Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Sunday, May 18, 2008
We arrived at the dinner happy, amazingly with no major misses (except the wind-blown screech owls). At the wrap-up banquet though, we heard about a surf scoter found by Scott Jennex, Jeff Schultz, and Josh Haas and couldn't resist going back out afterwards for a shot at the Berrien record. We arrived at Smith lake at dusk and found the bird without much difficulty. Nighthawks appeared over the lake, new for the day, and now we needed only the screech. We perservered, and after much whistling (and ultimately resorting to a tape), heard one distantly for 167. SO, the bird-a-thon record stands, but we did finish with the best Berrien day yet. Clearly, this was a great day to do a Big Day given that 4 or 5 teams tied or exceeded the 152 species we won with last year (including one that traveled less than a third of the mileage!)
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
After a series of days spent working into the wee hours of the morning at work getting frustrated at not being able to get out in the peak migration when I arrived home at 3 am I had 2 choices, one was to go to bed and roll out of bed on my day off at 11am, or I could just start biking. Sleep is for the weak right? After repairing a couple of bike lights, I headed south, picking up sora and sedge wren not far from the house and hearing woodcock and horned larks at various points. The larks were singing a much longer clearer song than the thin short song they sing during the day. Vesper sparrows were starting up pretty well as well as I biked down through Weesaw into Galien. After checking a few flooded fields along US12 in the pre-dawn finding only lesser yellowlegs and solitaries, I arrived at the Avery Rd flooding whose holding of a marbled godwit and long-billed dowitchers for a few days spurred this insanity. Those 2 birds were gone however (DOH!). There were good numbers of birds on the pond, again mostly the lessers and solitaries, but one greater was obvious in the deeper water. Two semipalmated plovers were new for the year and a pheasant called as well (a bird I totally should have had by now). I continued on to 3 Oaks where a group of about a dozen dunlin and a purple martin were the main new additions.
I continued on to Forest Lawn Rd where cerulean warblers were practically the dominant song (grrrr... after not being able to find a single bird a week ago). I started to doubt myself but fortunately one started singing quite close which was easy to track down in the still very thin canopy. One parula called and a white-eyed vireo sang nearly continuously, saving me the trip down a fairly dangerous dirt hill on Lakeside. The casino has at least doubled the traffic on the road and it took me a while to finally hear a yellow-throated warbler in this, one of the only sites in Michigan where they are regular. I was still lacking Louisiana waterthrush but decided to continue on as I can get it considerably closer to my house and decided to get to the New Buffalo Marsh in hopes of hearing something interesting there. It was too warm, however, and I added little. The lakefront was very quiet, perfectly calm and I could see waterfowl on the lake a LONG ways away, which I suspect were all loons and cormorants though only one of each were close enough to be certain.
I then headed up to Floral Lane, which is really where I should have started since the big shorebirds were gone at Avery Rd but Kentucky warblers have been seen there the last few days at Floral, regular overshoots but not breeders. The other southern warblers I can get later in the spring (though of course it was nice to get them out of the way). There were good numbers of warblers there, most notably 3 golden-winged's, as well as another white-eyed vireo (which I would happily trade at this point for a blue-headed), but I was unable to find a Kentucky. I spent an hour and a half there resting my legs and looking, but in the end gave up (a bank thermometer read 77 degrees, probably not ideal warbler weather).
When I added it up once finally home I found I had tallied some 105 birds, 35 of which were new for the Bigby list over the 60+ miles biking. My eyes were by far the sorest body part between the wind (mostly created by the bike as it was calm going south and a tailwind on the way back (thank goodness, otherwise I might still be out there)), the pollen, and dusty roads. Somewhere along the way some bird was Total Township Tick #1500 for the county as well. At any rate, I should be on a pace to go over 200 for the Bigby year assuming catastrophe doesn't strike...
