Wednesday, December 3, 2008

a not so big day

It's been several months since I'd attempted a Big Day, and I convinced Tim to try one today.  Obviously this was a bad year to run one in December given the 18 inches of snow that fell in November in Berrien (top 5 all time locally), much of it on a single record-breaking night.  The little water areas all froze up after that.  They've since re-opened, but all the dabblers that might have been holding out in a normal year were no where to be found and we had a lot of difficulty with the half-hearty birds (towhee, zonotrichia sparrows, hermit thrush, etc etc etc) that would have been much more findable in a better year.  I think we both sensed this given that we made no route beforehand and didn't bother owling in the morning (or the evening either for that matter).  We totaled 60 species unless I missed something.

We started in the south county, not picking up any uncommon birds in New Buffalo and found the morning passerine spots fairly windy.  We found pileated and hairy woodpeckers at traditional locations, but aside from a kingfisher tallied little else.  We headed on to the landfill ... can you find a bird that looks different?
Not in that picture, but you get a sense of what a person is up against.  Eventually we'd found juvie/1st winter (I forget which of these have distinct 1st winter moults) greater black-backed, Thayers, and glaucous gulls; the glaucous is below.  Their fawn-on-white coloration and crisply contrasting pink and black bills makes them stand out.
We were able to add lesser black-backed at 3 Oaks, as well as cackling geese (for more on these simply fabulous birds, stay tuned for a subsequent post in a day or so, oh loyal readers), but no new ducks.  That was the way the rest of the day went, we found some of the birds we looked for (red-headed woodpecker in Warren Woods for example), but missed far more and really didn't come up with many bonus birds.  We found all 3 scoters off Grand Mere.

I thought I was going to record a nice photo when a pipit appeared in gorgeous light at one of the Andrews ponds, but by the time I'd gone back to the car for the scope and set up on the birds they'd moved twice as far away and the sun had retreated back behind the clouds.  This bird is perched up on a big pile of compost, continuing the garbage theme.
We finished at Paw Paw Lake under 37 degree sprinkles, ironically finding another lesser black-backed gull (the bird I probably should have spent the afternoon biking to Lake Chapin to pick up as the gulls come in to roost there).  Hopefully the ice will again be off the roads by early next week, the next time I'll have a chance to get out.

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