Monday, December 20, 2010

King Eider

When I saw that a female King Eider was seen about an hour away in Algonac on Saturday I knew where I would go birding on Sunday. I was able to convince my dad to take me down there and we arrived at about 1:30 Sunday afternoon. The birders there informed me that the bird had just disappeared behind some private docks. I found out, however, that if I lay in the snow I could see under the docks and see it. I spent the next fifteen or so minutes lying in the snow trying to get pictures and good looks of it but I wasn't having much luck. The birds finally moved out from the dock a bit so I went back to the car to get my scope and left my camera since I figured I couldn't get any good pictures. Naturally the birds moved closer while I was gone so by the time I came back I didn't need my scope and I wanted my camera. After another trip back to the car I was able to get some better photos. I talked to Alan Ryff while I was watching the bird, and we were leaning toward it being a first year female but weren't 100% sure.
I was happy to get such a great bird for my 300th bird of the year, it was my 353rd lifer as well.
Besides the King Eider I also saw an Iceland Gull fly by with hundreds of Ring-billed and Herring Gulls. It was definitely a worthwhile trip.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pileated Woodpecker

I went to Lakeshore Park in Novi yesterday hoping to turn up some owls. I spent about an hour searching but came up empty although I did hear a Brown Creeper. As I was about to get to my car, however, a huge Pileated Woodpecker flew into a nearby tree. I was surprised to see it begin to eat Poison Ivy berries since I don't usually think of Woodpeckers (with the exception of the Red-bellied) as fruit eaters. I think a nearby Red-bellied Woodpecker wanted the berries as well because he dove at the Pileated several times and was scolding until it flew across the road. The Pileated was my 190th bird in Oakland County this year, according to the lists published by Scott Jennex this was only done once before this year. This has been an above average year for birds in Oakland, however, and I am the third birder to get over 190 this year.
I stopped by Carpenter Lake today and found four Song Sparrows south of the dam, this was the first time I have seen them there in the winter. There were about ten Dark-eyed juncos in the back as well.
It has been nice to get out the last few days after the terrible weather over the weekend.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Greater White-fronted Goose

I was pretty busy today but I was able to get down to Little Lake just west of Ann Arbor this afternoon to see the Greater White-fronted Goose. I knew it was a good sign when I saw several birders looking at the geese when I pulled up. Sure enough, the Greater White-fronted Goose was there and I was able to get nice views through my binoculars. The pinkish bill really stood out. I was also able to get some pictures although the lighting was less than ideal.
The goose was lifer #352 and was my 299th bird seen this year. Hopefully I'll be able to get to 300 for the year in the next few weeks.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Yellow-throated Warbler in December!

I was pretty surprised when I heard that there was a Yellow-throated Warbler visiting the Eyster's feeder just east of Chelsea a few days ago. Yellow-throated Warblers are extremely rare nesters in southeast Michigan and can only be found regularly in the southwest part of the state. They usually have left the state by the end of September and don't normally winter north of Georgia so a record this late is really unusual. My Mom was going to Ann Arbor today and I was able to persuade her to take me out to see it afterwards. I got there at 3:45 and Mrs. Eyster showed me where the feeders were in the backyard. I spent the next hour freezing in the backyard waiting for the warbler to show up. Just after my Mom had told me we would have to leave in ten minutes, the warbler finally showed up on the feeder! It allowed me to approach relatively closely and I was able to get a few pictures.
I went home very cold but happy that I got great looks at such a beautiful and rare bird. The hour wait was definitely worth it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Northwest Ohio Birding

I have been pretty busy with school the last few months so I haven't been able to bird as much as I would like. The one exception was when I went to Belle Isle to see the Golden-crowned Sparrow a few weeks ago. I was able to get a few poor pictures of it.
I was finally able to spend almost a whole day birding when I went to northwest Ohio with Karl Overman yesterday. Our first stop was at Metzget Marsh to see the Sabine's Gull that had been seen there since Monday. We got there just after it had showed up and I was able to take this picture.
After checking Ottawa NWR for Cave Swallows with no luck we headed down to Bluffton Ohio to see a Black-bellied Whistling Duck. We were surprised to see it with a bunch of really weird looking Mallards eating the corn a girl was throwing to the ducks. I was able to take lots of pictures and at times it was even too close for the camera to focus on it.

