Saturday, November 28, 2015

Michigan's California Gull Capital

Berrien County of course.  The MBRC page is still in the slow process of being re-built.  A quick look at eBird shows 5 Cal Gulls for Berrien and 3 for the rest of the state.  There's probably 20-30 records for the state so clearly they're not all in the eBird database.

There were a lot of gulls on the beach at New Buffalo this afternoon, constantly getting re-shuffled by beachwalkers.  Allen Chartier spotted this bird as I was combing the Ring-billeds for Mew Gull candidates.
 It was fairly distant at first and the dark eye and slightly darker mantle made it initially a Thayer's candidate.  It's bill looked way too long though as evidenced by this crop, and after a bit the bill patterning and leg color came out revealing it as a California.

 It kept its head in its back preening for a frustratingly long time, but eventually spread its wings.
 Extensive black with a fairly sharp cut-off.  It has a large P10 mirror that wraps around to white tip.  The P9 mirror blends with P10 and then it has small white tips to the primaries
 Herring gull is intermediate between California and Thayer's in terms of how the gray extends into the black.

The bird is about 2/3 of the way between Ring-billed and Herring in size.

Another look at the body size comparison between the CAGU and the RBGU as well as between the head shape of the HERG and the CAGU. 

There were a lot of other gulls there, highlighted by 2 young Glaucous Gulls, and 3 different flavors of black-backed if you include Gull-nasty.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Gift Short-eared

Short-eared Owl is one of several (ok probably more like 20 or so) uncommon but regular birds I've missed this year.  I don't think I've ever seen one in Berrien away from the lakefront or a quality winter field.  So I was quite surprised when one flew over the road and landed at the edge of the subdivision along Momany after leaving Tiscornia.

Cars make for good blinds; I don't think I've ever been this close to a perched Short-eared before.
The car can only hide so much though, those amber eyes are clearly seeking one's very soul.

But the owl couldn't hide from the crows, which it tracked pretty actively.

And pretty rapidly flew off, escorted closely by them. (Unfortunately those pics are super blurred as I was shooting pretty slow shutter speeds in the low light.  I was pretty lucky to get this next pic panning along with the bird).
The owl is pretty heavily marked making it a female.  Here's old flight pics of a Short-eared Owl, one of my favorite pics.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Fall color

It's one of the best times of year for finding a decent rarity locally ... but it hasn't happened yet.  Aside from a very distant Eared Grebe a couple days ago, the diversity has been fairly sparse.  But, as long as you're taking pics of common birds they might as well have fun backgrounds.

I think this is the 4th photo of Downy Woodpecker that I've taken.

Bluebirds are starting to accumulate into little winter flocks.

Winter Wren is another bird that I've never had a lot of luck with photo-wise.  These are the best I've managed, but aren't much better than OK.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Clay-colored vs Chipping Sparrow

I had a Clay-colored Sparrow at Tiscornia about a week ago.
 The very pale ground color of the face sets off the markings around the ear patch and contrast nicely with the pale gray collar.
 Clay-colored has a stronger mark along the base of the auricular (ear patch) along the edge of the malar than Chipping.
 There was a young Chipping Sparrow in the same group. 
 The Chipping has a darker ground color to the face without the paler supercilium and midline crown stripe of the Clay-colored.  You can see it really lacks the streak between the auricular and the malar as well.

I can't seem to write about passerines at Tiscornia without a merlin pic.
This was one of the nicer flight shots I've had of one at close range.