Sunday, February 23, 2020

the Tiscornia Scoter show

All 3 species of scoter have been seen on the pier the last couple days (though I didn't see the Harlequin Duck this morning).  But if you want to photograph black and white birds, what better time than first light?

The light gets away from you quickly...

While the White-winged's are the dominant species there were a few Surfs about.

And given that I forgot to eBird Black last year, I couldn't make the same mistake twice!  These guys almost lined up for a really nice composition, but that White-wing in front started banking a moment too soon

The "dark-winged" scoters, from the above shot wheeled past, if I only had the close-up pic below to go on, I might call them 2 blacks and 2 surfs... but studying the bill shapes of the top pic makes me think they're all black ... but I could be wrong.

And who knows, maybe the ice will soon be melted enough to let the algae get slick!

Friday, February 21, 2020

into the Shiripuno jungle

After spending Day 1 of the trip getting to Ecuador, and Day 2 getting into the Ecuadorian Amazon, Day 3 dawned with great promise.  We headed (where else?) into the woods.  Led by our guide's guide's guide (more on her in later posts) we started working the jungle.  The birds came in ones and twos, a few antshrikes and medium-large woodpeckers, before we rounded a corner and our guide's guide spied this Yellow-billed Jacamar.

It was fairly cooperative, and a lot lower and closer than just about anything we found on this walk.

No need for our guide, guide's guide, or guide's guide's guide for this one, Spangled Cotinga was spotted by one of the group as we searched for a calling woodpecker.

Tota, the guide's guide's guide, (or Dota? we were never quite sure) spied this White-crowned Manakin.  Given that she spoke mostly Wauroni (and honestly I think less Spanish than I do), figuring out what or where she was looking took some doing, but most of us got there in the end for this bird at least.  She seemed to know the trails well though.

This was the biggest glasswing-type butterfly that I've come across.

And this seemed to be in the wood-satyr class, but again twice as big.

Finally a minute waxy flower whose relation I won't even attempt to guess

Monday, February 17, 2020

Down the Shiripuno river

I can comfortably say that the Shiripuno lodge we stayed at for the first few nights in Ecuador was the farthest I've ever been from the classical definition of civilization.  We flew from Quito to Coca (I never could get a straight answer with regards to whether it was that kind of coca), then took a 2.5 hour truck ride to a landing in Wauroni lands.  From there it was a mere 3 hour motorized boat trip down the least developed river I've ever seen.  We would occasionally see a thatched dwelling, but for the most part it was just trees.

I should have taken more scenery pics on the way in.  Our boat was about double the length of this one, but it gives you a sense of our long and narrow conveyance.


But it was hard to take scenery pics when there were birds!  You know you're far afield when Great Potoo is a bird you see most days.

Piping-guans were also quite visible from the boat.

This tree probably contained more macaws (Red-bellied in this case, and as aptly named as our woodpecker) than I'd seen in my entire life combined leading up to this trip.  It was really remarkable to be in a place where macaws were common.


Blue-and-yellow Macaw was one of my most wanted birds for this trip (and benefitted from being one of the more possible ones on that list), and we saw them on the first afternoon.  It was clouding up prior to a decent downpour; some blue sky would have been a nice background for these, though the rain we experienced then was just a prelude to one we'd experience later...

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Back to Ecuador!

The best week of the year, the annual-ish visit to the tropics.  Goodbye Michigan winter grays and browns, hello green.  It took the pilot a bit of persistence to land us in Quito; fog aborted 2 landing attempts and ended up with us re-routed to Guayaquil for a 90 minute rest on the tarmac before we were allowed to return and land in (marginally) improved visibility.

Dawn came early the next morning and I struggled to get up on 4 hours of sleep, but the chittering of Blue-and-white Swallows beckoned and I walked out along the boulevard to see what I could see.  The road ran immediately beside a deep canyon so there was a narrow strip of habitat that I took advantage of.  Sparkling Violet-ears were chip-chupping from atop favored perches between sallies to chase away rivals.  Rufous-collared Sparrows were common.  I did manage my best photo yet of Golden-bellied Grosbeak teed up on an aloe.


Agaves (I think) were blooming.  The hummingbirds weren't the only thing attracted by them however.  Scrub Tanagers were a lifer for me that I had to look up when I got back to the hotel



No need to look up a wintering Vermillion Fly, another common bird in Quito.

And lest you think that all the birds were yellow, green, orange, or red, this forgettable little gray guy was probably right behind rufous-collared sparrow in terms of the most common passerine, an Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch

Monday, January 6, 2020

Black white (and red) 2020


I'd like to say I'm confident that my content will increase in the New Year, but it feels like I've made that resolution before...

The first decent bird seen in 2020 was the last decent bird of 2019, a Northern Shrike that Mindy found on the Coloma CBC.  The pic leaves a little to be desired, but hey, they're tough to find here.


This Great Black-backed adult has been hanging out along Silver and Tiscornia much of the week, this was the first time I've seen it on the beach.  I forgot to thumbwheel down to try not to completely blow out the whites on the head and it flew just about immediately.

This Blue Goose is backlit enough it could be black and white too!

Finally a couple pics of a pair of Red Foxes that crossed the road as I headed away from Tiscornia


Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas (counts) are here!

With CBC season well underway I figured I'd post a few birds from some of the Berrien counts.

There's no time like CBC's to pin down your screech owl spots for Birdathon, and I do have a new spot that I think is going to be on the route this upcoming year.  This bird was at a traditional location however.
Quite possibly my best ever Eastern Screech shot.  I don't usually try to see them, but this one flew in silently to the tape.  It was an exciting morning

 Song Sparrow is always an exciting CBC bird, one that often will reward spirited pishing at cattail or waterside thickets

The swans were getting in the Christmas spirit.  It was a little unclear initially whether these birds were Tundras or Trumpeters, but then they were kind enough to fly directly to the near side of the pond.  The feathering of the jaw is the most useful feature here.  In Trumpeter it's more or less a straight line from the eye to the jaw; in tundra the feathering angles down about halfway out (like in these birds)

When Red-bellied Woodpeckers are dominating the soundscape it helps the Red-headed's stand out better.

Finally a Long-tailed Duck that would be a highlight bird in about 95% of Michigan CBC's, here semi-expected, hooray Lake Michigan.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Need a last second Christmas present?

Because Princeton Books has a suggestion!
No serious birder can have too many references from Steve Howell.  I think this is at least the 3rd that I own and I feel that his style is transitioning.  While Gulls of the Americas is a must-have reference, a lot of the text is in chapters of fairly dense description at the end of the book.  This book is much more Sibley meets Crossley with every page dominated by pictures, usually with text at the bottom of the page, and at times annotated with Peterson like arrows. 

Here's a sample for Parasitic Jaeger...
But it doesn't just cover birds we find now and then, it covers everything from all the penguins to all the albatrosses to all the storm petrels to all the boobies to ... you get the idea.

One of the best things about this book is that while overall the format is somewhat like Sibley (with photos instead of watercolors) with an intro plate showing small images of all the species in a grouping and then going into each individually with its own page more or less, he changes things up where necessary.  If he needs to depart from that format to do a specific comparison of a given set of birds he does.  Here's an example
 Seabirds are incredibly complex and not everything is yet known with regards to aging and taxonomy; the authors do a good job of laying out where uncertainties lie.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is going to be spending time on the ocean.  The photographs are excellent (apologies for the low quality reproductions here) and I think should give a person a reasonable gestault foundation from which to build in the specific points that the authors highlight.

And full disclosure, I got a free copy for writing a review! (though I've never seen any evidence that Princeton reviews the reviews).