeder?  I know I ... (hmm, awkward pause) ...  definitely have not.  Sibley says that ruby-throat has much more contrast to the face, his illustration has the ear blending more with the throat in Black-chinned.  I think the above pics are representative of the bill length.

Here's a comparison female Black-chinned from Arizona showing its blended face and longer bill.
A character that I guess I should study more is the color of the forehead and cap.  Pyle says that Black-chinned lacks green tones; its cap is brownish or gray.  Honestly I don't see a lot of green here so clearly I should look at more young hummingbirds next fall.

One of my pics early on seemed to suggest a purplish gorget feather which would be very strong support for Black-chinned.
I tried really hard to get an unequivocal shot of a purple feather there.  This was as close as I could come and it would seem that it's more likely an artifact of some feathers out of place.

I don't honestly own a specialty hummingbird guide.  Allen Chartier said that a young Black-chinned should have buff edged primary coverts which this bird clearly does not (apologies if I over-simplified, if so blame me, not him)

A view of the only shot I lucked into of the spreadtail.
If a person knows what they're doing the shape of the outermost primary likely cinches this as a Ruby-throat.  Unfortunately I have far more frozen wings of Costa Rican Hummingbirds than I do of the one in my backyard...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

semi-late Avocets

I think this is the latest I've ever had avocets at Tiscornia.  I see some eBird records from Berrien from early November, so not unheard of.

They spent about an hour at Tiscornia, mostly resting on the shore, sometimes looping north.
 The bird with the more curved bill on the left is a female; the male's bill is a little straighter.  The male looks to be a first year bird with more brown faded wing coverts.  I didn't notice it has much less of an eye ring initially, I assume this is also age-related.

It's been a really good year for Franklin's Gulls.  I've missed this bird in the county on at least one year.
 This is probably the 4th time I've had one this year.  The pics are not great since I had the ISO pushed way up to improve depth of field when hoping to flush passerines from the grass and I forgot to change them back.

Finally a more a pic more appropriate for Halloween, a Snow Bunting.
If this herald of winter doesn't frighten you, I don't know what will

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Merlin's buffet

I spent some time about a week ago watching this merlin at Tiscornia.

He was pretty hungry.  I watched it eat a warbler, and then fly out over the lake before returning with a Golden-crowned Kinglet.  It then caught a Ruby-crowned right along the pier which it devoured as well.

I watched the gulls knock down a few Brown Creepers over the lake; this one made it through though.

This Ring-billed Gull decided since it could catch passerines over the water, that a longspur on the beach (in New Buffalo) was fair game.
It's the only one chasing it for a reason.

Merlins chase each other for no apparent reason.

Their prey, not so much.  This Lincoln's Sparrow stayed tight to the cover.

As did 2 Cape May Warblers, this is the brighter of the two
 Blackpoll is a lot more common in fall than spring.

Lastly a gratuitous moon pic that I never got up while my computer was down.  It's in the aftermath of the eclipse last month.  I missed the actual eclipse due to work, but I took a pic when I got home as there can still be pretty fun skies at 4am.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Columbus Day Gull-nasty

He's Back.  For the severalth consecutive year.  This bird usually appears in September in the north and central part of the county before working its way slowly south and hanging out some in New Buffalo and then mostly northern Indiana by the time winter rolls around.  This bird is frequently claimed as a Chandeleur Gull (a Kelp x Herring population that survived for a decade or so in the Gulf of Mexico on some little islands that were wiped out in a hurricane).  The Louisiana ornithologists who studied the Chandeleur Island birds say it isn't one.

I emailed Al Jaramillo last year about it who thought Great Black-backed x Lesser Black-backed would be more consistent with its appearance, with the obvious caveat that likely it's impossible to prove.

The bird was up close in New Buffalo and that explanation makes a lot of sense.
 The bird has a mantle shade that would seem appropriate for GBBGxLBBG (and darker than the majority of Chandeleur gulls which had the full gamut of mantle color between Kelp black and Herring gray).  The legs are very long.  This bird is always taller than Herring Gulls.  I've never thought the grayish-bland leg coloring (with pink webs) was that inappropriate for crossing a pink-legged bird with a yellow-legged bird.

A close-up of the head.  It has the heavy gony angle of GBBG and the brilliant orange spot of LBBG.  The gape of both Herring and Kelp is yellow, this bird's is definitely not yellow.  GBBG and LBBG have red and red-orange gapes respectively per Sibley.
 The head streaking could probably be explained by either combination.

Another shot of the spreadwing.
I've gone feather-by-feather down the spreadwing in the past.  Here's the link to the Louisiana paper describing the Chandeleur birds, there's a good description of the spreadwings of their birds inside.