Monday, September 29, 2014

Peregrines vs Palm Warblers

not much of a match-up really.

but first, there's still one spot left on the 8 person trip I'm organizing to Costa Rica, $1550 for 8 days, Savegre highlands, and 2 mid-elevation spots, Tapanti and Rancho Naturalista.  Read more here.

Back to the pier this morning.  There were a lot of passerines coming off the calm lake.  Unlike last week's ill-fated thrushes, these seemed to have no problem reaching the shore under their own power.  Some sought shelter in the iron-work of the pier.




We weren't the only ones watching.
There were a couple of Peregrines working the area, one way out over the lake and another sallying forth from the lighthouse.  It didn't show much interest in the birds on the pier.  The birds flying off the lake however were another story.  It made a few smooth passes by the end.

I wasn't for sure it would be that interested in the tiny warblers dominated by Palms
 or the Yellow-rumps that made up most of the remainder (exceptions being a chestnut-sided and this Pine)

but I was wrong.  The peregrine purposefully flew out, flared, and fairly effortlessly snared a warbler.  I think it flew more or less directly out of the sun; I doubt the warbler saw its doom until it was captured
 It's another Palm Warbler.

The overwhelming majority of the birds made it ashore though, we walked the grass finding a sedge wren.  Nelson's sparrow will have to wait a few days.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thrushes appear delicious

though a White-throated Sparrow will work in a pinch for this sub-adult Ring-billed...
 

It appeared to be a rough morning to be flying over the lake one day last week.  A lot of thrushes were tiring and not quite reaching shore.  We watched them land on the water at times to rest.
They would sometimes be able to launch and fly another 50 yards or so before dropping back down.  Unfortunately for them we weren't the only ones watching.  The Swainson's above was gulped down by a Herring Gull.  This one attracted a Ring-billed...




Hard to know if it got to shore with its prey or if a Herring took it away.  We didn't see any land on the water and live.

The next day there were gull pellets at the end of the pier. I pulled a few apart with a stick but couldn't find any skulls.

Slightly less macabre is a juvie Semi Plover digiscoped the same morning.

Amar Ayyash had a similar post a few weeks ago during warbler migration from the other side of the lake...

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Berylline. Hummingbird.

This was pretty amazing.  A Berylline Hummingbird appeared along Lake Superior along the UP shoreline a couple days ago.  The next day it no-showed at the original feeder but was noted by a homeowner 20 miles east.  As I understand the tale, the two home-owners, who knew each other, met up for dinner.  They looked at each other, and each burst out "you won't believe what I had at my feeder," a pause, and then each blurted out "Berylline Hummingbird!"  I've never chased a rarity to the UP before, but I couldn't resist this one.  Rhoda and I went up yesterday.

The bird was mostly frequenting a feeder about 60 feet off the road, I was mostly trying to digiscope it, but it didn't sit long.  I'm still getting used to the feel of phone-scoping, this was my best effort.  All the pics in this post are cropped more heavily than I'd like.

It turned its head once into the sun, lighting up the brilliant green head for which it's named.

About every 15-20 minutes it would come in briefly.  Once it came to a feeder much closer to the road and I did much better with the SLR.

The rufous wings were really impressive.  I think the pics somewhat understate just how bright they were.



This, as it flew away, is probably my favorite shot of the day.

Truly an amazing bird.  To my knowledge there aren't any other hummers that would be similar appearing with that bright of wings.  Based on the figures in the Rare Birds of NA book, I saw no evidence of hybridization

Monday, September 15, 2014

but it's pretty Euro-trash

Tim found a pair of European Goldfinches at Tiscornia yesterday.  They were still there this morning as luck would have it, feeding (perhaps not surprisingly) in the equally alien spotted knapweed.  With as much European flora that's established it's perhaps surprising these birds aren't more common.


My only shot with both birds easily IDable

It was really dark, flight shots don't work that well at slow shutter speeds, but you can get a sense of the wing flash.

They had a very bubbling flight call when they were moving around, unique even to my ears.

It was actually a pretty fun morning.  There were large numbers of BW teal flying (north) way offshore with a few of the other dabblers.  An avocet flew by though it was just too far and high to get pics of.  A Semi plover was more cooperative.
 

The shorebirds (mostly sanderlings) were moving around a lot at least partially on account of a young peregrine

It was flightier than the merlins are when they perch on the iron-work.

There were a couple of very distant jaegers as well as a Black Tern that came in far closer than they usually do

Finally a nice group of warblers in the corner once I could no long stay awake sitting on the end, highlighted by a Golden-winged.
I've certainly taken better shots of Golden-winged, but never at Tiscornia.  A Blackpoll was more cooperative

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Virginia Beach Odes

Part of the reason I got out so little in August was that a lot of my days off were concentrated in a week where we drove out to Virginia to visit Ginger's brother and family and then mine and family on the way back.  Each time we go there I try for Seaside Sparrow.  I found a Cottonmouth at Back Bay NWR, but no sparrows.  There were dragonflies though.

This is Needham's Skimmer.  It felt very similar to Golden-winged Skimmer in terms of shape and wing coloration.
I had actually netted one to take a closer look at it when a fully armed conservation officer told me I was harassing the wildlife.  I pointed out to him that I'd squished 3 deerflies too.

This is Four-spotted Pennant ...
 ... and this one Seaside Dragonlet.

The other lifer Ode for me on the trip was Bar-winged Skimmer, which was actually pretty common in Brent's backyard.  It's very similar to Slaty Skimmer, though a touch larger and just as hard to catch.  This is male and female.


Here's Hazel and cousin Ellie (who netted a few Amberwings)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Who wants to go to Costa Rica?

I was a little late getting word about this winter's CR trip out so a lot of people already had made plans ... which means I have a couple spots left on an 8 person trip for Jan 25 - Feb 2. 

So the question you have to ask yourself, would you like to see a quetzal?
 How about half a dozen species of highland hummingbird?
Along with a bunch of other birds endemic to the Chiriquí highlands only found in Eastern Costa Rica or Western Panama?

Would you like to see a bunch of mid-elevation tanagers in and around Tapanti National Park?
 
There's a lot more than tanagers though, for starters about another 10 hummingbirds ...
... and any number of other fun birds.

Finally we'll visit famous Rancho Naturalista.  There's another 10 hummers here.
 And oropendolos. 
 
And likely Sunbittern and who knows how much more?
 
All this for a little over $1500, arranged through Costa Rica Gateway.  If you want to comparison shop, here's a very similar tour through Field Guides that's literally twice as expensive.  Each of my last 2 trips there (through CR Gateway) have tallied a little over 300 species with 20-30 species of hummingbird each time.  But don't wait too long, I don't have many spots left!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

August darners

Work schedule's been incredibly dense of late and I've barely gotten out.  Last week I went with the kids to Sarett prairie to see what odes were about.  There've been darners in some of the corners at times during the summer and apparently this is the time of year they're most prominent.

Fairly quickly we found some largish colorful ones, though they evaded the net for a firm ID.  Hazel spotted where one landed after I swung at it and I took a few pics of the out-of-reach ode.

I think that based on the pattern of striping on the sides that it's a Green-striped Darner, though Canada Darner is very similar.  It'd be nice to see one in the hand to be certain.  [See comment below about why it's probably neither of those, but Lance-tipped instead].

Next is a Fawn Darner, an ode that's fairly widely distributed in Michigan but that I'd never encountered before.

It remained on the twig we set it on when we let it go long enough for a few more pics.

Finally Hazel with a meadowhawk.  Both girls think it's high humor to release them from their noses.