Thursday, May 31, 2012

Summertime, week 2

Tomorrow I can officially give up on the spring migration, though it's felt like June for at least a week and a half.  A Dickcissel invasion has certainly contributed to that feel (also day after 80 degree day).

I was actually looking more for dragonflies (probably a lot more on them in the future) on the Sarett Prairie than I was looking for birds, (hence the midday lighting) but wasn't going to ignore Dickcissels singing from immediately on top of the path.

A measure of how many Dickcissels are about is how easy it's been to see females; they're perched up looking around as well (unless some are immature males).

The birds' songs are highly varied right now, usually by the time I get around to trying to record some later in the summer they've really homogenized.

Here's the right lighting to photograph a bird, nice early morning.  If I was going to be around birding this weekend I'd set up a perch for this bird that sings (inevitably from the same sign) right next to the road at Anna Lane about 2 miles from my house:

Finally a nesting Yellow-throated Vireo, the actual nest spotted by Jan...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

What warblers there were

As well as I did with sparrows this spring I did probably as badly with warblers.  We had far fewer passerine migrants at Tiscornia than last year and I didn't really run into may low birds either at Floral or at my house.  In fact I never saw a Golden-winged or a Black-throated Blue though I did hear one of each.

Blackburnian Warbler was probably the only one which I saw (and especially heard) in above average numbers this spring.  This one is from Riverview Park

There was also a female Blackpoll in the same tree.

It feels like there's more Hooded Warblers on territory at Floral this year than last, though that may just be my memory
Finally a Prairie Warbler from the loop at Floral, the first one I've encountered away from the dunes there
And that, from a warbler standpoint, was it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Near-breeding Shorbs

If I'd been quicker on the draw with the camera this morning I might have made it a whole lot harder to ever slam the Ammos again, alas they'll remain best of four.  We're just going to ignore the big-headed largish short tailed sparrow with palish tail sides, a solidly base-colored face kind of like a Henslow's but warmer and brighter with a prominent post-auricular spot and fine streaking about the malar, across the upper breast and flanks that flushed on the way down to look at the shorebirds.  There's been some dunlin, turnstones and others hanging out at Tiscornia that have been relatively cooperative.

Dunlin were one of the first shorebirds I had a close look at.  When I was in high school once in May I would drive up to Tawas Pt State Park and a flock of about 80 birds landed on the beach and started running directly for me.  They were at my feet before they took back off.
This bird, the brightest of the trio was actually singing some, a rolling breeeeh, bree-breee-breeee, breeeeh, breeeh, breeeeeh.
Its wing coverts are un-moulted.  The other two bird ignored its vocal efforts.
Here's one of the other two birds, both of them were less bright than the calling bird.  Hayman's Shorebirds says females have larger bills, Pyle says females average larger bills though there's overlap.  To my eyes there was no difference in the bills.

There has also been a few turnstones around.
The first bird is pretty clearly a male based on the amount of white in the forehead.  I don't know if the second bird is just farther behind in the moult or if it's a female which would be my guess.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Another Nelson's

Counting this weekend and today, 7 of the last 10 Nelson's Sparrow records are from Berrien (and an even higher percent if you add in the multi individuals from a couple of those).

We popped this bird up in the rightful location, Tiscornia.

When it flushed out of the grass my initial instant impression was that it was a Monarch Butterfly.  The other spring Nelson's that I saw in flight before I saw it perched made me think female Baltimore Oriole.  The moral is that if you see an orange sparrow, you should probably track it down.  LeConte's is much paler (and will usually show a buffy rump especially if it's overcast).  The napes on these spring Nelson's are a little greener than they are in fall when the dark gray really pops in flight.

It was the the dark gray crown stripe though through the view finder when it did perch that confirmed the ID:
This bird took full advantage of that strategically placed leaf to hide its face, I only have this one from the initial series that shows the face when it turned back to see what all the clicking was.
It hopped one bush over and sat for awhile.  The bright wash across the breast is helpful to separate the Sharptailed species and subspecies.  I've never managed to connect with any of the ocean-side Ammos though I have tried in Virginia and Florida.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

the Ammo Slam

We've had all 4 Ammodramid sparrows so far this month, this Nelson's completed the slam.  The bird popped up about 15 feet off the pavement for us during Birdathon at a semi-public location.  It was gone this morning when Tim checked on it.
Nelson's was a fun year bird.  We had a few others in the scouting for the big day as well.

This Worm-eating Warbler was at a traditional location along the foredune off the main beach at Warren Dunes the day before Birdathon.
We tried for it twice the day of Birdathon and struck out both times.  My understanding is it wasn't there today either, apparently it decided not to set up on territory there. 

