Sunday, June 28, 2015

Pelagic MISERY

A few of us drove to North Carolina this last weekend to go on a Brian Patteson pelagic trip.

This was the weather that greeted us as we headed out from Hatteras after delaying an hour to see how much of the local area the storm would envelop...

The two hour trip out to the offshore areas was incredible.  The seas were cobalt dark, once the rain stopped some of us headed up to prow of the boat as it motored through 6-10 foot waves (with occasional ones looking taller at time).  It was very exciting.  A Black-capped Petrel ripped past the boat and this Cory's Shearwater cruised along as well, this photo was taken with the boat still up on a plane

Great Shearwaters started appearing in numbers as the boat slowed and they started chumming.

They would sometimes settle into the water to grab a choice bit of shark liver (others saw them dive somewhat under the water too for particularly choice bits).

With the boat slowed though we were very much caught up in a washing machine slosh of back-and-forth, and a lot of up-and-down.  I shook off developing nausea as a storm-petrel flock built (with the storm and lighting behind them).  They were mostly the long-legged Wilson's.

The right bird shows off the yellow foot linings.
The Wilson's were joined by a Leach's and a few Band-rumpeds before my breakfast ended up over the edge.

I took a nausea pill and tried to re-gather myself.  I managed a few shots of some more Black-capped Petrels

Unfortunately the nausea didn't pass, even with a strong anti-nausea medicine, it simply intensified.  The next 4 hours were probably the most prolonged miserably that I've ever felt in my life.  I was dry heaving over the edge every 15-20 minutes and abandoned both the camera and the binoculars.  My views of Audubon's Shearwaters and a Sooty Tern (a bird I should have been pretty excited to see) were brief naked eye glances before closing my eyes again and trying to concentrate on just lasting this 5 minutes before considering the next. 
Mercifully when it was finally time to go, once the boat got back up on a plane and the up-and-down stopped I was feeling essentially normal after 10 minutes.  It's too bad the captain never had to move to a different area once we reached wherever we reached as I probably would have been able to enjoy the trip a lot more.  I've been on both oceans on boats ranging 40 to 100 feet for lengths of time ranging from 2.5 hours to 2.5 days in addition to many trips out into Lake Michigan (at distances from shore the same as this trip) on the boat I used to own and had thrown up once in all those times.  Clearly I'd never been in weather like this before though. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Who wants to be a Cuban Anole?

I couldn't bring myself to do a post on Collared-doves, so the blog returns to spring break in Florida.

As we walked the mangrove-lined mile between our hotel and the beach one morning we heard a soft Whump as a Red-shouldered Hawk flew down and grabbed a talonfull of leaves and sticks from the road's shoulder.  It flew up to a roadside snag and extricated a Cuban Anole (the invasive flavor is brown in color, the native Florida ones I was more familiar with are green).  Ironically it looks like the anole has re-grown its tail after apparently surviving a previous attempt by a predator.

It flew off, presumably towards its nest, anole clutched firmly in its beak.
My impression is that Redtails almost universally carry prey in their claws, though I don't usually see them carry 1/4 ounce-sized prey.  It seems like Roughlegs usually carry mice in their talons. 

The above bird is fairly representative of the paler color that the Florida subspecies exhibits.  This next bird is somewhat brighter, even in overcast though the head is still lighter than ours are.

The trim Red-shouldered's are always fun to watch, though perhaps if Redtails were more novel I'd be going on about their characters instead...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Lark Bunting and more

Rick Brigham located a Lark Bunting in some of the Allegan SGA grasslands.  It was a while before a hole opened in my schedule to allow a person to go, but the bird was still there this morning.  It didn't give good views, but would pop up for a second or so in song flight giving a song vaguely on a bobolink's pitch but without the complicated burbling.  It may have been doing some buzzy trill intro stuff but was a little too far to say for sure.  I only managed one sharp heavily cropped pic of my first statebird of the year.

Dickcissels were a lot more common, and some were quite close to the road.

I spent some time digi-scoping this bird.

Grasshopper sparrows were also much more common in some of the fields than they are in Berrien.  I could have digi-scoped this one but left the scope in the car as we walked some of the fields.

It's not super close, but you can't argue with the prairie background.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Birding the Museum

Ginger and I took in the Chicago art museum last week.  We didn't have a ton of time and certainly didn't see it all but enjoyed what we did see.  I think the images here represent about 500 years worth of "art."

