Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pheasant Cuckoo

Pipeline Rd is one of the best places to see Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, a chunky roadrunner class bird of intact tropical forest.  Even so, it's rare there.  Some years a family group will be cooperative, most not.  Its cousin Pheasant Cuckoo isn't much less rare.  Imagine my surprise then when we heard a fairly unearthly charrrrring mechanical growl coming from the underbrush on the final morning not long after our pre-dawn arrival.  I had no idea what it was, and honestly expected it to be a mammal.  I was flabbergasted to see a displaying Pheasant Cuckoo.

The bird would walk about giving a charrrrr call and mechanically rattle its wing and tail feathers, occasionally dashing about to grab an insect.
It was big enough to be hard to fit into the entire frame as I uber-cautiously tried to work my way into lanes where I could (mostly) see through the vegetation.

The bird was still displaying when we left in the early afternoon heat for the airport, a fitting denouement for another last morning in Panama.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Northern shrike ... in greenery???

Yesterday Tim and I were standing at the end of the pier when he announced with just a touch of both incredulity and disgust in his voice, "There's a shrike on top of the overlook tree."  I've looked at that distance before, it's about 600 yards as the falcon flies on GoogleMaps.  The proportions seemed like it was probably a Northern, but I started running down the pier while he tried some long-distance digi-scoping.

A minute, a quarter mile, and two inhaled bugs later it became clear it was a Northern.
I've never seen one with green leaves visible.  The bird took off and flew directly over me south out of sight maybe a minute or two later.

 The narrow mask and long bill rule out Loggerhead unfortunately.  This was the first Northern eBirded at Tiscornia in 15-20 years and by far the earliest I've had one in Berrien.  Interestingly eBird showed this fall's most southerly Northerns to be this bird along with one in Illinois and one in Ontario at about identical latitudes, all appearing yesterday, so clearly they were moving a little.

Moving up a size in the bird of prey chain, merlins are around most mornings in mid-late October.
This is a montage of a single bird, though there were 2 on at least one morning.

A size or two bigger?
I think this was Hannah's life Peregrine Falcon

I'd love to see the next size bigger occupied by a falcon, but just a redtail.
Maybe next time...

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Last morning in Panama

Well, clearly it's been too long since I posted anything.  A long stretch of mostly 7am or overnight shifts coupled with slow or distant migration on the few mornings I have been out have not made for rich photo ops.

I'd forgotten that I never quite finished the Panama posts from last winter, so a few more vacay pics.  On the last day most people's flights left first thing in the morning, but for a couple of us the flights were in the afternoon so I'd arranged for a driver to take us back to Pipeline Road.

We had a pretty exciting bird in the pre-dawn gloom, but I managed better pics on the way out so I'll hold off on that one.  As usual, the little flocks of insectivores did not disappoint.

Chestnut-backed Antbird is one of the more common antbirds, it's not often in nice morning light though.

Checker-throated Antwren is pretty common at Pipeline.  I'm always surprised by how heavy this antwren's bill is.

No such surprises with Fasciated Antshrike.

Flycatchers are the other big class of insectivore.  On our first visit to Pipeline one year earlier Southern Bentbill was my 1000th life bird.  I managed a much better pic on this morning.

Another class of flycatcher we don't have, an Olivaceous Flatbill

There was actually a pair of Yellow-margined Flycatchers interacting.  The best pic was of a singleton though.

Finally another bird that's ridiculously tough to photograph, Long-billed Gnatwren.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

end of Yellowstone

This is what a bison thinks about 90 degree September days:
 Can we get that again with feeling this time?

A 300mm lens at 10 feet might be a little too much lens for a bellowing buffalo.

Some of the cows appeared to be entering estrus as the bulls were cordoning off single females when we visited back in August.

There were good numbers of calves around too.

One last pic of the "American Serengeti," hopefully it heralds a few more pics in the near future

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Black-bellied's can look golden

especially in early morning light.

I managed to miss both large plovers this spring, and then have had one of each in about a 16 hour period.  The golden-plover at 3 Oaks yesterday was distant and in terrible heat shimmer, but a Black-bellied at Tiscornia this morning was in nicer conditions.

