Thursday, July 24, 2014

old Long-eared Owl nesting record ...

from Midland ... that's about 20 years old.

I grew up in northern Midland Co and towards the end of high school started exploring the woods behind the house.  I really under-birded it, but at the time with no internet and no mentors didn't really have a clue as to what to look for when.  Internet access in college was pretty helpful though. 

In late May of 98 I was cutting through a section of woods which was 2nd growth forest taking over an orchard with some scattered large white and (I think) Scotch pines when I came across a gray shape resting on a branch.  I didn't see it until I was probably 3 feet away.  My initial impression was that it was the stupidest squirrel in the history of the world and I'd just about decided to backhand it right off the branch on general principle when I realized it was feathered.  I backed up pretty quickly and went back inside for the camera, (this is a digital photo of the photo)...
 The camera even at the time was at least 25 years old so the image quality isn't awesome to say the least.

I found the adults the next day, they were a lot more cautious and flew pretty quickly despite the fact that the "lens" I was using was an equally old Swift telescope.

Somewhere in my childhood house there's a photo of a Varied Thrush we had coming into our feeders one winter; I have no idea when/if I'll relocate it though.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Cool Clubtails

If June was for skimmers then July is apparently for clubtails.

A couple days ago Rhoda found Dragonhunter in an inlet off Lake Chapin.  We kayaked out yesterday hoping to net one.  There was a nice species diversity there, with Cyrano Darner, River Cruiser, and 3 species of clubtails among others.  The only one we netted yesterday was Black-shouldered Spinyleg.  One landed on my head at one point; they seemed to like to fly out from the trees to land on horizontal surfaces close to the water's surface.
It's fairly large, almost 6cm long with huge hind legs (apparently they prey on large insects up to medium sized dragonflies).  It looks like a kangaroo.

I glimpsed this next one but missed it yesterday.  When I returned today it was back on the same log.  It was so old it actually didn't bother flying the first time I swept the net an inch or 2 over it.  I had to practically hit it with the rim of the net on the 2nd swing.
It's actually somewhat similarly patterned to the larger spinyleg in that the rear areas of the thorax (body) are fairly lightly patterned.  The arrangement of the partial and full stripes makes it a Unicorn Clubtail.  I'm not sure why it's named that way though.

And finally the bad M-Fer that drew Rhoda back the same time it did me today.  Dragonhunter.  She nabbed it out of the air with a well-timed swing.  All these pics are hers.
 It's a freaking monster, by far the biggest ode I've handled.

I'm not sure where a person goes from here, but it was cool.  I have been to the beach about 4 times in the last week, but so far just willets.  I bet there's more odes out there waiting for discovery though.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hard Odes

I'll be curious to see how I compare the difficulty of identifying Odes with some of the harder species of birds in a few years after more experience.  I'm still at the lug-around-a-Peterson-in-spring-migration phase of odes.  My family's gone camping so I spent most of the day looking for dragonflies.

The two red Trameas are really really similar.  Earlier in the year I caught a Red Saddlebags.  My impression in the past has been that Carolina gets more likely later in the season and I'd been ignoring them for a few weeks.  It seems like they've gotten more common again.
 ID points that (I think) are supportive of Carolina are the dark frons (nose), quite small clear patch at the base of the hindwing, and (again I think), how far down the black at the end of the abdomen reaches.  It took a lot of effort to eventually ambush one.

 This is my best pic so far of Comet Darner.  They don't land.  It was hard to get even this pic.  They're not common on this side of the state.
 I think the above pic is good enough for ID purposes, they were really orange at close range.  Common Green Darner females (below) could maybe look similar, but they're brown, not orange

I spent about 3 hours trying to stalk or ambush the Comet and this next creature.
This Golden-winged Skimmer flew just as I started my net swing.  It's probably the best picture of one ever taken in the state of Michigan.

Most meadowhawks are impossible to identify when young.  Variegated is an exception to the rule.

I mostly ignore the damselflies unless they're a tandem pair.  This Amber-winged Spreadwing was large enough to catch my eye though, a lifer for me.

Finally a clubtail that I cannot identify.  It's a teneral (recently emerged) female that's 55mm in length.  Clubtails generally have 4 stripes on the thorax.  On this one they're broad and merge into 2.  It does not (to my interpretation) have a T5 stripe at the very end of the thorax which Ashy Clubtail is supposed to have but otherwise is probably closest to it.
 There's a lot of yellow along the sides of the abdomen, more than any other clubtail I've found.
 The broad blurry bit of yellow across S9 seems fairly unique.  It doesn't have much of a club. 
So ... we'll see what they say when I send it in to U of M at the end of the season.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Fun Odes

Though not all of them can pull off the stare-into-your-soul look that a Cobra Clubtail can...

Frosted Whiteface's are much less intimidating, for a midday sun pic, the lighting in this one is not bad.

