Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Ahh, the unsettled skies of NW winds in fall...
I made what hopefully will be the first of many trips to Tiscornia this morning with NW winds.  I did not find any passerines over the lake, though waterfowl were moving in small numbers.  Blue-winged teal were the most common with about 30 birds in various flocks, though mallards, pintail, wigeon, and gadwall went by as well.  In terms of divers, my first canvasbacks of the fall joined a few redhead, some various scaup sp., as well as my first red-breasted merganser of the fall (oh joy).  The big flights of RB mergs in November and early December herald the end of the migration season just as the big numbers of redstarts used to signal the curtainfall of spring migration back in my Ann Arbor Nichols Arboretum days.  

As far as my Bigby year goes, I was looking basically for peregrine, merlin, jaegers, or little gull (I think I can kiss black tern goodbye) so spent a lot of time scanning with binoculars for that single solitary hunter.  The first time that the gulls and sanderlings flushed I could not find the source, but on the second time a peregrine appeared right in front of me harassing the gulls.  It would sometimes isolate on one gull from the flock giving tail-chase before getting distracted by a gull on the water and whipping over to dive more or less vertically with spread wings at the bird on the water before swooping back up.  Sometimes this would give a gull an opportunity to chase the smaller falcon right back which it would tolerate for a few seconds before abruptly rising higher or braking for a second and suddenly ending up right behind the gull again.  It was certainly entertaining (though nothing like the acrobatic fireworks that ensue if a jaeger and peregrine come together - THAT is something to see with ripping horizontal zigs and zags between equal masters).   About an hour later a peregrine re-appeared in the dunes behind me and whipped off a mile to the north in hardly any time at all, stopping to harass a Cooper's hawk that was coasting into the winds with barely any ground speed probably awaiting any passerines desperately flying off Lake Michigan.  It then bounced up higher and started interacting with 2 more peregrines!  Probably all 3 were siblings.  For the most part they would slowly rise into the wind coming off the lake, similarly to the Coopers, before one would dive at the other, leading both birds to drop precipitously before rebounding back up in deep U shaped maneuvers ending up in essentially the same positions they started from with barely a wingbeat from either.

The peregrine was a bird I certainly expected to get this year (they tend to hang out at Tiscornia especially on NW wind days in October), but I didn't feel I could expect it as a virtual lock.  The greater black-backed below, however, was one of my remaining birds for the Bigby year that I consider to be a lock but was still missing.  I'm starting to run out of those (orange-crowned warbler and black scoter are the 2 easy birds that I still need, and rusty blackbird is probably in that category as well).

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