Thursday, May 29, 2014


I'd mostly made the transition in my mind from birds to dragonflies (and had just texted that I'd pretty much given up on Yellow-bellied Flycatcher) when this bird appeared in front of me in the little park beside Hickory Creek by Ace Hardware.
I had my camera set for fast exposure in bright sun of (potentially flying) dragonflies so I wasn't prepared for a passerine in the shade.  It was a scramble to get anything workable of the surprise Yellow-bellied.  Given that they're pretty much the passerine migrant with the latest peak this isn't that late for one (I know Tim's had them into June), but with the bulk of the migrants north of us it was still a surprise.  Ace park is the best place I know of in the county for Wild Lupines.

Willow and Alder Flycatcher were calling there as well and while I was close to a Willow I couldn't get a pic of one.  This Willow teed up by the golf course though.
There were a few calling there.  I was mostly trying to catch dragonflies (probably a future post) when I heard this next one calling.  It seemed closer to Willow but the tone was much thinner, it honestly seemed somewhat intermediate between Willow and Alder to me. 

Finally a dunlin from the beach that would have fit a lot better in the last post.  There was a willet too at the base of the pier but pierwalkers flushed both birds with me 200 yards away.  The willet headed south, the dunlin landed close and worked its way even closer to me.

Monday, May 26, 2014

breeding shorbs

There are definitely fewer shorebirds in the spring than the fall, but full breeding plumage can make up for that.

This turnstone is from a few days ago.

Andre found golden plovers sometime early in the month; my shifts were pretty dense during that period and I didn't get around to the pics for some time.  This one is digi-scoped

 Here's about half the flock, about 25-30, I forget the exact count.

Finally a dunlin in some foggy light from New Buffalo

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


The storm front that came through interrupting South winds made Floral pretty active this morning, probably as active as I've seen it this year.  The highlight was a Connecticut right off the bat.  It didn't give much of a view though.  Golden-wings on the other hand, were quite cooperative.  It's been a good spring for them.

This male was singing from about halfway past the cul-de-sac.  A female worked past him as well

Another pair was down behind another corner of the drowned thicket.  The female here is displaying at the male who's just visible on the left side of the frame.

Unrequited by her male, she sat for me at least.

We had over 20 species of warbler at Floral.  Continuing the winged warbler theme though, this Blue-winged was at Chikaming

We circled the park listening for Orchard Oriole (and Blue Grosbeak).  Ironically the Orchard was singing over the parking lot when we got back to the car.

One last bad pic of a decent bird, a female Summer Tanager pitty-tucking over the picnic area at Warren Dunes.  The male flashed by though didn't sit for a pic.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Pluses and minuses

I've always enjoyed doing big days and I've started a lot of them over the years.  I've finished ... well, less.  I would guess I've quit on over half of them once the afternoon lull is due and a person can look at their checklist and project fairly well what number they'll hit.  Honestly, I would have quit yesterday.

Going to a bunch of different places is one of the pluses of a big day and it paid off at night.  The cold night made it a good one to hear Great Horned Owls.  This one was hooting in the moonlight at one of our chat stops.

Certainly no big day is more based on listening than in May.  There are some that are easy to hear, distinctive and common.

Others are distinctive but uncommon,
This Mourning Warbler was singing away at the Lakeside bridge, the most exposed I've ever seen one.  Any other day I would have spent a lot more time with it.

The other trick is filtering.  Birds like Redstarts and Magnolia Warbler can fill the soundscape...

 ... making it harder to pick out subtler species like Wilson's Warbler

With the exception of the Mourning Warbler, though, initially it was pretty easy to keep moving.  That started changing in Warren Woods, where the cold weather led to some of the canopy birds being a lot lower, probably looking for insect activity. 

Scarlet Waterthrush was a new species for me.

Normally I would have spent a lot more time here.

An Acadian Flycatcher was also uncharacteristically low, definitely my best pic of one.

Barred Owl followed its usual birdathon path in the morning, it took us a while to hear one, then we heard one at about 3 consecutive stops.  It was unusual to see one well though.  Rhoda spotted this bird in the canopy, again my personal best pic of a species.

You have to keep moving (the downside during the day) and keep moving we did.  By late morning we were in Warren Dunes, I was pretty exhausted by mis-timing my sleep the day before, and when we walked away from the Worm-eating with a Scarlet Tanager about 6 feet away that was ju-ust about to pop out into the clear I mentally checked out.  My mind was going at the speed of this Map Turtle.
We kept pressing through the afternoon, collecting various common species and ending with 159 birds despite the cold day. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Chickaming Henslow's

Rhoda found Henslow's Sparrows at Chikaming Twp park a few days ago.  The rain let up in south county before it did in the north this morning so I went there first. 

I found one, hopefully the others were just quiet from the rain.  Digi-scoping led to much better pics than the SLR would have managed.  Nothing like 200x when you include cropping.

I bet it's been 3-4 years since I've seen one.  I'd forgotten how much fine streaking they have on the breast.

 It would start out low and then slowly hooch its way up the perch singing periodically.

This last pic would have been a lot sharper had I been able to shoot at more than 1/60th of a second.  I played with a bunch of settings when I got home; hopefully I'll be able to shoot faster next time. 
There's no fix though for the shutter delay.  I get used to being able to push the shutter and immediately shoot.  This is the only one where I caught it with the head back.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

the Blue Warbler

I had hoped to make that Blue Warblers plural, but Cerulean hasn't cooperated.  We had a close Black-throated Blue at Lincoln Twp Beach a few days ago.  It was nice to have a bird not glued to the canopy the way most of them are, even if the canopy is just sticks this year.

It was partial to working a little area sheltered by the dune.  If I tucked in behind a large tree it would come quite close.

Here you can see the bug it's going for in the air.

Once it dropped low enough below eye level to really expose the back.  Minus one stick it would have been a really good pic.

BT Blues have been more common this year, probably because of the East winds last week.  They migrate almost entirely east of the Appalachians to the latitude of Pennsylvania or so and then fan out NE, N, and NW to their breeding range that seems centered on Ontario. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Miki Kites

Tim managed to find roosting Mississippi Kites while doing deliveries at work.  They flew before long, but Rhoda stayed with one of them which flew up within seconds of when I drove up.

I'm still re-learning the art of digiscoping, this was my only work-able image of the bird perched.  A nearby crow harassed it when it would land; at other times the kite would chase the crow.
Mostly it flew in shallow circles a little above the level of the treetops.  It dipped once though I didn't see it catch anything.  Nothing says montage like a kiting kite.

And with that I really need to get on the find-one-yourself scoreboard.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Spring Warbs, round 1

It's that time of year.  With foliage so far behind, I've got high hopes for warbler shots this year, though my schedule's not looking great honestly.

Here's a Yellow-throated Rhoda and I had a week or so ago in Warren Woods

Definitely my best pics of one.  Next up, hopefully Cerulean.

This morning I went into the river bottom behind the house.  I found one little pocket of birds.  It was mostly Palms,
but one Black-and-white and one Black-throated Green

 I missed an alternate Parula song, I was actually thinking BT Blue for a second when I saw the blue back with some white in the wings before it turned to show the yellow; you can never be disappointed with a parula though, even if it was quite as good as last years...

Finally a Prairie Trillium, overcast is actually better for photographing a lot of the flowers