Friday, September 30, 2011

Run Nelson, run

If it's fall in Berrien, that means Ammodramid time. Usually we can find a LeConte's or two at Tiscornia, but hadn't yet encountered Nelson's there. Earlier in the month we flushed a short-tailed sparrow with the round wings of an Ammodramid, but that lacked the pale rump and bright back braces in flight that the LeConte's show. It also had more facial patterning than the blank face of a LeConte's in flight.
The bird would typically run away mouse-like and sometimes pause at the base of a tuft of dune grass. A lot of people want to look at the color of the crown stripe, but the gray nape is much easier to see in the field.
It wasn't super-confiding so all the pics were shot manual focused through grass. This Lapland Longspur was a lot more cooperative.
I had a few warblers in the backyard, Black-and-white's come through well before leaf-out in the spring so it was nice to photograph one with a green, rather than gray, background.
BT Greens are common, but fun birds none-the-less.

Friday, September 23, 2011

the rarest phalarope

There are very few records of Wilson's Phalarope along the lakeshore; my understanding is that Whitefish and the Indiana group have about one each in the last 30 years. You can understand our confusion then, when a medium sized shorebird with dark wings and a white rump appeared in front of us before Tim put a name to it earlier in the week.
Based on the gray body but pale edged retained juvenile wing coverts it looks to be in first winter plumage.
Dave Pavlik spotted this Whimbrel that flew past calling yesterday. It was a year bird that I was expecting to miss at this point.
Remarkably two Baird's sandpipers today were also year birds; these are most common the last week of August, but somehow have been avoiding me. I didn't think I would miss them, but it would be embarassing to have done so.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fall empids

What am I? The above composite and the next pic are the same individual from a week or 2 ago.
Silent fall empids are their very own special can of worms. Michael O'Brien wrote one of the best Empidonax ID articles I've come across, focusing on fall birds here. When this bird popped up my immediate impression was Yellow-bellied; its eye ring is medium prominent and it seemd fairly greenish (the Willow/Alder complex should be browner and have less of an eyering and Least usually has a stronger eye ring and colder tones). It's shot at a pretty high ISO in deep shade so I think a lot of the color is lost. In the backlit shot below the throat (except the part blown out by the sun) blends inot the face which would be a good point for Yellow-bellied. The pics do seem to show a grayish collar/nape. O'Brien's article, though makes point that Yellow-bellied and Acadian (which I'm basically discounting based on location and timing) are greenish throughout the upperparts. If the photo's accurate then that might be a point for Least.
Yellow-bellied has a longer primary projection than the very short primaries of Least. The pics are equivocal, though I think the top composite suggests a length more consistent with Yellow-bellied. Of course if I'd remembered (or noted) the primary length and/or the collar detail instead of utilizing the usual spray-away-with-the-camera-shutter -ID-confirmation-method I'd maybe be more confident on the ID. Maybe next time.
I'm pretty sure this next bird is a Least though.
It has a short bill, short primaries, strong eyering, and cold dark plumage, all of which make me fairly certain that this one is a Least.
No such problem with a Wilson's Warbler.

Friday, September 9, 2011

2 rednecks

and I'm not including Tim...
Two Red-necked Phalaropes showed up at Tiscornia a couple days ago. Both were juveniles.
One of the birds had a single symmetrical gray winter scapular coming in on each side.
It's hard with single still shots to give a feel for how actively they were feeding in really choppy water. You could certainly see how these are pelagic birds. They barely paid the waves any heed at all.
Note the wall of water reflecting off the pier in the foreground.
They would frequently arch their necks over the oncoming wave to pick at surface items on the other side.
The water's dropped out from underneath the foreground bird. Its leg is protruding in the foam. You could almost believe it's standing on shore. It's in 18 feet of water though.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Buff is a cool color

North winds in the first week of September is the best time of year for Buff-breasted Sandpiper in Berrien.
This juvenile was fairly tame, running right past us lying prone on the beach.

I like this next shot showing the feather contours on the bird.
They tend to be very active feeders on the beach, moving much quicker than they seem to do on sod farms. They're also not quite as tied to the wet sand as are most of the shorebirds, though this one did spend most of its time there. Photographing buff-breasted's with the SLR is a lot easier than trying to digiscope them.

It was the anti-hudwit in terms of wing pattern, plain on top and white underneath.

In flight it was darkish overall when above the horizon, its long slender wings gave it a pretty unique shape that caught my eye as it flew in.

This was the 3rd time I've had a Buffy at Tiscornia. Keeping an eye out for passerines turned up the 2nd Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and the 2nd Great-crested Flycatcher that I've had here (and first time in fall for each).

Monday, September 5, 2011


So, in the Hudsonian Godwit post, I mentioned a flock of about a dozen willets that flew by as I was with the family. I saw with the naked eye a flock of shorebirds with wing patterns and bright white rumps. Something about them made me run for the camera. They were flying away by the time I got on them with the viewfinder.
With 500 good pics of the Hudwit it took a few days to really examine this first series of pics. As I got them cropped though, the trail bird here stood out to me. It really doesn't have a strong wing pattern and has the tail of a Hudsonian.
I sent the pic to Tim to see if the time stamp matched a time stamp of the featured bird on the beach to see if this was a second Hudsonian. We-ell, he quickly pointed out that "dude, they're all hudwits."

What are you going to do. Here's another comparison of the original Hudwit with the willets. Yes, the godwit does have a bit of a wing pattern, but it also has the white rump stand out a lot stronger with the black, rather than gray, tail.
Furthermore, while in some lighting and angles the flying away Hudwits have fairly strong wingstripes, the white doesn't extend onto the secondaries.

Here's what a Common Tern thinks of my ID skills...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

right and wrong terns

I don't think I have any group of pics that I've labeled and re-labeled than medium sized terns. I went back to the beach with the family again yesterday. There were 2 avocets and a turnstone in addition to the more usual stuff, but terns are starting to accumulate.

This Common Tern allowed a close approach and is still in pretty full breeding plumage though the bare parts colors are starting to fade.
This next one is well into the moult, with a white forehead and some darker gray in the carpal bar area. It obviously has lost a lot of color from the bill.

Finally a juvenile Forster's Tern; they're easy with the big black cheek patch. He's kind of overexposed, the Commons are easier to photograph with their grayer breasts.
There is still some dark in the wings of the juvie Forster's at least.

Finally, a Black-bellied Plover that did a fly-by as well.