Monday, January 28, 2019

Black-capped and Bell's Vireos

It took me a little bit, but eventually I started hearing Black-capped Vireos.  It took a little trial and error but I eventually tracked one down.
They seemed to forage in the middle layers of some of the denser scrubby trees.  I ended up seeing a few more.
 There can't be that many passerines with bright red eyes.

And transitioning from the most boldly marked vireo to possibly the least marked, Bell's. 

It eventually came out more into the open

Hopefully I'll recognize this bird if it turns up on Floral...

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

western sparrows

On my second afternoon of birding I went farther west to South Llano River State Park, a location that eBird suggested would be better for Black-capped Vireo.  I knew my chances would have been better in the morning, but heat of the afternoon was where the hole in the schedule was, so heat of the afternoon it was.

I couldn't help but get drawn over to a couple blinds by some feeders and water features.

Black-throated and Lark Sparrows were prominent

It being April the Lark Sparrows were in the process of building nests.

And the Black-throated's were singing away and teeing up nicely.

And while Lark Sparrow can be found some years in Berrien, and Black-throated at least once, to my knowledge this next species has never been seen in Michigan

Could this be the year for a lost Rufous-crowned Sparrow?  We'll see...

Saturday, January 19, 2019

East meets west

Lost Maples wasn't just Golden-cheeked Warblers, there were a lot of other interesting birds as well.  Bewick's Wrens were fairly prominent in the soundscape though it took me a little bit of time to track one down.

A raven croaked away, I'm honestly not sure if it is Common or Chihuahuan.

The next bird sounded familiar to me as it sang...

The next one (a Scott's Oriole) not so much

How many Clay-colored's do you see in this pic?

One of them teed up.

A Savannah framed itself even more nicely.

And finally a bird from neither East or West (unless you count some section of Argentina), a Rhea (I think).  I was surprised by how many of the ranches had exotic game in their front yards, and they did make for some surprising scenes as a person would come around a curve on the rural highways.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Of butterflies and Golden-cheeks

About 2 years ago my director told me he was sending me to a conference that occurred late last April.  I can't say I was super excited when he first brought it up; who wants to leave just as migration is getting good?  Then he mentioned it was in San Antonio and let's just say I became a considerably more interested.  

I managed to get a morning flight arriving the day before the conference to give me a chance to bird in the afternoon.  Lost Maples State Natural Area is one of the better places to find Golden-cheeked Warbler and I headed straight there from the airport.  I arrived in the heat of the afternoon and not surprisingly butterflies were a lot more apparent than birds.

Hairstreaks are one of my favorite kinds of butterflies, they're very small but quite ornately marked. 
Of course the problem with hairstreaks is that while a ton of species exist, an amateur is almost certainly going to find Gray Hairstreak, no matter where they are in the country, or at least that's been my experience.  The two "larger" ones are indeed Grays, but there's a smaller species present as well.

This is Juniper Hairstreak, which was a lifer for me. 
 Kaufman shows them to be pretty widely distributed too though.

Next up is Gulf Fritillary, a species that even shows up in Berrien some years.

I kept climbing higher up some pretty rocky trails getting into smaller and smaller paths and then started hearing a Golden-cheeked.  I climbed up on a big boulder to gain some elevation as I looked up the slope.  As luck would have it the bird came flying down practically to me, somewhat pre-occupied by a big green caterpillar it snagged.

I considered myself pretty luck that the only one I found gave terrific looks!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Need one last present?

Or have some credit from returning the knickknacks and chotzkis that you showed up in your stocking?  Well, here is the latest from Princeton Press (pics of my free review copy)...

I was fairly intrigued by this book.  I very much enjoyed Pete Dunne's Hawks in Flight, a book written in chapter style that relies as much on the description to create an image of the bird as it does the illustrations, probably more so than any identification book I've encountered.  In this day and age of SLR photos however, it's unlikely many bird books will ever be as successful as that one with it's huge ratio of words to pics.

This book tries to encompass some of the description, while still showing pics of most ages of most of the species.  Dunne italicizes a lot of the pearls and key points in many of the paragraphs and I think that brings out his style when he does.  When he isn't italicizing it feels like it bogs down somewhat and becomes more general.

Here's a sample page...

The photographs that are chosen are excellent, but sometimes feel a little random which I think is because they're essentially all Karlson's photos.  For example, in the Sabine's Gull chapter they spend a couple paragraphs discussing one of Karlson's photos that was also in Howell and Dunn's gull book with regards to aging.  I don't see any way this discussion takes place if Karlson isn't overwhelmingly accounting for the photos.

If you're looking to finally take the plunge and learn the gulls, it's a lot more readable than either the Howell and Jon Dunn book or the even more ponderous Olson and Larsson.  If you already have 2 or 3 gull specialty guides on your shelf, I'm not as sure this is going to add as much.

One significant drawback in my mind is that the authors spend very little time on potential rarities.  I recognize that the chance that any of us is going to find a Slaty-backed Gull isn't particularly high, but I would have given that species an equal amount of content as the common North American ones since a lot of more advanced birders are going to be looking for them.

There is a quiz section in the back of the book which is fairly entertaining.  I don't like that they don't give the location of the quiz photos however.  Withholding that piece of info feels at odds with their goal of focusing on the regularly occurring species.

Overall this is a well-done book and I think a lot of people who want to tackle learning the gulls will find it exceedingly helpful.