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).