Monday, October 27, 2014

it's too early for Snow

Though despite the beautifully balmy 70's temperatures today, not too early for Snow Buntings.  One individual landed on the pier allowing a much closer approach than the beach flocks will later in the fall.
 

The merlins probably won't mind a change of pace from their steady fare of juncos, though I bet the buntings are harder to catch over the lake.

 
The above two pics are phone-scoped (note the residual junco fuzz on the talons), the next one is with the SLR.  The bird was sated enough with its junco(s) that it didn't mind that I walked a little closer.


Originally there were two birds, the larger female on the left with a male on the right.
He circled around the female and called a couple times, but then headed on.  I didn't age either one though most fall falcons at Tiscornia are first year birds.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

wildlife of Chincoteague

Back in August we went out to Virginia Beach to visit in-laws.  I got pics up of Virginia dragonflies; I never got around to the bird pics.  We took one day and drove up to Assateague NWR which includes some of Chincoteague island and took a boat trip.  Dolphins were the highlight for most of the participants.

It wasn't easy to catch them with their heads above water.  The above pic is the only one I managed.  Almost all of them showed evidence of encounters with propellers in the shallow bay if you looked closely enough.


The first oystercatchers that flew past the boat caught me by surprise, I had to put bins on them to see what they were.  I saw another one later that was a little closer.  Despite heavy cropping it's still my best photo of an oystercatcher.
 It's a bird I'd like to encounter again somewhere.

I was also a little surprised to see 2 Black Scoters out by one of the breaker islands.
 The eBird reviewer was surprised too and hadn't accepted them last I checked.  Royal terns are more expected, they're a lot harder to see in Michigan.
 
We had the good fortune to see a cloverleaf jelly fish from the safety of the boat.

 A Clapper Rail was also quite distant.  This pic is cropped more than I'd like.  I heard one well, but this one I couldn't even say for sure wasn't a Willet until I zoomed in closely on a few of the pics.

No such ID issues for ospreys.

Finally, a few of the famous (and well-managed) pony herd.
Maybe next time I'll finally run into a Seaside Sparrow, there'll probably be less than a 2 month delay in those pics.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Another week, another Harris's Sparrow

It was Rhoda's turn to step onto the Harris's cycle, spotting this bird at the cul-de-sac at Warren Dunes.  It's another first fall bird, possibly a female given that it's less patterned than last week's Harris's.
The first pic was badly over-exposed since I had my camera on Winter-Wren-in-the-Underbrush settings.  It was rescue-able as a record shot with a little more post-processing than I'd like.  By the time I frantically thumb-wheeled down the F-stop it had gotten semi-obstructed by some leaves...


 Here's the Winter Wren from seconds before...

By the time I'd managed to hand-focus on the bird in the thick underbrush it also leaned its head behind some obstructing vegetation.  It's still the closest I've come to a Winter Wren portrait.

White-throated Sparrows were the dominant species though.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Circle of Harris's Sparrow

About 8 years ago Kip and I were birding Warren Dunes and he spotted a Harris's Sparrow on seed that Tim had put out.  About 5 years ago Alison found one on seed I'd put out (I never did see that bird).  Today Rhoda and I were at Galien River County Park where there was a lot of activity in the little island of brush in the parking lot.  This was basically the view of about the 6th bird I saw...

It was more backlit when I first saw it, but the plain olive-brown head is pretty unique.  It disappeared in seconds but after a few minutes came back.


It was hanging out mostly with White-crowned Sparrows, this one from Chickaming.

We spent a good amount of time at that under-birded park, seeing several Goldenrod Warblers, aka Orange-crowned.

They weren't the only warblers around,
Nashvilles and Yellowthroats were about as well, amongst a handful of other species. 

We were actually looking more for Nelson's, but I needed Harris's for self-found so I was pretty excited about this bird.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Lakewatching is fun again

just probably not today.

It's that time of year, most of the days I've been out over the last month I've had a year bird.  Of course part of that is that I've gotten out less this year than just about any year since I've lived here.

Two Franklin's Gulls landed on Silver last week.


All of these first 3 pics are of the first year bird (the pic below is a montage of the same bird).

This is a montage of the adult
The adult has some white between the black wingtips and the dark gray upperwing. 

This is a full adult Parasitic Jaeger from a couple days ago, the first jaeger I've seen in Michigan with full tail extensions.

The tail extensions doubled the length of the tail.  Long-tailed would have a smaller bill, less of a breast band and would lack an underwing white flash if fully adult.

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...