Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Belize, part 8

It's been 5 years since I've written anything about my first trip to the Neotropics, a trip Ginger and I took to Belize 10 years ago.  This was about the 5th day of the trip, at Las Milpas, a preserve/bio station that abuts up to Chan Chich.  The night before we'd seen two scorpions walking down the bathroom wall that were the size of my hand.  Returning to the bathroom to take a shower that morning was probably as much physical terror as I've ever experienced.

Aside from a boat trip we took in Crooked Tree, this was the only time when we had a guide.  Ramon, one of the managers, would do a walk before breakfast and one before dinner with whoever wanted to go along.  My first toucan (a keel-billed) teed up nicely (this was back in the digi-scoping days).

We added some hummingbirds (wedge-tailed sabrewing and white-bellied emerald) along the road, as well as a Northern Bentbill and a Violaceous Trogon (whose image I seem to no longer have).

We eventually made our way back and I kept birding as the heat of the day intensified.  Eventually activity essentially dried up entirely, though there were a few birds foraging about the compost pile, highlighted by this Rufous-tailed Jacamar.  I've seen this species on both trips to Costa Rica the last 2 years, but never as well.

Butterflies were more active, this is (probably) a Ruddy Daggerwing.

We went back out with Ramon in the late afternoon to drive down a road where sometimes he saw Ornate Hawk-eagles.  We didn't see one though an Ocellated Turkey walked across the road.  Raptors were well represented in reasonable diversity, with a pair of White Hawks (basically a buteo patterned like a White Ibis), a Plumbeous Kite (picture a Mississippi Kite with rufous at the base of the primaries), and this young Great Black-hawk.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Townsend's 2015

I tried for the Solitaire on January 1 but had no success on a very windy cold day.  We tried again for it today and didn't find it initially in the SW corner of the blowout where we've traditionally had the most success.  Its favorite juniper had as few berries as I've seen.

We'd seen some activity in an isolated juniper on the way in and we returned to it.  Waxwings were flying in and out, joined by a few bluebirds.

We waited by the tree and eventually did see the solitaire before it flew out in front of a larger group of waxwings and disappeared.

We worked our way into a little juniper clump closer to the parking lot to sort through the tree sparrows that were working their way through when the waxwings flew in and started feeding vigorously.

As they filtered back out the Solitaire re-appeared.

 It fed briefly and then hunkered down, fluffed itself up, and settled in.

We ended up walking away from it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Bird of the day ...

 might have been this boot.  While it is on the banks of the Mississippi River, it's not an Ivory Gull

This is also not an Ivory Gull though it has a white head.

These birds could be Ivory Gulls.  They're all white.

However they can't #$%^# fly, so by definition they can't be Ivory Gulls.  The Ivory Gull flew away.  Two &%%^@ days ago.

I guess we were close to St Louis, because similar to Ivory Gulls, these didn't use to regularly grace the banks of the beautiful Mississippi River.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Heavyweight contendahs

Silver Beach this morning had a decent selection of gulls.  I don't find either Glaucous or Great Black-backed to be as attractive as their smaller sister species, but it's fun to get them together in the same frame.

Sibley has Glaucous at just over 3 pounds and the rangier Great Black-backed at about 3 1/2.  The Glaucous probably wasn't used to having to give ground.

The full adult flew right past.

The Black-backed did eventually as well.

There were a total of 4 Great blackbacks present.  This one's subadult bill but near adult wings probably makes this a 3rd winter bird.

The heavy all dark bill and white rump of the first winter bird generally stand out as well.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

the Beetle book

Looking for that last minute gift idea?  (Of course not, it's not December 23rd yet is it?)  But if you were, what better idea than a fine selection from Princeton Books who are willing to provide review copies to blogging shills?

I've really enjoyed the Dragonfly book, I have focused more on Odes the last couple summers than I have birds.  With that in mind, Beetles of Eastern North America.

I had no idea how many of them there are.  There's a mere 115 families known from the region.  The book estimates that 20% of all life forms (including plants) are a beetle of some form.  With that in mind, it covers about 1400 bugs, many of them without a common name.  They state that 1400 represents about 10% of the possibilities.  It's a fairly heavy ~550 page book.

This is the layout, a page of fairly attractive things in the ladybug group
There's a nice intro describing strategies to find and attract beetles, not all of which are intuitive.

There's also a nice key to putting a bug into a general family; I would have appreciated something like this in the dragonfly book where I was essentially just page-whacking, thumbing through the book more or less at random trying to stumble onto the next section.  They also include a ruler on the inside of the front and back cover, the lack of which was also a big critique I had of the dragonfly book.  Somewhat disconcertingly, that ruler goes up to 7 inches (!). 

I'm not sure that birders are the ideal target audience, dragonflies and butterflies are an easier leap.  I think a person as interested in natural history in general may be more likely to embrace this menagerie.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

the SNOW in the CBC

It was nearly a snow-free CBC.  Fifty degree temperatures kept it remarkably pleasant and there wasn't a bit of snow on the ground. 

Which left a Snowy as the only snow for the day.  It eventually looked at us.

We were rapidly determined to be inedible and after that this was the predominant look we got.

Here it's looking at an airplane.

The digi-scoped version.
Based on there being some retained (faded) feathers in the scapulars and (I think) tertials, this bird is over a year old, and based on the amount of markings probably an adult female.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

a snowy Snowy Owl

Rhoda and I had just about the whitest Snowy Owl I've ever seen fly past Tiscornia (along with close to a thousand ducks, mostly mergs).  It landed briefly on the South pier before being flushed by gulls to Silver. 

I drove over and phone-scoped the bird.  With the scope at 60x, the phone at 2x, and some cropping these are probably about 150x

 The talons are huge.  I'd never really seen the feathered legs and feet well before.

The bird was flushed by beachwalkers

Most of the Snowies that come south are first year birds with much heavier markings.  This was an adult, likely a male.