We didn't expect this Summer Tanager to stick around, a first year bird that was at the end of the cul-de-sac softly pitty-tucking again the day before Birdathon.
My camera was still on beach settings so I badly under-exposed the image; the red is a little screwed up by my attempts to lighten the image.  It still has a much heavier bill than any Scarlet would have though.

Finally a White-eyed Vireo that popped up in front of us during Birdathon, I think it was the first time I've ever seen a White-eyed without hearing it first.
Hopefully next year we can break a string of rainy Big Days, so far we're 0 for our last 3.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

One of these does not belong

I've tracked down some vireo articles but still need to go through and crop in all the pics to go over it carefully so I'm just going to go for the fallback plan, Tiscornia pics.

May is when Laughing Gulls start showing up.  I don't think I've ever seen one in a big group of Caspian Terns though.  Caspian numbers have been way down this year.  I don't know if that's because of the long period of N winds in the last third of April or if it relates to decreased salmon fingerling stocking this year.

If the bird had flown 2 inches higher I'd have had a great shot of it with the red lighthouse in the background, instead it was buried in the shadow as it went by and I went with this shot a few frames later. Note how there's no white between the gray of the upperwing and the black of the primaries like a Franklin's would have:

There's been a ton more Common Terns on the other hand than usually there are in the spring.  We had 60-70 of them on the beach the other day.  Here's one with a Forster's.

The Common obviously is on the left with darker gray underparts (at least in this pretty close to full breeding bird), a slightly shorter redder bill,  noticeably shorter legs, and a tail that falls short of the primary tips instead of extending past.  The Forster's also shows lighter primaries, though sometimes this can be affected by the angle of the lighting.

The two can be harder in flight though. Common (above) has darker wings and Forster's much whiter primaries, but Forster's still does have some dark in the trailing edge of the underwing and again lighting can affect the whiteness of the upperwing primaries. I sometimes think that Forster's has longer wings, but this may be optical illusion caused by the whiter primaries showing up better:

Finally a sub-adult Lesser Black-backed Gull who's just the bill short of being full adult; this bird still has some winter head streaking left on the nape.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

It was solitary but not alone

Tim and I were birding Floral when I had a Blue-headed type vireo appear in front of me.  I watched it as it seemed paler than I'd ever seen Blue-headed appear.  We walked 10 feet further down the trail to clear some obstructions and started taking pics.  I haven't found the articles that talk about Blue-headed vs Cassin's and have never seen a Cassin's so for now I'm just going to put the pics up mostly.

The cap is much paler than any Blue-headed I've ever seen and is not as crisply defined along the malar as Blue-headed.  The lore is noticeably darker than the rest of the cap.
There is markedly reduced yellow along the flanks; it essentially lacks yellow along the flanks.  The only area where there's clearly yellowish wash is about the vent.
The bird then came out into the sun and the slightly olive tinged gray back really jumped out, it's not at all like the green back of a normal Blue-headed.
The back color extends up over the back of the head which apparently is cited as a pro-Cassin's feature in an article I can't find.
The bird popped up twice more for us, usually pretty high in amongst the warblers.
Unfortunately Blue-headed isn't a species that I've had a ton of luck photographing in the past so I don't have a lot of comparison shots.  Hopefully I can find some of the articles that talk about separating the two.  I was kind of surprised to see that Cassin's Vireo is widespread in the West east of the Rockies; I had always considered it a Pacific coast bird.  They do winter in Texas so it's surprising there aren't more seen in the East though findability and confirmability issues probably play a role in this.

I haven't edited the pics at all except for cropping them.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

L sparrows

I bet a lot of birders don't get up close and personal views of LeConte's Sparrows all that often.  The lakefront seems to be a reasonable place to find them in migration.  Usually the birds are not well seen, but their habit of waiting until the last possible second to flush paid off earlier in the week when Tim spotted one practically at our feet.
I never managed a completely un-obstructed view, but as far as skulking Ammodramids go, this one was pretty amazing.
The spring adults are a lot sharper than LeConte's sparrow in fall.  When the bird would turn its head away the white midline crown stripe was nicely visible.  You can compare it to old Nelson's Sparrow pics; Nelson's is a lot darker and much more deeply colored overall.

Just like LeConte's, I hadn't seen a Lark Sparrow since 2010.  Tim and I were walking the Scout Campground at Floral the other day and a sparrow flushed with bright white tail corners.  You can bet that was a bird we were going to track down even if Vesper would be more likely.  Tim picked it out in one of the jack pines.  It quickly settled back down to forage. The pic is a heavily cropped distant shot since we didn't approach it knowing that it would actually be chaseable.

Along the theme of Sparrows Last Seen in 2010, here's a Clay-colored from Tiscornia.  My spreadsheet shows this to be my 250th bird for St Joseph Twp: