Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Eye of the egrets

The SE winds that produced 90 degree temperatures and flocks of waxwings streaming (south) past Tiscornia also brought an invasion of egrets into Berrien Co. Mindy found this group of a half dozen Cattle Egrets outside of Bridgeman. They were in a range of breeding affects, this one in the middle with some warm color to the lores and bill base as well as a fairly striking red rim around the iris.

This one has pretty fully hormonal bare parts coloration,

in contrast to this bird which has virtually none.

A few miles away, Jon discovered another group of Cattle Egrets, which was ultimately found to contain a Snowy Egret as well, a county lifer for me.

The Snowy is the bird on the left, as evidenced by the black (longer) bill and different shape. It brought me to 236 for the year, almost 10 birds less than last year at this time, though most of those are findable in June. Tim on the other hand is considerably ahead of his pace from last year, so clearly I have some work to do.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


It's that time of year when most of the year list is rounded out with just a few nemesis birds left.  Like Connecticut.  And just in time for a birder to really start gripping comes the female Mourning Warbler.  She may stay deep in the underbrush and give just enough to hope for the real thing ... they aren't though.  In some ways it's far easier to ID the pic of the bird frozen than the rapidly moving, mostly hidden blur that we're presented with in real life.
The eyering is actually a couple eye arcs and the underparts are also way to yellow for a Connecticut.

Another mark between Connecticut and Mourning is that the undertail coverts extend very far out on Connecticut and are more average in Mourning.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher is probably the last passerine migrant to peak, and probably second only to Whimbrel as the latest migrant. Yellow-bellied's were actually pretty apparent at Floral earlier this week, we had them singing both the classic Peterson uprising chu-wee, as well as the very Least-like kibbick.

Here's Yellow-bellied's in a couple different lights.

I'm going to try one more crack at Connecticut tomorrow, but if I miss it then (and miss it I will), I'm probably going without one this year

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

California gull

I don't have time to do a decently researched post, but given that Tim had the bird again this morning for about 10 minutes I figured I'd put up pics so people know what they're looking for if they decide to come for it.

Virtually all the young RB Gulls haver dark eyes so that doesn't really stand out, the mantle is only marginally darker in some lights.
The black on the bill is narrower than most of the RBGU's and there is some red proximal to the black. The legs are yellow-green, the difference in the sunlight is more apparent than it is in the above pic.

It really blends in at rest.

The broad black tailband is the most obvious character, virtually no 3rd calendar year Herring gull or equivalently plumaged Ring-billed gull will match this solidly black tail (obviously excepting the new r2's).

p1 is growing in with an adult feather so there's just a narrow grayish window in the inner primaries whereas Herrings have a big patch of paler inner primaries.

For what it's worth, every California Gull I'v seen at Tiscornia (all 2 of them) walks with this odd posture with the head cocked back and the bill pointed down. I don't think I've ever read about this behavioural character so I don't know if it's real or not.

Finally a wing-on flight montage.

For a post showing aging of California Gull see here.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

just another Swainson's Hawk

SE winds found Tim and me atop the dune again. This time we only had to wait 15 minutes for a first spring Swainson's Hawk. This one is a little darker than the Swainson's a couple weeks ago. This bird appeared late in a kettle of 3 Broadwings that couldn't quite slip past Tim. Again note the pointed wings (with 4 emarginated primaries) with dark flight feathers. It was a size bigger than the Broadwings it was with.

First spring Broadwings were the most common hawk today.

Most (if not all) were missing a few feathers in the wings and usually the tail too.

First spring Redtails were the other hawk moving in decent numbers. Some are faded quite pale,

though not as pale as last month's Kriders (I found the upperwing shots):

Unlike the Swainson's, this Peregrine was a year bird.

Just in case you're sick of practically black-and-white hawk shots, here's a female Parula, the first that we've had at Tiscornia.

Now if only I could find a Connecticut Warbler...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

mid-migration warblers

The 3rd week of May is classically the peak week for warblers in Michigan (probably a little earlier for us in Berrien). Canada is frequently a quite desired bird. They have both a slow and a fast song, it'd be interesting to see with a sonogram if there's much difference between the two other than speed.
We're not quite to the point where the migration is completely and utterly dominated by redstarts, though we're getting close.

Chestnut-sided is one of the more dominant songs (excepting redstart and to a lesser extent Tennessee)...

Magnolia is very common too, though it's plainer song is easier lost in the background.

I've never picked out the song of an Orange-crowned, whether because they tend towards silence of if it's just that I don't hear it I'm not sure. This one threw me off a little and is much brighter yellow beneath than most that I see.

