Monday, June 20, 2011

because why not

Jon recently found a Blue Grosbeak in Cass Co which I went over to look at this morning since it was about 20 minutes and 5 turns from my house. I've seen it once before in the state (not counting the probable flyby at Tiscornia this spring) but only a handful of other times. It seemed worth a couple hours even if it wasn't needed on any lists if for nothing else other than to get a look at the habitat and to get my ear in (and hey, they're not ugly).

I arrived before sunrise and had to wait awhile for it to get light out. I was mostly digi-scoping the bird since it didn't want to come very close to the road.

The bird would usually sing at the top of the shorter trees (the smaller 20 footers twice as high as the sumac) or at the mid to three-quarters height of the full size oaks etc that lined the railroad cut.

The two-tone bill always stands out to me in real life (including in flight) if the bird's in the sun.

Here's the habitat, looking SE down the tracks,

and looking NE:

Basically it looks like a lot of cut-over edges, a little lusher than the edges of the dune blow-outs, and more heavy on full size oaks behind the regenerating stuff than a lot of the woodlots around here, but otherwise didn't seem that specific to me. I always maintained when I lived in Washtenaw that County Farm Park looked pretty good for this species, and it looked a lot like the RR cut leaving the NE corner of the Dow Field in the Arb as well. I certainly see why the Boy Scout Campground at Warren Dunes turned up a bird for Andre last year.

Here's a sonogram of the bird. It was definitely grosbeak-pitched, but had more of a house or purple finch cadence. There were a couple orioles singing (including a probable Orchard) which could cause temporary confusion.

Here's a comparison sonogram I made of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak a few years ago:

The phrases of the Blue Grosbeak are shorter than the Rose-breasted's and are not as musical (remember the more horizontal the line on the sonogram, the longer the bird is holding one pitch, so the sweeter the song). The increased vertical aspects of the Blue Grosbeak give it the more finch like tones.

Monday, June 13, 2011

You mean there's stuff other than birds?

About once a year Tim will see a deer just swim out into the lake; earlier this spring was the first time I'd seen the phenomenon. A white-tail came sprinting down the water's edge, made a circle around the beach, and eventually headed for Wisconsin. Tim got the rest of the story from a fisherman later in the week, it swam back in after a while but was afraid of the city crew cleaning the beach and ultimately drowned.
At the other end of the circle of life is this nursing mother raccoon from Warren Dunes.

This Woodland Jumping Mouse was a life mammal earlier this spring, note the two-toned coloration. The very long tail is partially hidden under a leaf. When I would walk outside with it there it would jump about a foot in the air,

which is probably not a bad startle response given the 4 foot Black Rat Snake that may finally be denting my chipmunk population. It was the biggest snake I've ever seen in Michigan.

Finally, a Tiscornia White-crowned that never quite fit into a narrative from the spring as well.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

no, he's Laughing at you

especially when you still need Franklin's for the year. This 2nd calendar year Laughing Gull flew by Tiscornia a few days ago and landed on Silver.
Franklin's is much more common in this appearance, every other Laughing Gull I've had over here was a full adult, though Tim photo'd a juvenile last summer/fall. ID points at rest include the longer bill, somewhat ratty hood (though not all Franklin's have the real nice clean half hood) and the un-moulted ratty wing feathers; Franklin's moults its wing feathers twice a year. As it lifts off, the spreadwing is just plain dark, Franklin's would have white-tipped feathers with sub-basal white bands by now as well.

In full flight as it went by initially, it stood out as being darker than the typical ring-billeds with the darker mantle and partial hood. Franklin's has a different flight style though, and is more narrow-winged, this bird was Laughing from the get-go.

I'll bet if I told you I had a flock of large brown birds with long necks on the beach in the first week of June you'd think I had a whimbrels, but no.

This morning I walked out the "easy prairie" blowout in Warren Dunes at daybreak hoping to hear Kip's Bob-white. It was pretty windy though. A couple of the Prairies tee'd up distantly.

Finally a few tom Turkeys came out into nice light along the entrance road.

On the way home I picked up a Grasshopper Sparrow, the last easy bird of the year. Everything else will require either dedicated searching, or considerable time investment along the lakeshore.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Drama on the home front

All spring I've been occasionally thinking that I've been hearing a Yellow-throated Warbler, not a very common yard bird in Michigan, though not inconceivable given some large sycamores in the river bottom and large white pines in the neighborhood. However, every time I would think I'd hear it, a migrant Tennessee or Nashville Warbler or a local Indigo Bunting (one of whose songs trends down in pitch through most of the song) would walk all over it. However, the Tennessees and Nashvilles are now far to the north and the buntings are paired up and singing a lot less and not even I could ignore the persistent tew, tew, tew, te-ew, te-eww, tew-wi any longer. I digi-flipped the bird through the scope and this shot is a still from the video.
Later while I was again trying to track down the warbler I saw a bird feeding another in the tulip tree. One was this Chipping Sparrow, and not surprisingly,

the other was this cowbird, the only thing that my yard Chipping Sparrows ever seem to raise.

Later in the evening I found the cowbird on the sidewalk, I guess a casualty of the plate glass windows or something; it also showed the sheathed, still-developing, tail feathers that the Mourning Dove I found at Tiscornia displayed.

Finally while looking up at them in the Tulip Tree originally, I noticed my tree making tulips, something I haven't seen it do before.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

tracking them down

The one advantage of being about 10 birds behind where I could be is that it leaves some focused birding in June.

Dickcissels have a lot of different songs. I saw one distantly perched up that had a very clear song. This bird I hunted down in the back side of some brush since its song was so much buzzier I wasn't totally convinced it was a Dickcissel. Interestingly the clearer sounding bird was much paler, the buzzy one was a lot brighter. I'm not sure if the differences are due to age or if this is one of those species that tries to sound very different from its neighbor (as opposed to Indigo Bunting which mimic the bluest male in the neighborhood).

I didn't need Worm-eating for the year, but one of the 2 I heard in Warren Dunes perched up better than I've had them before and I wasn't going to turn it down.

Summer Tanager was a year bird.

The female was following the male around, the opposite of how I think of most birds. Perhaps he was demonstrating all the nest sites. Per Kaufmann's Lives of North American Birds though, only the female builds the nest so who knows. She was actually more vocal with pitty-tucks than he was.

Finally Spiderwort, another of the showier wildflowers at present...