Monday, August 31, 2020

Where the Crawdads Sing

 I recently read Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens.  It has a lot to say about how trust can overcome the seeming juxtaposition between not losing independence but maintaining a relationship.  It's set in 1970's coastal North Carolina, and the author (a zoologist) uses a lot nature in the book's imagery and setting, and does it in a way that generally rings true.  It's one of the better books that I've read and I'd definitely recommend it.  

What's the connection between the book and today's pics?  In the book the main character enjoys feeding her resident herring gulls and a couple times the author describes the young herring gulls pecking the red spot on the gony angle of the adults to induce them to cough up some fish.  This morning at Tiscornia there was an adult with not one but two juvies working away at this process.

It would start with the youngsters sidling up giving begging calls with heads lowered.

They would then basically start fencing, not jabbing at the red spot, but seemed to be trying to rub the underside of the adult's bill with the upperside of their bill.

They could get pretty exuberant at times.

Eventually this would sometimes culminate in the adult yakking up some fish bits...

... and cue the squabbling.

Sometimes instead of dropping the fish bits right there for the young it would fly around with them.  I'm guessing it was trying to encourage the young to chase after it, but interestingly none of the other gulls on the beach messed with trying to take the fish away.

Part of the reason for that is probably that the adult was being pretty aggressive towards any gulls that showed an interest in the proceedings.

This second year bird was drawing its ire a fair bit by wandering over.

It got chased away repeatedly.

After a while the adult starting swimming out in the water, for all the world looking like a mama duck with a brood of ducklings.  I got the sense it could swim faster than the young birds and swam out for a break from them.

It'd always fly back in without going very far though.

Eventually the process was repeated enough to be down to stomach juices.

Mmmm, stomach juices.

On that note, there you have it, 15 pics of Herring Gulls.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

It begins

 I led a BBC field trip today, I think the first time I'd led one here.  It ... was windy!  

But daybreak was beautiful nonetheless

There were a couple of young Semi plovers in the inner harbor, but a kiteboarder sent them to the other side of the harbor.  A juvie Bonaparte's sat down on the beach.  Unfortunately it left before some of the group arrived.

A lot of the birds were quick flybys low over the water and hard to get on in between the waves and the wind.  At one point though similarly aged Ring-billed and Herring Gulls gave some of the group some nice comparison views on the beach.

But for the most part it was Blue-winged Teal (with good numbers of Shovelor and a smattering of GW teal) busting past; the views weren't great.

A good sized flock of (mostly) Common Terns was half a mile out and an even bigger group of Black Terns was even farther, but I'm not sure many of the group were able to get on these.

Best look was probably of a Bald Eagle that made about an hourly check of the gull flock making sure everyone could still fly (a Ring-billed nearly got taken out by the kite boarder's paracord, that could have been some interesting photos if the Eagle turned out to be unafraid of us if the gull had gotten injured).

You can see how the eagle (like a lot of the really big birds) molts flight feathers in skip fashion (called staffelmauser (or something like that), I'm guessing German for skip molt) so it's not too seriously hampered at any one time.

It was a fun morning even if there weren't tons of great looks (though the spiced pecan scones were a big hit!)

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Aging Royals

 I don't think I'd ever seen fresh juvie Royal Terns before, so I enjoyed seeing them in VA.

I don't think I've ever seen a large tern with a yellow bill.  The finely patterned scaps of young terns are always cool to see too.

I'm guessing this next bird is a slightly older juvie.

Which could make this bird with a couple darkish retained tail feathers and a bit heavier secondary bar than most of the adults maybe a one year old?

The adults seemed to enjoy flying around carrying fish

I rarely saw them transfer the fish to another bird, so whether they were just enjoying showing off to the neighbors, whether they were looking for mates/offspring that were just elsewhere or doing something else I don't know, but it was fun to watch them eventually attract a screaming mass of other birds that never quite caught up...

Finally a Caspian that flew by.  The Royals had much higher pitched voices and when this bird flew past calling I was disappointed since I couldn't tell it apart from a Caspian ... but it was a Caspian fortunately

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Pelicans eat too!

 Brown Pelicans have to be one of the flagship birds of the Atlantic coast.  Sibley seems to imply it takes 3 years for them to reach maturity.  It'd be interesting to really study the age classes.

I've seen them plunge dive from heights before, but there were also some other feeding modes.  At one point a flock was jumping up, bouncing along the water, and then skiving in to the shallow water from a lower angle.

Of course there were some birds plunge diving a lot farther out.

A couple last flyby portraits

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Found one!

 I spent much of June searching for Blue Grosbeak and a couple days ago I found one!

Now if the foliage makes you wonder where I found that bird you'd be right.  Because the one I found technically was in Virginia.

Ah well.  We visited in-laws in Virginia Beach.  These birds were singing away in the evening after a storm ran through.  I could heard 3 birds at one time at one point.

Given that they're still singing where they breed I suppose there's still hope that a person could run into one around here where they presumably wouldn't have a mate, but I've given up for the year here.

One last look at the chestnut wingbars...

Monday, August 3, 2020

Shiawassee Stork

Someone found a Wood Stork at Shiawassee NWR yesterday afternoon and as it happens I had today off!  As this bird rarely gets west of the Appalachians, and I don't think has every been chaseable in Michigan Mike and I went up to see it.  

As all good chase subjects should be, it was right where it had been described yesterday with a line of about a dozen cars and maybe 25 birders marking the spot.

It looks like it's just walking in this next pic, but I'd forgotten how much they use their feet to stir up the mud with motions like it was searching for a light switch in the dark.

It's fishing efforts were pretty successful.  It wouldn't really lunge for fish at all, mostly keeping its bill semi-open and mostly submerged in the water.  Now and then it would close the bill and emerge with a fish at the tip.  A couple of tosses later and the fish would disappear.

I'm certain I've never seen as many Great Egrets or White Pelicans in Michigan as were in Shiawassee today. (also never as many wood storks!)

There was one flock of probably 75 pelicans in one place.

Finally a pic of a juvie BC Night-heron.
It could stand to be 100 yards closer with a bit more light, but I was pleased with the sepia tones.