It's skimmer time of year though, this is 4-Spotted Skimmer.  I wasn't quite sure what it was.  It's relatively small for a skimmer, a somewhat hairy body with some yellow edging to the abdomen and some patterning at the base of the wings.  Holding it with the wings pulled back it looked an awful lot like a Common Baskettail.  I'd decided that was it was and gave it to Hazel to release.  It didn't fly right away and I took a shot of it on her finger.
 It was at that point I realized it was something different. Oops.  Fortunately it didn't fly.

No such ID problems with Golden-winged Skimmer.
 Or Painted, which I've featured before.

I don't have a good feel for darners.  Common Green is everywhere but I've only seen other species a couple of times.  This Cyrano was flying along the river on the way into New Buffalo Marsh yesterday.
 The brown and green patterning of the thorax and the way the frons ("nose" area) protrudes out from the face are ID points.

This is Rainbow Bluet, a tiny damselfly with attractive coloring that grades from orange in the face to yellow underneath and green above to blue at the very end of the tail
 Those last 2 (and the Cobra clubtail) are Rhoda's pics.

Finally proof that I haven't forgotten entirely about birds, a Common Yellowthroat trying to take eat some of its share of the local fly population.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Prothonotary nest

A week or so ago Rhoda and I looked everywhere for Blue Grosbeaks, but the "bird of the day" was a Painted Skimmer.  A couple days ago we canoed about 10 miles of the St Joe river looking for dragonflies, struck out almost entirely, but had Prothonotaries every 1/2 - 3/4 mile.  We happened upon one nest which I returned to this morning.

It was foggy, overcast, cold and followed 2 days of rain which wasn't really ideal for lighting or kayaking upstream.  It was the morning I had though, so it was the morning I went.  Workers can't be choosers.  Both male and female were attending the nest, which I reached after about an hour of paddling. 

This is the female

They pretty much ignored me standing on the opposite side of a channel, I think they categorized me in the Morbidly Obese Heron category.

I stayed back which allowed me to take some pics of the birds as they flew up.  They would land somewhat sideways for whatever reason.  I tried to keep the birds in their exact position in the frame on these montages; they look cramped but it shows the wingbeats.

Inchworms seemed to be the main menu item, though the male ate a damselfly at one point.

I was surprised how much they foraged right around the nest (that's how we spotted it in the first place); I don't think I've seen any other passerines that active right in its vicinity, though the narrow band of habitat along the river's edge is probably the reason.

Finally, this one could be a caption contest.

I'd be tempted to go back with a scope to digi-scope the birds and get much more full frame shots; all of these are cropped more than I'd like.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Breeding Warbs

I haven't gotten out a lot lately, partially due to my schedule and partially due to, well, migration's over man.  But there's still interesting things out there (some even with 2 wings instead of 4).

I was hearing this chestnut sided singing down in the river bottom for about an hour before it really clicked on me that it might be worth trying to photograph.  I had about 10 minutes before I left for work but he turned out to be fairly cooperative.
He was still singing away when I got home that evening.  It was gone the next morning though, which I guess make sense since I've never had one on territory down there.

Prothonotary is another bird that breeds locally, but one that I don't have good pics of.  Part of the reason is their penchant for the most mosquito-infested habitat possible.  The cold spring has the bugs behind making this individual tolerable to wait for, just a few miles from my house.

I think Indigo Buntings were singing at about our first 8 stops trying to find a Blue Grosbeak last week.  Right on cue there was one singing away at the Prothon spot.

 Plus another of what I'm calling Midland Clubtail.  They apparently don't have a problem with poison ivy.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Odes in red, orange, and yellow

Rhoda and I spent most of the morning looking for Blue Grosbeak in the county.  We found a lot of Indigo Buntings, several Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and a Blue-winged Warbler.  No Blue Grosbeak though. 

There were Odes around though.  It's been a good year for Red Saddlebags, I caught my first one a few days ago so didn't swing at these.  Carolina Saddlebags looks very similar, apparently the black spots on the tip of the tail go all the way down in Carolina, in Red they just stay on top.  Currently Red Saddlebags outnumbers Black Saddlebags, though I'm sure the ratio will switch as the summer goes on.
Calico Pennant was another red ode we had today, though I'd gotten better pics previously.

I wasn't sure what this orangish one was initially.
 I was hoping it was a Painted Skimmer, but got a little concerned when I saw one that was paired up with a male 12-spotted Skimmer.  We took it back to the car to look it up.  Rhoda snapped these next two pics.
 It was a Painted Skimmer.  Almost all the Michigan records are from SE Michigan.  The much more common orange ode locally this time of year is Halloween Pennant.

Here's the female 12-Spotted, you can see why the male grabbed the wrong one.

Finally a clubtail that I didn't manage to net.  I'm pretty sure it's Midland Clubtail, though it's a huge family and they're all pretty similar.