Friday, March 30, 2012

Do these even count?

Last week we came across a pheasant in the south county. Pheasants seem to be getting harder and harder to find (like all upland game birds). This male was with a female just a couple miles from a hunt club where presumably they're released. I don't know that there's any way to know what percent of this bird's ancestors were captives.
I'd never noticed how the crown of the head is not the dark green but rather a grayish color incorporating a lot of the color of the rump. The ring didn't get quite all the way around the throat. I just don't see enough of these birds to know how much variation there is in their appearance and how homogenous released birds are in comparison to the "established" population.

No doubt on the countability of the spring woodland wild flowers from last week like these trout lilies.

The annual comparison between Dutchman's Breeches above and Squirrel Corn below.

This Prairie trillium was taken almost 10 days ago, again incredibly early.
I always associate the classic trilliums with warbler migration. Right now the only warbler I've seen is a couple Yellow-rumps.

Hopefully in the upcoming weeks I'll time my Tiscornia visits a little better; I've missed the last 4 decent birds though with a bunch of night shifts upcoming that seems dubious at best.

Friday, March 23, 2012

March Marigolds

Last year my best Marsh Marigold pics came on April 28, a mere 5 weeks later in the year.
SE winds will bring passerines and their ilk moving back south at Tiscornia in the morning, presumably corrective movements. Right now the flight is dominated by robins, grackles, cowbirds, and RW blackbirds. Flickers are the main eye candy. I haven't yet connected with a big ticket item (see Tim's picaso for Smiths Longspurs on a day I was working).
It feels odd to see GC Kinglets in 70-80 degree temps. It wasn't arguing with the bug selection however.
Here's a White-fronted Goose at 3 Oaks. The incredible amount of S and SW winds at the beginning of the month usually would have brought a lot more of these and Ross's Geese, but I guess they all went to Allegan or wherever it was.
Finally just a shot of a Herring Gull
This seems like a pretty textbook 9 month old bird or so, nearly all the way to a bicolored bill, with extensive first winter mantle but the flight feathers still juvenile. The coverts are ratty but not yet reduced to feather shafts and the primaries are faded to Thayer's brown.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sayonara to the sea ducks

There's something about south winds and 70 to 80 degree temperatures that leads to the winter ducks heading back north. I figured I'd best use up the rest of my pics before they're ridiculously out of date.

This Long-tailed Duck spent a couple weeks off the end of the pier.

Some years the Greater Scaup flock will number in low 3 digits when the lake freezes for a couple miles out.
This year there wasn't even an ice pack at the beach's edge so their numbers never really built that high.

A few of the male scoters had started to develop their brighter plumage and bills. Scoters take 2 years to develop full adult breeding plumage. This bird is probably 20 or so months old.

White-winged were a lot more common with up to about 40 or so birds off the piers. Last time I was at Tiscornia there was one.

Lastly, a follow-up on the dark-mantled hybrid gull. I emailed Steve Cardiff, one of the LSU researchers who's done a lot of research on Chandeleur (Kelp x Herring) gull hybrids. His feeling was that the bird was too big and lanky to have Kelp as the dark-mantled parent and felt it would likely have to be Great Black-backed. My guess is that since most pics of putative Great Black-backed x Herring gulls are much lighter mantled, this is probably an F2 bird with 3 out of 4 grandparents being Great Black-backed. The Chandeleur gulls were certainly shown to display the full range of mantle darkness as the birds continued to back-cross so I would expect that would be so for Great Black-backed as well.