Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cave Swallow don't care

Who cares if it's sandstorm level S winds?  Who cares if you're the most wind-blown bird in North America?  If it's strong S wind that means you fly directly into it, right? Cave Swallow don't care!  Two years ago when we had Berrien's first Cave Swallows it was practically a gale (it was the Declan Smith windstorm whose 50mph gusts knocked over the tower at the ND football practice killing the cameraman).  Last year when Tim had one it was also strong S winds, today, 2 years (and 2 days) from our first 5 birds, 22 birds flew past Tiscornia, all bee-lining south.  We were up on the dune as there were decent numbers of shorebirds and passerines (mostly siskins) moving in front of tomorrow's front including 19 Long-billed Dowitchers that hopped over the pier and had two decent sized groups (first 7 high birds) go past the end of the pier and then 5 birds following a large Horned Lark flock that went past lower by the end.  We moved out to the end and after about 30 minutes a group of 10 materialized on top of us as they whipped past.  We both blasted away.

This is a crop of my best shot, nearly my last one of the tail end of the flock as they got far enough away that the camera focusing on the water sort of had the birds in a similar focal plane.  Unfortunately these are a little over-exposed as I was expecting the birds to be higher with light sky behind them, not dark water.
The next pics are montages of individual birds cropped out of multiple images as I panned through the flock.  These 4 birds were in a little sub-group, I cut out each individual to make it easier to evaluate each one.

The next 2 individuals are from 3 later frames.
Here's the last 4 birds in the flock (3 of which are pictured in the lead photo)
 Not surprisingly, Tim's shots are a lot sharper.
Finally a group of Long-billed Dowitchers that flew past at first light.  Unlike the swallows, they were a Tiscornia tick for me.
 In addition to the 10 birds photographed and 12 other birds were conclusively saw, there were 2 more identically shaped swallows that cut across the pier and were completely backlit.  The first time we had Caves the committee rejected the first 3 that were written up but not photographed and I'm not completely clear on what they did with the 2 that we photographed.  Tim had excellent shots of one of the birds, that one was accepted.  The 2nd one, which admittedly is a crap blur in one of my shots, was accepted on their site but not in North American Birding or the other way around.  Either way the majority were ignored since alpha error (saying something is something when it's not) apparently cannot ever be allowed whereas beta error (saying something is not something when it is) is quite acceptable. 

That also says nothing of the improbability of mis-identifying Rough-winged or Cliff Swallows as Caves and then subsequently photographing Caves an hour later.  In medical trials this idea is that of being prospective, meaning that you have a theory and then instead of applying it backwards to a set of data, you measure how it works going forward to prove that you are not just forcing your theory onto a past set of data.  When it works going forward (i.e. subsequent birds that we identify as Caves that we photograph as Caves) that is strong support of the original theory (of being able to use binoculars and telescopes to identify birds, not just a shotgun, er I mean camera).

Oh and by the way, even if you think it's hard to photograph a swallow, it's actually harder.

Sunday, October 21, 2012


October is Peregrine month at Tiscornia.  There tend to be a lot of young birds about moving up and down the beach.

This one had one of the fuller crops, the photo only somewhat does it justice.
If it was a better pic it could have led off the post with a caption contest.  The most obvious one would be "Is that a white-throated sparrow in your crop or are you just hapy to see me?"

There've been a few rarities this month, but none on days I've had off.  I ran into this creeper when checking various places a Brant might hide (in this case right next to the river channel).

Here's what Brown looks like when you don't see a Mottled Duck
And yes thank you, I am aware that if looking for a duck you should probably not be looking at the trees.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Phalaropes at the end of the rainbow

With my computer mostly fixed I can finally edit rainbow pics from a few weeks ago.

It was a pretty blustery day, spray went twice as high as the lighthouse at times.
The sun came out, usually the wave crash pics here are with bigtime overcast skies.

And the long-awaited payoff, a Red-necked phalarope that spent a few minutes on the beach (once the light turned awful again).  Tim had a Red recently at Tiscornia, pretty close to the same time period we had Red Phalaropes off-shore last year.
You can get a sense from its posture that it was getting blown about pretty hard by the wind, in the end it was basically blown away.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

next time it'll be a Rock

The pier can sometimes have an odd mix of passerines falling out on it.  This Marsh Wren was foraging about the equipment and tools on the pier as they took the light out of the red lighthouse.

It had some algae or fishing line wrapped about its feet and once tripped and rolled entirely over as it tried to go down a slanted section of concrete.
It hunkered down in a crevice and extricated itself after about 5 minutes.  It's funny how the lack of a cattail marsh can lead to a much more un-obstructed view.  And if a Marsh Wren will hang out for a couple of hours on the pier then a Rock Wren could totally get us on the 50 Days of Rare scoreboard.

Yellow-rumps are obviously pretty common everywhere now.

We're not the only ones checking out the passerines on the pier.
Both Merlins as well as Peregrines have been hanging out.  A peregrine flew in the other day eating a flicker as it flew.

Finally a harrier that flew down the dunes.
Hopefully I'll be able to get the computer monitor problems I've been having resolved this week, vastly increasing my ability to edit photos and get posts back up.