There's still a surprising number of the early warblers like BT Green, Palm, and Yellow-rumped however.

We'll see what kind of excitement this weekend's warmer weather and the end of the current stalled out north winds bring...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Birdathon 2011

Another year, another Birdathon in the books. For the first time in 4 years we didn't have a record. Three years ago we continued after the wrap up for a Berrien county Big Day record, 2 years ago we had first state record Fish Crow, and last year we tallied 170 during the Birdathon period. Yesterday, well, we saw birds.
The night was very rough, a combination of an early start date (there aren't Chats or Sedge Wrens on territory yet) and a cool temperature after a few days of finally warming (no Chucky), and windiness (no rails) led to a poor nightbird tally though we did finally hear a Sora and see a Moorhen in the afternoon. We also forgot to look at the doppler radar after bailing on Jones/True road for our south county starting areas and didn't realize that a rainstorm was bearing up out of the south with the north county clear. After spending 40 minutes of prime dawn to get north of the rain, we did get into a lot more passerines than I expected at Sarett and Brown. Brown especially had good numbers of warblers, including good looks at Blackpoll, Cape May, and the first two tanagers pictured here.

Note that this one has a Western Tanager style colored upper wingbar, a variant you see now and then.

Once the rain got back to us (raining out Prothonotory) we headed back south. Ceruleans were quite active at Lakeside road. Sometimes very light rain or mistiness can be good for seeing canopy birds as they get pushed lower and this first spring (?) male was foraging on the guardrail.

Of course since it was dark and misty, camera settings get pushed way past the optimal ones so the pics are pretty grainy, but I think this was the first keeper image of Cerulean that I've obtained since the 1990's back when I used an old film camera coupled to a telescope that was even older than I was.

Tiscornia produced as usual. We had both Common and Forster's Tern sitting side-by-side at the beach, a distant Common Loon resting out on the water, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet to make it unanimous, and this Laughing Gull.

One other team reported a Franklin's Gull at Tiscornia. It is certainly possible that both birds were present (we had Franklin's a year ago to the day and one was seen yesterday at New Buffalo), ID points on this photographed bird include the longer heavier bill, long legs, and lack of white primary spots or white between the black and the gray of the primaries in flight (here's more on the differences).

We saw this tanager at one of our final stops, more of a Peachy rather than a Scarlet Tanager. My impression was that it was a first spring bird whose coloration wasn't that intense. Sibley shows an "orange variant" bird, implying that full adult males could be colored similarly. I'm not sure which this is.

One final grainly low-light shot of a Black-billed Cuckoo, also at our final stop, always a nice bird to see (we had a Yellow-billed fly by as well).

We ended over 150, better than I expected after the night birding and the rainy start.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A nemesis no more

Earlier in the week I was on my way to Tiscornia when the cell phone rang. It was Tim so I knew that it was going to either be very good or very bad. It was a little bit of both since he said he'd photographed a flyby Lark Sparrow, but that there were White Pelicans off the beach. Ten minutes later the pelicans were half way to Kloch and I had a decent walk to catch up to them. There were 14 of them, a bird I've been expecting to see the last 3 springs with some concerted effort along the rivermouth where fisherman always seem to report them, but unsuccessful until now.
This morning at Tiscornia there was a Mockingbird, a bird that I have missed in the county before, but one I've found 3 times so far this year.

Then I saw a Brown Thrasher carrying nesting material on the other end of the park,

and had to circle back to take a lousy pic of a Catbird to finish off the mimic photo-slam.

Just watch us only get the catbird on Birdathon.

I realized as I was driving south that I was pacing oriole flocks and pulled over into one of the bluffside parks along Lakeshore. There were actually more southbound birds here than there had been at Tiscornia; perhaps concentrated more by the bluff.

Eventually I got down to Floral where there was more activity around the scout campground than there was on most of the trail itself. The tanager caught my eye before I'd even gotten out of the car.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A fine April morning

I walked some of Grande Mere SP yesterday. A few Northern Waterthrushes were tinking along the swampy edges along with a Rusty Blackbird.
Some of the classic April migrants were much in evidence, the April thrush, a Hermit,

and the classic April warbler, the Yellow-rumped.

Black-and-white Warbler frequently appears on the last day of April...

Wait a second, what's that you say? It's May? I would have predicted more leaves and territorial birds. I guess it explains the female Kentucky at Floral this morning though. I had to shoot through some brush so the pics aren't as sharp as I'd like.

A first state (ABA?) record Bearded Tit was along the trail too:

I don't see any reason to actually look up what a Bearded Tit looks like, surely the name is self-explanatory right? I didn't see where the chickadee took its nesting material.