Thursday, June 22, 2017

Lawrence's Warbler

Brad Anderson found a Lawrence's Warbler at Chikaming in the last day or so and given it seemed like a good place to troll for a Blue Grosbeak Chikaming seemed like a reasonable place to visit.

There was no Blue Grosbeak but the Lawrence's popped up trailside without making any effort for it.  It was pretty dark.

There was a female Blue-winged sticking in this same area as well.

Interestingly when both birds were in the dark they seemed much whiter underneath.  I actually thought the Blue-winged was a Brewster's initially.

Here's the Lawrence's in shade; it could completely pass for a Golden-wing.

There was a pair of Chestnut-sided's in the same clearing, the female was carrying food.

They only gave chip notes; no song.  It'd be interesting to go back and record the male at daybreak.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The New Neotropical Companion

It's been a long time since I've done a book review, but the doldrums of summer are conducive to armchair birding so I present to you The New Neotropical Companion by John Kricher.  If you're planning on spending any time in Central America south of Mexico or the northern 2/3 of South America this book will definitely enrich your experience and enhance your understanding of what you're seeing in unfamiliar ecosystems.

It's not an easy book to summarize since it covers a lot more ground than your typical field guide.  Physically it's about 8x10 inches and just over 400 pages thick.  I opened the book mostly at random to take the page views so you can get a sense of what the book looks like on the inside.  The photos are sharply focused and pleasing to look at; don't judge them on my reproductions.  There's a few places where I have a better photo of the subject, the other 98-99% of the time the book wins.

A chapter index would have been nice to include.  The first 6 chapters discuss basics of rainfall, soil ecology, plant diversity and the like.  Chapter 7 is a nice discussion of plant succession which brings to life both different field studies the author wants to highlight as well as the more basic background information.  Chapters 8-11 discuss speciation, evolution, co-evolution, and species diversity.  What is more interesting about the neotropics than the incredible diversity of species?  This section talks about how it all came to be.

Chapters 12-14 discuss specific ecosystems, divided into wet, high elevation, and dry sections.  It looks at specific plants, animals, and (predominantly) birds that are unique, characteristic, or simply an interesting element of their diverse surroundings.

Chapter 15 (the longest chapter at about 60 pages) takes the birds family by family and is richly illustrated of course.  Chapter 16 deals with the mammals, herps, and insects.  Chapter 17 focuses on human interaction with the rain forest.

The bottom line is that if you are going to the neotropics, there's a ton of information here that your guide is likely not going to have time to discuss (or know); you will enjoy your trip more even if you just thumbing through this book and reading it little paragraphs or sections at a time.

And the requisite disclaimer: Princeton sent me a free review copy of the book though they've never asked to see what I wrote about it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

the Orchard Oriole capital of Michigan

On the way back from the UP a Kiskadee was reported at Tawas Point SP.  I couldn't help but stop.  Sadly no kiskadee had been seen since the morning, however, there were a good number of Orchard Orioles.
 Growing up in Midland I tried to go to Tawas Point every spring once I could drive.  It rarely failed to produce Orchards and this afternoon the small orioles dominated the migrants.  Unfortunately the adult males were a little quicker than I was on this afternoon so no picture of them.

A pair of Brown Thashers were more cooperative.

The next morning I stopped in Isabella county for my Michigan lifer Loggerhead Shrike.

From there it was only an hour detour to the Shiawassee auto loop.  Black Terns were quite common.

A kingbird didn't mind the car as a blind, likely my best ever pic of one.

Finally a Yellow-headed Blackbird, one of my main targets for the location.  I was close to the end of the loop and was starting to think I'd missed them.  This one sang and then proceeded to hop into view.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Munuscong LeConte's

It's been a few years since I've had LeConte's Sparrow in Berrien so I stopped by a State Game Area (?) in the Munuscong area in the Eastern UP with LeConte's on territory.  Their song was even higher and buzzier than a Grasshopper's; this was my first time hearing them.

 From a subtle native sparrow to a garish weaver, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, that has become fairly regular at Whitefish over the last few years.  Here are 2 (of what apparently were 4) birds.

I spent more time looking at the Pine Siskins frequenting the feeders.

Red Crossbills never quite seem real to me.  They're very difficult to find in the Southern UP and always come as a surprise.  Apparently they bred in decent numbers in the UP this spring.

One last shot from the UP, sadly no bird is hidden away (though redstarts and Black-throated Greens were singing away above the lady-slippers)

Monday, June 5, 2017

Shiny Cowbird

Talk about a random bird.   I was about an hour away from Whitefish when word spread that Adam and Phil had found a Shiny Cowbird at the Whitefish feeders.  It was definitely odd to be looking at a bird whose core range is in South America that I've never even seen in Central America but was present on the shores of Lake Superior.

And I don't think I've ever seen a bird that combined more 2nd best attributes of more birds.  It generally has the shape of a Red-winged Blackbird, but not the epaulets.  It has the glossy plumage of a Brewer's Blackbird but not the bright eye.

It has the broad head of a cowbird but neither a brown hood nor a red eye.

You'll notice it has a lot of worn feathers in the wings and faded brown primaries.  My assumption is that this is a first year male; females and young Shiny Cowbirds are brown.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Bonus Pipeline morning

On the final day of the Panama trip most of the group had morning flights.  A couple of us however didn't leave until the late afternoon so I arranged a driver to take us back to Pipeline Road, one of the highlights of last year's Canal Zone trip.

The bird of the day was straight out of the gate displaying practically at the trail head.  We heard an odd rattling growl and I saw a medium-sized creature that I expected to be a young Coati.  It wasn't.
It's a Pheasant Cuckoo.  This fat road-runner like bird spent the entire day there.  It was still there when we left in the early afternoon.

Pipeline Road is just about the best place I've ever been for antbirds.  On this day there were no antswarms, but the birds appeared steadily, first Checker-throated Antwren,
 next Chestnut-backed Antbird,
 and finally Fasciated Antshrike

Flycatchers were common as well.  Southern Bentbill was my 1000th life bird at this location a year prior, it was fun to get a better look at one.

Along with my closest looks at Olivaceous Flatbill
 and Yellow-margined Flycatcher.

Of course there were many more birds, this is the always in motion Long-billed Gnatwren,
 and finally a considerably more sedate Broad-billed Motmot.

I couldn't have been more pleased with this trip overall, and this hike through the jungle sprawling densely beneath the towering Ceiba trees couldn't have been a better way to end it.