Friday, May 19, 2017

Laughing gull

I've kind of plateaued on finding the uncommon passerine migrants so it was nice to pick up an easy Laughing Gull this evening.

I didn't have to wait long for beachwalkers to put the birds to flight.

 You can see how the black of the primaries grades smoothly into the charcoal gray of the upperparts.

Here's an old pic of Franklin's in flight from a few years ago.  The black in the primaries of Franklins cuts off much more abruptly, and is separated by the white trailing edge in addition.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

a bonus bonus eagle

The San Francisco Harpy Eagle really was the icing on the trip's cake, but just before the Harpy we'd had another fun raptor.

I called this a White Hawk (it's 3 frames of one bird that I've montaged into one pic).  It's white with a black terminal tail band, what else could it be right?
 Next is an actual White Hawk from earlier in the trip.
The first bird is actually Black-and-white Hawk-eagle.  I didn't realize how white their underwing is, but you can see it has a totally different shape to the wing and tail than the hawk.

Sooty-headed Tyrannulet was the bird we were actually looking at when the Harpy Eagle appeared.

I had a Semi-plumbeous Hawk fly up which sat long enough to eat a frog.

Domi's main target after the eagle was this bird, Yellow-green Tyrannulet, a bird found only in Panama.
He basically turned us around as soon as he found it and we headed for lunch, again in Torti.  A squirrel cuckoo teed up in very nice light over the after-lunch coffee.

Finally another montage of the last bird we had together as a group, Plumbeous Kite.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Harris's Sparrow

Mary Jo found a Harris's a few days ago at one of the more random locations I can imagine (she said she found this location looking for a place to pull over when her dog was having a bathroom emergency at some point remotely!).  It was still there yesterday.

 Some of us has talked earlier in the spring about how to pull a partially seen Harris's Sparrow out of  a flock of White-crowned's.  I know I've noticed a difference in the wingbars in the past; judging from what I can see here Harris's looks to have much less prominent wingbars.  The tail looks a lot longer to me in these pics too.

I think all teams yesterday were hurting for warblers given that 80% of them were still Yellow-rumps.  Here was an exception.

We heard BT blue a couple times but the pic is from earlier in the week.

Continuing the April theme, a nice pic of Ruby-crowned from the same day.

And finally a May bird, a Black-billed Cuckoo thanks to an expeditious post from another birder...

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Least Bitterns are Great

Talk about a lousy name.  Chestnut bittern I could see.  Yellow-shouldered would be even better.  But Least?  Nah, we can do better.  After seeing a few presumed Least Flycatchers silently earning their monikers the last few days a Least Bittern was a surprise even if looking for one was a big reason to go to Galien River Park this afternoon.  I'm not sure what compelled me to look basically straight down over the edge of the tower but look down I did and this beauty staggered into view.

 It lunged fairly awkwardly from one little patch of reeds to the next, frequently half-flapping its wings for balance, for all the world acting more like some rail x yellowlegs hybrid than its more dignified heron-class cousins.

At one point it leaned waaaaaay forward, occasionally swaying its body back and forth like vegetation in the wind, but keeping its head frozen in place.
 It didn't end up striking at anything.

After a bit it took up shop and settled near invisibly under some overhanging dried vegetation.
 We enjoyed walkaway views that were by far my best of this species.

And in other news, there are actually some warblers in the woods!  A week of north winds seems to have paused for 36 hours or so, fingers crossed for an excellent day tomorrow...

Thursday, May 4, 2017

weather for a ... duck

but given the rain came from the south there was no hope of it knocking down migrants; it completely blocked them instead.

Probably should have gone for the Common Teal on the other side of the state but never really considered it seriously.  Instead a figure-8 through the county was not super productive, but involved a lot less driving.  A pair of Blue-winged Teal were the only pics of interest, they made a decent gif...

There've been a few Forster's Terns around, but I haven't had a lot of luck (though admittedly haven't spent a ton of time) on the lakefront.  This Caspian is from a few weeks ago.

It's admittedly a photoshop job to put the bird together with the moon that was setting at the time.