A lot was fairly lifelike (or life size at least).  This is a King Vulture from a German project in the early 1700's that was trying to replicate the animal and bird kingdoms in "white gold."
They finished 30 or 40 before the "patron" (Augustus the Strong) died.  According to wiki he was king of Poland and imprisoned the artist (JF Bottger) who claimed to be an alchemist until the artist actually produced him gold.  The closest he managed was a new approach to porcelain ... hence white gold.
There were several examples of market still-"lifes" ...
this one by Strozzi in the 1600's highlighted by a roller, turtle-dove, and bustard
... this one by one of the Flemish painters on a canvas about 12 feet wide ...
and this one with some dead birds including Eurasian Goldfinch and Robin at the feet of the Holy Family which I probably should have gotten the name of the painting to figure out the back story/symbolism

Some of the birds hopefully fared better, here's the Robin and Goldfinch again in a 1500's German depiction of heaven

I'm not sure how well Paradise worked out for the birds though since a shrike made it there too.
There were some very Audubon-esque prints from the 1700's, these from an Irish artist named Dixon
 Nothing says Ireland like a Wood Duck or Purple Swamphen.

Also in the Irish exhibit was this somewhat macabre collage of a Song (?) Thrush which was a combo of watercolor and actual feathers.
Slightly less macabre than I feared was this 1850's bronze of Hebe the Greek goddess of youth with her father, Jupiter, represented by the eagle.
Given that it's a Greek mythology theme I was a little worried I'd look it up and find out that the eagle is about to eat her liver or some stupid thing, but apparently she just feeds it ambrosia from the cup which is a ticket to immortality.
Slightly less immortal were some modern photos.  Want to know what to do with your most backlit pics of a Vermillion Flycatcher?  Just blow them up to about 4 foot by 6 foot and call them art!

There was also a mostly cut-off Curve-billed Thrasher on the same perch (but rotated 90 degrees!) as well as this about 5 foot by 12 foot piece that I'll leave you with...

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Tandem turkey toms

I spent a little time last week at Warren Dunes photographing a couple turkeys strutting their stuff on the main lawn at the entrance.
I think this is the first time I've managed a photo of a bird in full display.

 After a bit the two toms started gobbling in unison and looking across the road.

Two more toms were working their way steadily towards them, also gobbling in unison.
Not sure what they're saying, (Yo mama's a thanksgiving dinner?  Your beard looks like dyed dunegrass?)

I was hoping to see fireworks break out, but the birds just walked around each other before the two interlopers walked off.
Wikipidea cites a Nature study (Krakauer, 2005) showing the dominant male of two toms courting  hens together fathered about 50% more young than males courting by themselves.  I'm not sure how that works out for the other male, but given that they're usually (always?) brothers apparently the relationship means more of its genetic material gets passed on under the assumption it would have been completely unsuccessful on its own.  Of course I'm pretty sure the turkey doesn't know that.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Worm-eating behaviour

aside from them being Skulking Bastards (said with all due respect).

There's a lot of Pine Warblers in Warren Dunes this year which makes tracking Worm-eating down a little more difficult.  We got excited the day before Birdathon hearing a warbler trill at one of the traditional Worm-eating sites, and then a bit let down when the bird eventually showed itself to be yellow instead of caramel colored.  Of course Pine Warbler isn't easy on Birdathon either so it was useful nevertheless.

Some time was spent tracking Pine Warblers down this morning.  Some were singing the loose musical trill that's pretty easy to separate from Chipping Sparrow or Worm-eating, others were singing a much tighter trill.  Frequently more distant Pines would sound dryer making the next territory over the hill that much more exciting.  Until you got there at least.

I walked right past this bird.  It was foraging generally within inches of the ground

  It once or twice gave a very short version of the song fairly softly.  The reason for that became obvious.  Another bird that was singing away nearby (the one we were tracking down when we nearly walked past this one) flew in and copulated with it before flying off to resume its song.  This bird, the female, kept looking for inchworms in the gloom.  I know that female cardinals will sing and expect (and even select for) males that will respond per the Kroodsma Singing Life of Birds.  I'm not sure if other warblers do this, but it seemed like this one was.
With a chance to listen to the male, it seemed like it would end its song more abruptly than Chipping Sparrow or Pine Warbler, something I've never noticed before.  We'll see if that's something that will be useful in the future or if it's more unique to this individual.