If I'd REALLY planned stuff/foreseen the future, I would have biked for the Kentucky in the morning allowing me to chase the neotrop corm (not for the Bigby year) in the afternoon before coming over to Ann Arbor where I am now for a conference. Oh well. Cormorants are ugly anyway. There's 2 birds over here that would be state birds for me, Bell's vireo and lark sparrow in adjoining counties but I'm not sure I'm going to be able to go after them ... may have to wait to find them in Berrien.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Next is a blow-up of the best spread-wing showing P10-P5 as well as a new pic showing P9-P2 and my description of these feathers copied from my MBRC write-up:
P10: leading edge a darker gray than rest of bird, terminal centimeter or so long white spot covering both trailing and leading edge
P9: leading edge contrasts slightly with trailing edge though not as dark as the on P10 with small white mirror visible on leading edge prior to small white tip of both leading and trailing edge
P8: some darker contrast most prominent on the proximal aspect of the leading edge, white tip slightly broader than P9, no mirror visible though does have a white “moon” or “pearl” on trailing edge
P7: similar to P8 with some darker contrast on leading edge but a slightly smaller white tip and likely a somewhat larger white “moon” or “pearl” on trailing edge
P6: less contrasting leading edge than higher numbered primaries with white tip slightly broader than P7 with more white on leading edge. White “moon” or “pearl” crosses from trailing edge onto leading edge as well bisected by darker shaft
P5: leading edge minimally contrasting. Broad white tip blends more suffusely into gray color of body of feather. Single ovular vague gray opacities on both leading and trailing edge in the white
P4-P2: gray feathers with white tips. Some contrast to leading edge of feathers though this may be related to light and different angle of feather barbs
Now the task is to go through the books and read about the different hybrid combinations' wing patterns.
Friday, May 2, 2008
3rd pic is the pot-belly, pinker legs than a HEGU, and primary extension (P9 (?) and P8 (?)protruding past tail tip)...
Finally, size comparison with HEGU and suggestion of underwing:
Good luck if you chase, more analysis to come later. Larger res versions of the photos available, also a lot more which may show other points, but this will do for now.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
At any rate, we started off biking into Pt Mouillee SGA in the southeasternmost county in Michigan. As we'd hoped, we tallied moorhen, sora, and virginia rail without much difficulty. However, we found no signs of bittern and didn't hear either marsh or sedge wren in the high winds. We struck out again in the cold (and relatively short grass that hadn't grown as much as I expected) for sedge wren in Washtenaw county though did eventually hear a ruffed grouse drum in Washtenaw, a species we have essentially no chance at in Berrien.
Once we got back into Berrien, we started out fairly well, getting a decent dawn chorus at Warren Woods with both waterthrushes, ovenbird, wood thrush, veery, barred owl, yellow-throated vireo and great-crested flycatcher. We were able to find two very local birds, yellow-throated warbler and white-eyed vireo, at traditional locations in the south part of the county but dipped on parula and cerulean in the cold and really didn't find significant numbers of other migrants. I might have jinxed us, however, by taking a photograph of an oddly yellow, rather than red, prairie trillium. (It's a Big Day, dammit!)
However, we were doing well with shorebirds, finding most of the expected stuff at the 3 Oaks ponds, with a bonus Wilson's phalarope there and a bonus willet on the beach at New Buffalo. We thought that if Warren Dunes SP produced like we hoped with passerines that we could get going as it was warmer, however, it was not to be. There were good numbers of black-and-white and palm warbler, eventually good numbers of yellow-rumped, but only singleton hooded and Nashville. We found a few retained birds from early spring, hermit thrush, winter wren, and brown creeper, but didn't get the push we were hoping for. The tops of the dunes also were disappointing, the wind seemed right, but added only 3 hawk species rather than the 6 we scored last year.
After stops at Grand Mere, Tiscornia, and Sarett Nature center we had at best exchanged species from last year, and for the most part found less. A dead sora by the side of the road (the only species we found in all 3 counties) seemed to sum up the day. Tim was going to turn it in to the Andrews University folks to add to their collection as it was really fresh. We couldn't resist taking a few pics though, first a more traditional spread wing study:
And now a new feature to the blog, a caption contest:
Options I've come up with:
1. American Crocodile bird in its native habitat
2. The birding bum dental plan
3. Sora tartare ... clearly an idea whose time is now