After a brief stop north of Lima where we saw Ross's and Snow Geese we headed west to Paulding County to look for the Brant that had been seen for a week or so. The pond it had been seen in earlier in the day had about 15 Cackling Geese and 2 Snow Geese but no Brant. We decided to check the nearby fields where it had been seen before as well. As we were driving along I noticed a small dark goose sitting all alone in one of the farm fields with its head tucked under its wing. When we got out of the car it looked up showing the all black head and neck of a juvenile Brant. I took tons of pictures but none of them turned out super well because of the lighting. Here are a few of the better ones.

While we were watching the Brant a Snow Bunting landed along the side of the road.
A little more driving back roads turned up a flock of about 200 Lapland Longspurs as well. After a brief stop at a sewage lagoon we headed home. It was quite a successful day, I had three lifers and fifteen state lifers.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Oakland County Shorebirds

The pickings are usually pretty slim as far as shorebirds are concerned in Oakland County but this year has been better than most. Robert Long has developed some great habitat over the past few weeks and this afternoon Karl Overman found a Red-necked Phalarope there. I had just returned from Kensington Metropark, where I had just seen the second park record of Baird's Sandpiper when I saw an email from Karl about the Phalarope. I was out the door again in a flash and was at Robert Long twenty minutes later. I was quickly able to see the Phalarope (park bird #100! County lifer #198) and was excited to see a Baird's Sandpiper (park bird #101) as well. I can't believe that I saw three Baird's Sandpipers in a year in Oakland County, let alone two in one day. Almost all of the top Oakland County birders were there as it is believed to be only the second county record of Red-necked Phalarope. The first was back in 1970 so I think it was a county lifer for all of us. Incredibly, the Phalarope was Mike Mencotti's 9th species of shorebird for the day, this is practically unheard of in Oakland County. Here is a picture of the Phalarope and a picture of it with the Baird's Sandpiper, probably the best pair of shorebirds ever seen together in Oakland County.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Olive-sided Flycatcher!

I was leading some bird walks at Carpenter Lake this afternoon with Jim Bull and Leonard Weber for the Detroit Audubon Society. We were doing the walks for some City of Southfield program so most of the people had never been bird watching before. We weren't expecting to see anything unusual but it was fun to see the people getting excited about the Blue Herons, Cormorants, Indigo Buntings and Cardinals. I think its good to be reminded sometimes about how cool even our common birds are. On the last walk I noticed a flycatcher sitting in a dead tree across from the dam. When I saw the olive sides I immediately thought of an Olive-sided Flycatcher. My next thought however was that an Olive-sided Flycatcher would never be in southeast Michigan in July. I soon confirmed the ID, however, when it turned around and I could see the white spots on its back. It was lifer #342 for me, #254 for the state and #197 for Oakland County. Checking in my Birders Guide to Michigan, I realized that it really isn't extremely unusual as Olive-sided Flycatcher is listed as rare starting in August and today is the last day of July. I was pretty excited to see a lifer on a day when I had absolutely no expectations of seeing one.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Colorado Trip (Days 5-8)

