Sunday, December 19, 2010

A black-and-white CBC

Today was the Berrien Springs CBC which just barely includes Tiscornia Beach.

The Western Grebe continued. It hung around the end of the pier all day, finally allowing some decent pics. Remember, the bill is the most important ID feature. Clark's Grebe in any season has a bright yellow bill without the dusky dark edging on the upper and lower edges. Also note how low the dark coloration is below the eye.
This Long-tailed Duck was around yesterday too. It made a few passes around the pier,
getting on top of us fairly quickly each time. This was a snapped off shot with the focus kicking in on the 2nd frame, remarkably fast for a flight shot. Here's a female coming in for a landing...

Continuing the theme of black-and-white birds, here's the Western with a Horned Grebe. I shot some HD video with my wife's latest toy, a point-and-shoot type video camera that she got for the kids' Christmas program during which I had to work. The video is here.

This is a combo of birds that can't be common many places in the east:Red-throated Loons are write-up birds for Michigan CBC's, but they're common in southern Lake Michigan in winter. There were at least 8 swimming in the river outflow, joined here again by the grebe.

We had four Bald Eagles appear to the north, two of them continued past while two others circled back north. The eagles seem to universally cut behind the dunes rather than following the beach over the piers.

Finally, not the rarest of birds, but 3 Mute Swans that flew past yesterday made a nicely composed photo at least:
Just in case you're thinking about heading out the pier to try to see some of the birds up close, note the 2-4 inches of ice caking every surface...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cooper Socks

It was a black-and-white theme at Tiscornia this morning with both a drake Long-tailed Duck and the Western Grebe appearing at the end of the pier. The grebe didn't stay long. Up the beach a Glaucous Gull joined a Great Black-backed. The two heavyweights hung out somewhat, re-settling within feet of each other when the flock circled farther up the beach.

Some Great Black-backed's can have fairly dark eyes, vaguely recalling Western Gull. Just for the sake of argument, Western would typically show a very heavy gony angle, and less of a white tip at the ends of P9 and P10.

In the afternoon the kids didn't want to take a nap so I took them out to look for shrikes expecting them to quickly fall asleep in the back seats. As anyone who has gone looking for shrikes could predict, I didn't find one. I did however find this Red-shouldered Hawk.
Some Juncos and Tree Sparrows were flying out of the little thicket which brought questions from Hazel and I explained that the little birds were probably worried that it was a Cooper's Hawk. Hazel then asked what a Cooper Sock was. This led to about 10 minutes of high comedy for the girls as they decided they were wearing Cooper's and Red-shouldered Socks.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Closing the book on Tiscornia

With this morning's lakewatch both Tim and I ran out of reasonably expectable year birds at Tiscornia, Tim with the flyby Harlequin Duck and for me a distant Western Grebe.
The grebe swam past out beyond the breakers. I tried walking down the pier to get within a quarter mile of it but made too slow of progress on the ice-covered pier to cut it off.
The beards of icycles hanging off the slack cables made a nice effect, but not one that bodes well for the workers to recover their scaffolding, though perhaps the sheets of ice will hold itself up to some extent.
We'll see what the rest of the month brings, any year birds at Tiscornia now will be pretty good birds since Western Grebe was my most "likely" remaining bird there and it's on the review list.
Prior posts on Western vs Clark's grebe ID are here and here.