Thursday, May 28, 2020

Spring passerines

I did really well from a numbers standpoint this May, tallying every warbler, vireo, and flycatcher that could reasonably be expected.  I took a lot fewer photographs though, but I'll put a few here.

And what says May migration like pics of flycatchers???

Eastern Wood-pewee actually was one of the more cooperative birds this spring.

I saw Yellow-bellied Flycatcher a few times.  While lighting matters for a lot of birds, it really matters for this one...
above in dull early morning overcast, and below in bright mid morning sun...

This (silent) one is probably a Willow.

Ok, ok, a couple warblers.  It is May after all!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Solitary Birdathon

Last week in lieu of the Covid cancelled Team Birdathon many of us did individual big days on the day Birdathon would have been held, a Solitary Birdathon.  It felt really weird to see 2 of the 3 people who would have been on the team all take up separate positions at daybreak fifty yards apart.  Big days always dawn with a ton of promise (well the ones that aren't already hamstrung by wind and rain), but I really missed sharing that excitement.  I didn't stay long at the beach.

Ironically a Solitary Sandpiper, the day's emblem, was in the first 20 or so birds of the day; I'm not sure the sun was quite up when this was taken.

With many of the southern warblers not really singing in the bare canopy at the time I didn't have to worry about being the last to hear Yellow-throated Warbler as I seem to usually be; there wasn't one to be heard at all!  I did manage to see a silent one, but Cerulean eluded me (as did a bunch of canopy birds like Acadian Flycatcher).  There were birds about though, I don't usually take a ton of pics on big days, but anything in a flowering red bud is fair game.

This was a really good spring for Gray-cheeked Thrush, to the point that I started photographing them just to prove to myself that I was ID-ing them correctly.

I pressed pretty hard in the morning.  There were a lot of downsides to lacking teammates, I was on my own to find and keep track of everything, but I tried to capitalize on what small advantages I could find.  Windows were rolled down a lot more than usual since I didn't have to worry about creating a wind tunnel for others.  I literally ran in and out of Pine and Worm-eating territories to score those birds while it was still cool and still hit Floral by 9am.

I didn't find a ton of birds at Floral, though White-eyed Vireo was still singing away.

I left after one loop and went up and birded Grand Mere and environs, finding more early warblers before returning to the hawkwatch dune.  It was a SE wind and I did manage Broad-winged, as well as my only hummingbird of the day.  A Summer Tanager pitty-tucked and then teed up for a distant phone-scope.

The afternoon of Birdathon can be a bit of a slog as a person circles back around the county.  The camera turned into a scope for a Lesser Scaup at Brown, a more appropriate use of the camera on a big day.
It was certainly a more relaxed day (I also had the most sleep before Birdathon that I've had in a few years with Covid cancelling the Friday work thing I've had to travel to the day before the last 3 years).  Without teammates there was no stress over getting on a bird others had found, or getting them on a bird in turn.  There was no worry about being the last to hear all the high-pitched songs.  And the competition were all my friends, so the urge to not lose was a lot less than usual. 

I ended with 142 birds, but I bet with a team that would have been high 150's.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Mute Pelicans

Had a very nice walk around Floral, hearing tons of warblers, and seeing good numbers as well.  Philadelphia Vireo and Olive-sided Flycatcher were the rarest migrants I found.  After a few hours, a conference call, and a walk in the nature area I was feeling ready to go home, but the overcast had kept it cool and I knew I had to check a few more places.  I decided on North Bay Park given it's a place I've had Clay-colored Sparrow before, and who knows, maybe a Yellow-crowned Night-heron might be teed up.  I didn't find a Clay-colored, and didn't see any herons as I scanned the treelines.

After walking down the little nature trail I headed back for the car and noticed two big white birds out in the middle of the lake.  The ducks migrated away weeks ago, what were the odds they were anything other than Mute Swans.  I'm glad I put bins on them...

Pelicans!  My first self-found ones in the county.

After sending a couple texts I started typing a listserv post, leading with the word "Currently..."
My heart sank as I noticed some motion and saw the birds had taken flight.

They circled a few times, once going right past me...

And disappeared.  (Check out that bill shield!)

Fortunately they returned (though landed farther away) about 10 minutes later.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

migration at last

It's been SUPER slow in the midwest this spring; the birds are about a week late, if not more.  We'll see how much catch-up happens in the next couple of days.

The warblers are still dominated by early ones, Yellow-rumps and Palms are still common, with other early ones like Black-throated Green prominent sounds.  I haven't heard a Tennessee yet; usually they'd be dominating the sounds by now.  Black-and-White has also been pretty common at Floral.
 As have Nashvilles...

White-eyed Vireo isn't on territory every year in Berrien, and some years they're hard to find as overshoots.  I didn't get one at all last year.  This bird has been hanging out at Floral for about a week.

It basically has a new song each day.

But the middle of the migration may FINALLY be starting.  Here's the flagship May bird
With the canopy still minimally leafed out the upper level birds aren't recognizing their territories.  The downside is that they're silent.  The upside is that when you do find one, it might be quite low.