In the morning Dad and I went to Mancos State Park to look for Grace's Warblers. We heard several and after a bit of searching I was able to locate one at the top of a Ponderosa Pine. Its bright yellow throat and eyebrows really stood out. This was lifer 335 for me. A little bit later we heard and then saw a Western Wood-pewee (lifer 336). There is some great Ponderosa Pine habitat at this park.
On the way back to Mancos I was surprised to find a Bufflehead in a small pond; while they do nest in the Rockies further north this was quite far south for one in the summer. We spent most of the day at Mesa Verde but on the way there we stopped by the Sleeping Ute Rest Area because Riley Morris, a local birder, had told me that Pinyon Jays were often found at the feeders there. Just a minute or so after we got there two Pinyon Jays (lifer 337) landed in the tree where the feeders were. They only stayed for less than a minute, but I was able to get a picture of one. I also got a nice shot of a Western Kingbird there. At Mesa Verde I saw most of the same birds as the day before, the one exception was a Gray Flycatcher (lifer 328) in the Pinyon-Juniper across from the Cliff Palace. It seemed kind of odd to watch the Juniper Titmice and Spotted Towhees looking for food in the parking lots and under the picnic tables, I know I've never seen an Eastern Towhee doing this. I also found another lizard, I think this is a Sagebrush Lizard. Back at the Bed and Breakfast, I took several pictures of the Black-chinned hummingbirds, the females were much more cooperative than the male.I also saw this beautiful male Rufous Hummingbird. After dinner Mom took me to Cottonwood Park in Mancos. I had found out on one of the Colorado birding websites that Lewis's Woodpeckers could usually be found there. On the way we found a Say's Phoebe (lifer 339) on a fence. I tried taking a few pictures but he was in rather bad lighting. No sooner had I complained about this than he flew to a much better lit perch. His beak was still casting a shadow over his face, though, so I asked him to move it. After a minute he moved his bill and I was able to get a nice picture, I wish all birds were as cooperative. After I got to the park, I soon saw a large dark woodpecker fly into a nearby tree. It turned out to be a Lewis's Woodpecker (lifer 340). Unfortunately the sun was already setting and I wasn't able to get any good pictures. I also found a Western Wood-pewee on her nest. It was a nice way to end the day.
Wednesday didn't go too well. After we had passed Pagosa Springs, we realized we were almost out of gas and we had to buy gas from someone to get back to Pagosa Springs where we were able to get more gas. Then Mom got pulled over for speeding. After this I decided to stop by Alamosa instead of Monte Vista NWR because Sage Sparrow was possible at Alamosa, big mistake. Alamosa was really quiet except for several Sage Thrashers. I did see one lifer when a small flock of Band-tailed pigeons flew over the highway. On Thursday we went to Cherry Creek State Park before we went to see the King Tut exhibit in Denver. I saw a Yellow-breasted Chat and Black-chinned hummingbird along the trails.
In a small pond I found three Snowy Egrets and I also saw two American White Pelicans fly over. As we were driving into Denver I was surprised to see four more White Pelicans fly over.

Yesterday we flew back home. We flew in over Oakland county and it was neat to see some of the places I bird at like the American Center Marsh from the air. It was quite a successful trip for me with twenty-six lifers to bring my life list to 341 and 90 species on the trip. As with all trips, I missed a few birds I thought I would easily find at Mesa Verde like Bushtit and Ash-throated Flycatcher, but I also saw a few birds, like Prairie Falcon, that I was not expecting to see.

Colorado Trip (Day 4)

