Saturday, May 28, 2016

the Great (not so) Dismal Swamp

Let's face it, last year's trip to North Carolina didn't go so well.  I was completely incapacitated by seasickness on the pelagic trip and was really left wondering what might have been had I actually been able to fully participate in the trip.  Though I did get a hot tip on a seaside sparrow, still the only one I've ever seen.

So a return was in order.  Hattaras isn't an easy place to get to, last year we drove all the way which was probably a mistake.  This year flying to Norfolk cut the drive from 15 hours down to 3.  And between Norfolk and Cape Hattaras lies the Great Dismal Swamp, a place I'd never visited.  It held no less than the most Prothonotary Warblers I've ever seen in my life.

 Their songs and chip notes rang out more or less continuously during the walk on an unseasonably cool and crisp afternoon.  It was a really nice cross section of southern birds.  Hooded's were also fairly conspicuous along the trail's edge.

I haven't managed a Yellow-billed Cuckoo yet this year in Berrien, but in this Virginian swamp they were easy to hear and see.
As were Carolina Chickadees, a bird I wasn't expecting until their more minor key vocalizations gave them away as they led little mixed flocks of wrens, titmice, and downies.
It definitely has less warm wash on the flanks.  I wasn't really appreciating the difference that Sibley shows with regards to the white cheek patch being grayer posteriorly or a more sharply demarcated bib.

Birds weren't the only things active.  The place was full of Tiger Swallowtails and Eastern Comma butterflies.
 And while the Comma can also be found fairly easily in Berrien, this next creature, a female Spangled Skimmer, would be a pretty solid find here.

But it was a different warbler that draws birders here, another southerner with a smooth down-slurred song.  And even if its content sounds phonetically like "Ooh, ooh, stepped in Poo," the somewhat long rangy Swainson's Warbler loses none of his appeal.
 It was a lifer.

Even on the way out it was hard to leave with a Summer Tanager building a nest directly over the trail.

The name of the trail?  Somewhat inauspiciously, the Washington Ditch.
 Named after and surveyed by our first President, George Washington.

Want another study in contrasts?  George Washington got a ditch named after him.  Our 41st President?
The USS George HW Bush, as viewed in dock at Norfolk from the air on the way in.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

migration's end

For me at least.

This Canada Warbler was showing off along the trail at Floral yesterday, singing next to the trail

Mourning Warblers were singing trailside as well, however are a lot stingier with the views they allow...
 Of  course you can actually hear them, as opposed to their Connecticut relatives which went completely AWOL for me this spring.

There's a couple Wood Thrushes with nests next to the trail as well.

Summer Tanagers breed in Warren Dunes, this first spring male though is probably a migration straggler given that they don't usually set up territories along Floral.
 You can get a sense of a few greenish feathers still on the breast and belly.
 Even if the reddish wings weren't visible, the heavy longer bill would separate it from its Scarlet cousin; this female is from Kesling.

Lady's slippers are at their peak in Warren Dunes

Friday, May 20, 2016

Red, White, and ... black

Had a mini-theme with a bunch of red white and black birds back to back a few days ago.  I don't take as many pics of the common birds as I should, but this Red-bellied posed nicely.

I had a Red-headed Woodpecker a hundred yards farther down the trail, but it was also a lot farther away.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are super prominent now as they set up territories.
 The males will chase each other around in full song.

I'm cheating a little with the next photo, it's not from this year, but fits the theme.
I actually haven't had a ton of luck photographing migrants this spring, this Swainson's Thrush was an exception when it posed reasonably.

Magnolia remains the only one warbler that's been semi-cooperative as well.

Finally the most interesting pic from a rather forgettable Birdathon, a day-roosting nighthawk that one of the other groups spied perched about 30 feet above the trail.

Friday, May 13, 2016

McCown's Longspur???


Nope.  Just a leucistic robin
You'd better believe I hit the brakes though when this bird flashed into my vision at 50mph.  I had no idea what it was.  Ironically it's about a mile north of the partially leucistic tree swallow last fall at 3 Oaks.

Another black and orange bird was just about the most common warbler today, Blackburnian
Unfortunately most were heard-only treetop birds, this one at least came down to the mid-story.  Warblers have actually been really good lately, but they've almost universally been very high.  This Magnolia was one of the few exceptions...

A few other passerine dribs and drabs, we'll see how many are about in the predicted 20mph NW winds tomorrow for Birdathon...


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sedge Wren solo

I was walking at Chikaming a morning or so ago and had a Sedge Wren singing right next to the road.  I usually don't have a ton of luck with seeing singing Sedge Wrens, but I was able to track this one down fairly easily.

Some years Sedge Wren can be a very difficult bird in Berrien, it's been fairly wet this year, perhaps that's contributing to their presence in a few spots in the county.

The bird would frequently duck a couple times prior to repeating the song.  It was cooperative enough that I attempted to video the bird (apologies for the bane of recording sound in Berrien Co, I-94 traffic noise in the background).

Since a couple times this spring I've posted somewhat luke-warm photos and then had much better photo-ops of the species a few days later (like happened here), I ought to put up a pic of a Blue Grosbeak or Purple Gallinule and see if karma will continue.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Sora shoot

Galien County Park has been getting a lot of attention this spring with Soras being far easier to see than they frequently are (with Virginia Rails sometimes coming into view and, for some people, bittern and moorhen as well).

I like the water drops running down the strand of drool on this one.

Here's a couple shots from a sunnier day.

This one was given the name Sara.  Personally I think Sara's a dude, but with Soras it can be hard to say...

I can't remember if Kip had Sedge Wrens at Galien, this one is at Sarett.

It would make sense for this Solitary Sandpiper to be in a marsh somewhere;I
 it's actually in a flooding in Warren Dunes.

Finally, a last bird on the swamp theme, a Swamp Sparrow (though actually at Tiscornia).