Thursday, June 21, 2018

Forget Father's Day?

Need a last second gift idea for the summer doldrums?

Can I suggest to you a latest offering from Princeton Press (who gave me a free copy to review)?

Why go out into the summer heat when you can bring photo subjects to you?  (Some assembly required). 

The first 3rd of the book is a review of butterfly biology basics, range maps for some of the common showy species with information on their food plant as both adults and caterpillars.  There's intro information about the different families of butterflies and short accounts for some of the most common and widespread species.  A lot of it is going to be duplicated if you already have Kaufman's (or a similar) butterfly field guide. 

For birders probably there's more new information about the plants, which is the subject for the middle third of the book.  Did you know some flowers produce only pollen and no nectar?  The spiderwort I plant every few years will attract bees ... but no butterflies since they require the nectar.

Of course the book is chock full of eye candy photos.

The final third focuses on specific regions (Northwest, California, Plains, Midwest, Northeast, and Florida) to give more targeted recommendations about different plants.

There's a lot of information in this book.  Honestly I would probably have included some specific layouts of things to plant for both small and medium sized plots and made it more obvious about the sun and shade requirements of the plants.  Practically I think I would be more likely to try this if the book tried to give me less overall information.  Personally I'd prefer more exact directions for example gardens that could be adapted to one's space rather than having all the information and then having to internalize it and come up with a plan.

In any case, the book is going on the shelf and I look forward to experimenting in the future.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Fork-tailed Flycatcher

Schedules finally opened up allowing a run up to Genessee for a Fork-tailed Flycatcher that's been present for a week in a grassy subdivision of the future.  While this is the 4th country I've had one in, it was an ABA bird for me.
 I'd never seen a non-breeding plumaged individual.  This one is very weathered and quite faded.  It's molting a couple inner primaries on each side.  The longish tail, overall gray color, and wing flash created by the primary gap made me think 'mockingbird' when it first flew across the meadow a hundred yards or so distant.

Fork-tailed Flycatcher is present year-round in Central America, but also breeds in southern Brazil in our winter.  I would assume this is one of the South American subspecies that overshot its wintering grounds by half a continent.  Sometimes the subspecies can be identified based on the number and pattern of emarginated primaries; this one is probably too worn for that.  I can't really make out any emargination left.

Now I just need to chase (or better yet, find) a Scissor-tailed for the state...

Saturday, June 2, 2018

starting summer with Summer

Up until today I've had no luck this year with Summer Tanager.  Most people got one of the pair that at least temporarily set up shop next to the picnic area in Warren Dunes.  I checked there several times and have struck out.  I've started working my way down the other blow-outs over the last week or so.  Last week I walked the northern-most one in Warren Dunes, best accessed from Weko Beach.  Today I walked both the two northern-most and in the 2nd started hearing a Summer singing from the very top.  I walked all the way up and eventually got a visual on the bird.
 It's a one-year-old bird as evidenced by the transitional plumage.

As usual, Prairies were singing in each blow-out.

This is not a Blue Grosbeak.

Orchard Oriole, like Summer Tanager, is a bird that can be missed in the spring but can be tracked down in June.  This one was singing in the south county yesterday not far from some blue flag irises at Dayton Prairie

Finally a look at one of the Worm-eating's on territory.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

BT Blue photo-shoot

Mike Mahler found a Connecticut at Sarett last week.  I chased it, but missed it by about 15 minutes according to Rick Brigham who had heard it not long after he arrived.

There was a Black-throated Blue being fairly cooperative though.

There was a female about as well, but I was slower to lock up the focus on her and was a little disappointed with those images.

Maybe the last warbler pic of the spring?

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Scarlet Tanager specimen

I was driving home from birding a couple mornings ago when a bright pip of scarlet caught my eyes along the side of the road.  What's a birder to do when they come across a specimen like that?  Well, if you're like me you make a U turn and stop on a bridge to pick it up.  In front of a cop no less.  He slowed and kept driving.

It hadn't been dead long and was still incredibly fresh.  The head and back was incredibly intensely red.

I've never been close enough to one to notice the very faint edge of green along the flight feathers (two of the median coverts are edged in red).  I think the red feather coming through is a lesser covert that grew in red instead of black

A zoom in on the notched edge of a tanager bill.

Some of the coloration of the flank was neon yellow rather than red.  I'm not sure if that's a sign it's a first spring bird or if this is pretty common but usually hidden.
Hopefully the next post will be of a very live blue bird rather than a dead red one.

Sunday, May 20, 2018


Another year, another Birdathon.  I struggled with not enough sleep, but we had a good day overall.  Some birds a person has luck with, others a person doesn't.  I've had no luck with Kentucky this spring.  A lot of people have had it or them or (cough, cough, yellowthroats, just kidding) along Floral.  One was seen again yesterday a couple minutes before we came to the boardwalk.  We stood there for nearly 30 minutes; we didn't get it.  Least Bittern is always a hard bird.  Both my teammates heard it call once.  I didn't. (Fortunately it was when we went back this morning).  But a nemesis in the positive was this Whip-poor-will.  I'd honestly never seen one before, and despite having a couple (usually) reliable spots, they weren't singing in the nighttime rain.

Worm-eating Warbler can also be a hard bird.  Birdathon was a pretty late date this year allowing us to pin this one down to a territory a few days prior.

almost a mirror image Prothon from Brown

On the other end of the color scale, a female redstart at Tiscornia
We had Yellow-bellied Flycatcher a few places, this one was also at Tiscornia
Coupled with an Olive-sided, we did well on flycatchers (and had 28 warblers in addition).

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

chocolate-morph Ring-billed

Caleb put a photo of a Ring-billed Gull with all dark wings on the Facebook Gull page.  I happened into a pretty similar looking bird at Tiscornia this afternoon. 

Gulls are massing between the piers feeding on small fish; I assume steelhead heading out into the lake, but that's just a guess.  It's a great time of year to pick up Laughing or Franklins, and we have a few California Gull records for May (to say nothing of the Glaucous-winged) so this bird drew my eye.  Here's a montage of the individual at medium distance:

It circled around and flew past a couple times.
There's only a few gray feathers in the entire upperwing, and I'm not sure those aren't new feathers growing in.

A view of the underside:
It actually has a bit of a belly patch.

I know there's pics of Little Gulls like this in the books, but I'm not sure I've seen this variant illustrated for Ring-billed.