The sun wasn't quite hitting it yet and honestly the fresh young Black-bellied had more yellowish tones than the faded adult Golden did yesterday.
 The heavy bill and relatively bland face pattern eliminate Golden however.

I couldn't quite tell what the prey item is here, I think it may be a bit of roe.

There were a few other shorebirds around this morning.

If you don't want to make a judgement call on bill size or facial pattern you can always wait for the bird to fly; Black-bellied has black axillaries, Golden doesn't.

Eventually the sun crested the dune and the bird was in nice morning sun.

Finally, you know I've been hard up for photos when I'm turning a series of photos of one cormorant into a montaged fake flock...

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

a Knot and a Cal Gull

not bad for a quick evening chase.

Both birds have been around in the county.  Tim's had a couple knots at Tiscornia and Kip had one at New Buff earlier this week.  Two different California Gulls were photographed in the last 2 days at New Buffalo and Warren Dunes respectively.

I thought about checking New Buff earlier today but heavy winds made me wonder if there'd be much on the beach so I held off until the evening.  I didn't see the knot on the way out and walked up the beach to scan the Herring Gull flock after passing a monoculture of a Ring-billed flock.

I'd almost given up when a smudgy-headed, dark-eyed, pale-billed bird poked its head out from behind a Herring.  It walked into the open a moment later showing off grayish-yellow legs.

I tried to doubt myself when it stretched its wings; it seemed like it had less black than I expected in the wingtips.

Closer examination of the spreadwing shows that P9 is barely out of the primary bases which probably accounts for this.

I was happy to see that the Knot had re-appeared as I headed back to the car.  This is the 5th year I've had Knot and the 5th year I've had Cal Gull in the county.

Finally a shot of a bird that's a little less uncommon here; one I would expect to probably get as opposed to probably not get, a distant Little Gull that flew by Tiscornia earlier today.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Yellowstone Barrow's Goldeneye

Barrow's Goldeneye is not a bird that I expected it to take over 10 years to find in Berrien.  In fact, I don't know that I've ever seen one except in Yellowstone.

That vertical forehead and peak of the crown in front of the eye is very different from Common's triangular head.  I've always thought the goldeneye have bigger shape differences than do the scaup.

A Western Grebe appeared in a small pool on our first day.

This young Gray Jay was the first one I've seen with an SLR.

Finishing off a few other folders are a few more small mammals, first Yellow-bellied Marmot

Next a Chipmunk which is either Least or Uinta (I need to track down the mammal book I had as a kid)

And finally the kids' second favorite animal of the trip (behind the pikas), Uinta Ground Squirrel.
I think they named this one Mushroom, though I believe Stumpy was considered as well.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Specialty bird of the Beartooth

The Beartooth Highway connects Yellowstone's NE entrance to the rest of the world.  It would arguably get my vote for the most scenic stretch of road in the continental U.S.  And while that would be enough for most people to go, birders have another reason.  It's one of the better places to find Black Rosy-finch.

Ginger and I struck out on this bird when we drove here in the pre-kid era, but we had success on this day.  The birds were calling like snow buntings and I was looking around for birds in the air when she spotted the birds down-slope.  I had been hoping that a gray juvenile wouldn't be my only view of the species and was in luck, the parent was in attendance.
  You wouldn't think a black and pink bird would blend in that well, at least not until you see their black lichen-encrusted pink granite habitat.

The kids were more impressed by another denizen of the rocks, a pika

There were fewer butterflies here than Mt Washburn but a Milbert's Tortoiseshell wandered past.

The flowers were just crazy in some of the alpine meadows though.

It'd be a fun place to go back to.

Friday, August 25, 2017

the biggest deer and the littlest

Since the fires burned much of the mature spruce forest that the moose browse in the winter there's apparently only about 300 moose left in Yellowstone, similar to the number of grizzly bears.  I'd mostly given up on seeing one but on the last morning Ginger spotted one bedded down by the side of the road.

 She had 2 calves bedded down a few feet away.  I was surprised an animal the size of a moose would have twins but I suppose bears generally do too.
 After about 20 minutes she led them away.

Much smaller than the moose calves were these mule deer fawns, the only mule deer of the trip. They'd bounded across the road about 10 miles earlier.