Thursday, March 31, 2011

Slow beginnings

Between consistent north winds and limited free time I've fallen fairly behind on posting. Most of the birds at Tiscornia have been way out over the lake though this Common Loon came in closer than most. With the northerly winds at least as many birds are going south as north, at least close to the pier.
There have been a few mornings with nice morning light. The car worked well as a blind at a local pond for these ruddies. I'd like to get out in the kayak on one of the Grand Mere lakes though I don't know that there's going to be time.

It feels like there's been fewer Horned Grebes about the piers, but maybe it's just the north winds slowing things down. They range pretty much from close to winter to close to breeding. Some are in the potentially confusing intermediate state.
I'm not sure if they can be aged at this time of year. There are some head shape differences between sexes in the winter, but I'm not sure how reliable they are once they start getting plumes. Presumably there's differences in the migration timing between sexes and age groups. It feels like the birds' molt is farther advanced this year than last, but perhaps I'm seeing adults now and more slowly molting younger birds are still to come.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Great goose round-up

There's been some decent year birds around lately though I haven't had a ton of time to write a lot about them. The goal for a Berrien year lister is always to find as much stuff out of the way in the spring so that a minimum of birding time can be spent away from Tiscornia in the fall when there's greater rarity potential (not that I didn't probably have a distant Black-tailed Gull a couple weeks ago).

It took an hour and a half of walking though the Sarett pines with my head cricked back before I found a Long-eared; owls and geese are among the earliest migrants though this bird could have wintered. This was at least my 4th trip into the pines this year though.
Speaking of geese, we've had some decent SW winds in the last few weeks which makes it a lot easier to find White-fronted and Ross's types.

Three Ross's types have been seen at a farm pond along Buffalo Road. Ross's are no longer a review bird in Michigan fortunately. I wrote a post a few years ago showing a range of birds and how they were viewed by the committee. I think these would be accepted if this was back then. What they actually are, may be another matter. Personally I think all eastern Ross's have at least some Snow in them given the massive population expansion Ross's underwent at a time when Snow Geese were moving into new areas both on the wintering grounds and in the arctic. That's not to say they're not Ross's Geese, I just believe that what a Ross's Goose is has changed. The other post reviews the literature I was able to pull off SORA regarding this.

I was somewhat lucky that I was delayed in being able to chase the Ross's Geese. Had I gone first thing in the morning I wouldn't have heard about these Cackling Geese in a holding pond in Sodus from another birder. There's another similarly sized group out of the frame. Note the vertical foreheads, stubby bills, and smaller size than the Canada Goose in the foreground. In life they were also slighly grayer than the Canada, but that doesn't come out that well in this distant backlit pic.
The other advantage of driving after these Cacklers was that a Mockingbird perched up in a fruit tree on the way back.

Finally a distant through-the-fence shot of 3 White-fronts at 3 Oaks.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Florida sunset

I remember when I was a kid seeing large numbers of White Ibis fly into mangrove roosts at Ding Darling way back in the day, but have never been that close to a roost or rookery (I understand the Gatorland park is excellent in this regard). However, as we were leaving the Animal Kingdom Disney resort, large numbers of White Ibis started settling into the trees along a little stream. There were enough of them to draw oohs and aahs from the general tourists.

This view looks like a composite image, but is really 3 birds landing in tandem.

Squabbling would break out when birds would settle within billshot...

Others with more room were calmer.

A nice fill flash would have been nice by the end though.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Zoo birds

We spent one day at Disney's Animal Kingdom, somewhat of a hybrid between a zoo and a theme park. It was very crowded and follow's the Magic kingdom layout of a central hub and a bunch of small areas radiating off from there leading to a lot of congestion.

I was hoping to show the kids spoonbills on the trip, and lacking a chance to get out and show them wild ones, at least got to show them some captive individuals.

I think the Scarlet Macaws were their favorite; they're featured prominently on one of the Dora cartoon episodes.

It's easy to see why they're valued as pets.

This is a Lesser Flamingo (from Africa I think).

They had a show where they flew different birds over a little amphitheater which was well received. This is a sub-adult King Vulture.

A Harris hawk skimmed just over the heads of the crowd.

They didn't fly this Spectacled Owl, but brought it out at the end for people to walk up and look at.

Finally a shot of a blue-and-gold macaw taking flight...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Florida raptors

I fell behind on blogposts while in Florida. We're back now after the kids' maiden voyages to Disney and I at least have material for a few more after this.

I only had one morning of actual birding aside from carrying bins and camera into the themeparks. I was hoping to find snail kite, but no such luck. My first spot for it had a couple eagles that were fairly acclimated to people at the boat launch.

At times they would call actively when another eagle would go by, sounding a lot like overgrown Herring gulls. I like the "Harley-Davidson" pose of the bird on the left:
I probably stayed too long at that kite-less spot but I didn't want to leave until the light was fully on the eagles.

A Red-shouldered Hawk tee'd up nicely on the way to my next spot; the Florida morph (subspecies?) is paler than ours is.

I was always a little slow on the draw the two times Caracaras flew past.

Black vultures were very common, though not quite as abundant as the TV's.

This was as close as I came to a Snail Kite:
Piles of old Apple Snail shells had washed up out of the lake in places. They weren't quite the size of apples, but the larger ones were certainly the size of large plums.