After spending the night in Montrose we headed south for Mesa Verde. Our first stop was Ouray where we went to Box Canyon Falls park to look for Black Swifts. I saw White-throated Swifts flying high above and an American Dipper. These were lifers 326 and 327. A Violet-green Swallow landed on a nearby rock, creating an excellent photo opportunity.
I was unable to find the Black Swift nest that was supposed to be visible from the metal walkway that went back into the crevice where the falls were. As I was about to give up, however, I finally spotted a Black Swift flying in the crevice and it disappeared behind the falls; it was lifer 328. There were also several Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels under the feeders.After a stop in Durango for lunch we went to the Rafter J subdivision west of Durango. This subdivision is home to the only colony of Acorn Woodpeckers in Colorado. I found three Acorn Woodpeckers in the large, dead Ponderosa Pine as well as a Western Bluebird; these were lifers 329 and 330. Next we stopped at the place we were staying, the Riversbend Bed and Breakfast. They have a really nice place and a cabin as well, which we stayed in. They had three hummingbird feeders where I saw several Black-chinned Hummingbirds (lifer 331). They also had thistle feeders with Cassin's Finch, American Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, and Lesser Goldfinch. We packed a dinner and headed to Mesa Verde National Park to spend the evening. At the Far View Visitor I saw an adult Green-tailed Towhee (lifer 332) being followed around by two begging juveniles. At the Spruce Tree House I saw and heard a Plumbeous Vireo (lifer 333), many Black-throated Gray Warblers and several Lesser Goldfinches. After checking out the cliff dwelling we went to a picnic area across the road. It was in the middle of a Pinyon Juniper forest and almost immediately we saw several Juniper Titmice (lifer 335). There were also Mountain Chickadees, Mountain Bluebirds, Black-throated Gray Warblers and a Plumbous Vireo.I also found a small lizard that I haven't identified yet. This was the most successful day of my trip as far as the number of lifers goes with eight for the day.

Colorado Trip (Day 3)

On Sunday we spent the morning with family and then headed off for Montrose, on the west side of the Rockies, at about one. We spent most of the next seven hours driving but we made several stops along the way. Our first stop was at a Prairie Dog town along the highway where there were Gunnison Prairie Dogs.
Eventually we entered the Gunnison Valley, which is mostly full of sagebrush. We stopped at the Waunita Hot Springs Lek, which is the only public lek for Gunnison Sage Grouse in the world. Unfortunately since we were there after the season when they were displaying, and it was the middle of the afternoon, we did not see any. I did see one Sage Thrasher and several Brewer's Sparrows which were lifers 321 and 322 respectively. I also got this picture of a Mountain Bluebird.
As we were driving along Highway 50 just east of Gunnison I spotted a falcon flying beside the road. I yelled for dad to pull over and once I got out I was able to see that it was a Prairie Falcon, lifer 323.
We stopped in Gunnison for dinner and I saw several Eurasian Collared Doves in the town. They were lifer 324 for me.
Finally at about 8:00 p.m. we reached Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Since it was so late the rangers let us in for free and when they heard we were looking for Dusky Grouse they told us exactly where to go. Sure enough, after we had driven just a little way along the road we saw a male Dusky Grouse displaying right by the side of the road! I took tons of pictures and here are some of them.
This was probably my favorite bird for the whole trip. Here is a shot of the sun setting over the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, to see more pictures go to my flickr page (link is on the right side of this page).

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Colorado Trip (Days 1 and 2)

I arrived at the Denver Airport at about ten a.m. and after meeting with my uncle we were looking for Burrowing Owls in about an hour on the west edge of the airport. As we were driving along the road we came across two kettles of Swainson's Hawks, I estimated about fifty. Here are a few shots.
After shooting some pictures we continued on to the spot where the Burrowing Owls were supposed to be. After a little bit of searching we spotted one when it briefly flew and landed on a Prairie Dog mound.
There were many Prairie Dogs and I managed some good shots of them thanks to the 400mm lens from my uncle.
As we were heading back to the car I spotted another Burrowing Owl sitting on the fence. It flew down after a minute to join two other burrowing owls sitting on a Prairie Dog mound! I think that this must have been a family of Burrowing Owls, this was a great lifer to start my trip. At the hotel in the evening I found several young rabbits and was able to get some good pictures of them.
Today I met Kathy Dunning, a local birder, at five-thirty this morning at Deer Creek Canyon, a park in the foothills west of Denver. I saw four lifers; Virginia's Warbler, MacGillivray's Warbler, Lesser Goldfinch, and Lazuli Bunting. Spotted Towhees were everywhere and Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Western Scrub-Jay, and Black-headed Grosbeak were birds I saw that I don't see in the east. Here is a picture of the area.
Tomorrow I am heading for Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and then for Mesa Verde, I will update my blog as often as possible.