Monday, May 1, 2017


On our last full day in Panama we started in San Francisco Reserve as we worked our way back to Panama City.  We were somewhat dawdling along the entrance road seeing what birds would pop into the open along the edges.  Unseen monkeys abruptly started going bonkers and Domi immediately started yelling to Look Up, Look Up, suspecting a Harpy Eagle was likely the cause of the alarm.  He wasn't wrong because next he started yelling HARPY EAGLE, HARPY EAGLE as the massive bird flashed out of the trees.  It perched in perfect view well up the slope.

We drank in every detail, from the loose crest to the narrow barring on the thighs, from the heavy gray bill to the couple black specks on the belly as he bobbed his head back and forth eyeing the still out-of-sight monkeys.

This is what he looked like through the scope, one of Rhoda's digiscoped images

He changed perches once, offering up the header photo. (These next 3 are gif's, click the pic for the series of images to play)...

After sitting for about 10 minutes he turned around, swooped down and broke off a protruding dead branch, either for nesting or just to clear his airspace of obstructions

Finally he soared off into the blue over canopy's horizon

I'd perhaps built up our visit to the nest too high in my mind and been left (admittedly unreasonably) somewhat unsatisfied.  This serendipitous bird more than made up for it.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Long-billed Dowitcher

Otherwise known as the red one.

Mary Jo found a Long-billed Dowitcher on Friday in the central county, kudos to her for going around and checking for little flooded fields.  It was still there midday Saturday.  Dowitchers can be hard to separate as most of the characters have at least some overlap.  This one has a fairly long bill, and has a decent amount of more brick reddish breeding plumage so the overall gestault is certainly of Long-billed.

Another gestault characteristic is the loral stripe.
 Long-billed on average has the supercilium (white line between the cheek and the cap) run more or less straight into the lore whereas Short-billed has a more marked angle down.  Again there's overlap, and you have to be careful because there's probably some degrees of this that are dependent upon the bird's posture, but it's another useful thing to look at.  The above pics are with the camera, the rest are video-grabs while phone-scoping to get some more magnification.
The tail is one of the more traditional field marks, typically white with thin black bars in Short-billed and at least 50-50 or more black than white in Long-billed.  This bird is at least 50-50 to my eyes.  This is hard to see in the field, but useful with the camera.

There's a few more useful plumage characters.  The breeding scapulars in Long-billed frequently show bright white ends whereas Short-billed is more marbled with yellow-orangish.  The white scapular tips showed up best in the 2nd pic; this next one got a little over-exposed and washed-out, but is the sharpest.
Hopefully this is the beginning of the floodgates!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

the Spring Wren and the Spring Sparrow

From a midwestern perspective, Winter Wren would be much more aptly called Spring Wren.  Of course you could say that for most of our migrants.  I've never been able to get a decent pic of one until earlier this week in Warren Woods where a bird was way more intent on belting out a huge song from a tiny bird than evading my lens

 He sat long enough that I video'd him.

It then hopped up a branch and ruffled his feathers before disappearing.

White-throated Sparrow was the theme at Floral today.  There were hordes of them.

I was hoping to get one standing next to a trillium but couldn't quite pull it off.

A robin actually came the closest...

Friday, April 21, 2017

a Cattle, errr, College Egret

One of Tim's friends texted him a pic of an odd bird they'd seen at LMC.  It was a Cattle Egret.  The bird was still there when I went over in the last evening light.  At first the bird was distant, feeding on the berm across the pond, but after about 20 minutes the bird took flight, flew directly overhead, and then disappeared over the college.  A quick walk around the building brought the bird back into view.  It was oblivious to the car.

It stalked about hunting for small prey items in the lawn.  With the combo of mowers to keep the grass down and Canada Geese to boost the, uhhhh, organic nature of the greenery it seemed to have pretty fair success.

At least once it appeared to have caught a slug.

The bird just kept working closer and who could complain about a fully plumed out bird.

My spreadsheet shows this is the 4th year I've had Cattle Egret in the county.  Most years a person can find at least one uncommon long-legged wader.  Here's hoping that bittern (or Little Blue!) are soon to come...