Monday, December 26, 2011

Great Gray Owl!!!

On the evening of Friday the 23rd I happened to check ONTbirds and noticed a post of a Great Gray Owl in Essex county Ontario. When I looked up the location and saw that it was only a little more than an hour away, I started to get really excited. At first I thought I would have to wait until Tuesday but then I realized that it would have time to chase it the morning of Christmas Eve since it was only an hour away. I started calling other birders and eventually arranged to meet Sherrie Duris from Toledo, Ohio at seven the next morning. When we arrived at the spot where the owl had been sighted the day before, things did not look good. There were several birders there but it was obvious they were not seeing anything. We found out that the owl had last been seen at three a.m.! We were just pulling out to start searching nearby roads, when some other birders pulled up and said they had found the owl over by the next road. When we got to where they had seen it they jumped out of the car and said it was still there. It took me a minute or two to see it though, because it was so well camouflaged.
Soon the Great Gray flew towards us and pounced in the grass.
After this it landed on a tree right next to the road where we watched it for at least half an hour.

By now there was a huge line of at least twenty cars from all the birders looking for the owl.

After a quick stop in town, we went looking for the Snowy Owl reported nearby. We found it on the roof of a barn, and the owner of the house let us walk over to get better looks.
After another stop for the Great Gray Owl, we headed back to the US, very happy with our day.
Today I did the Lake Erie Metropark section of the Rockwood CBC. We didn't turn up anything super unusual in the morning, but Common Loon, Double-crested Cormorant, and Fox Sparrow were all good for the time of year. The weather was a lot more comfortable than in past years! After lunch, we decided to look for some owls that had been seen earlier by other birders. This Saw-whet Owl was right where we were told it would be, it was so close to the trail I had to step back from it so my camera would focus!
We then looked for the Long-eared Owls although they had not been found in the morning where they were on Saturday. Eventually Scott fount two and we were all able to get great looks at one of them. Unfortunately, my camera had a hard time focusing through the branches so I only got this blurry photo.
I can't believe what a good month I've had for owls; I have heard six and seen seven owls for a total of seven different species.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Purple Sandpipers!

Karl Overman and I headed out to Pere Marquete Park in Muskegon today to look for Purple Sandpipers. Karl quickly spotted one next to us almost as soon as we started to head down the breakwall.
We were so busy photographing the first bird that we didn't notice there was an other Purple Sandpiper just a few feet away!
We headed further down the pier where we saw a Surf Scoter and Common Loon. While we were watching the Surf Scoter we noticed several more Purple Sandpipers on the breakwall. Eventually we were able to count five which gave us a total of seven! This was three more than had been previously reported this winter.

After this great start to the day we headed over to the Muskegon Wastewater. There were thousands of shovelers and there were two Glaucous Gulls near the landfill. As we were driving along the northeast dike I spotted a snowy Owl on a telephone pole.

A stop at the Lake Odessa Sewage Lagoons turned up a flock of Snow Buntings with two Lapland Longspurs.

I have been doing a lot of birding since I got back from school. On Saturday I did the Oakland CBC, the highlight was hearing two Saw-whet Owls before dawn. Fifteen purple Finches, thirty pine Siskins, and a Northern Shrike were also fun to see.

On Sunday afternoon I went to Superior Township to see the Short-eared Owls and saw three at 5:20.

On Monday I went to Walled Lake and saw the Surf Scoter and two Black Scoters. It has been fun birding this last week and I am looking forward to the end of the year.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Saw-whet Owl Banding

Northern Saw-whet Owls were one of my nemesis birds for quite some time so I was quite excited to find out that there was a saw-whet banding station just twenty minutes from campus. I don't have a car, however, so I had to arrange for someone to pick me up and take me out there. Every time I set something up, the weather was always bad and the banding was cancelled. I was finally able to get out there on the last weekend on banding. On the first two checks the nets were empty but on the third check we found a Saw-whet!
We took it back to the visitor center where we banded it.
The molt pattern on the wing indicated this was a second year bird.
I took several more photos before we were ready to release it.

We were expecting the owl to fly off immediately but the Saw-whet spent several minutes sitting on the railing before finally flying off.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Break Birding

I haven't been able to do anywhere near as much birding since I went off to college but the Friday after Thanksgiving when I was home on break I chased the Ohio Black-tailed Gull with Karl Overman, Jim Lesser, and Jason Weckstien. Although it was seen briefly by a few observers early in the morning and again in the afternoon we missed it both times. We did see the Black-headed Gull (lifer #380) at Conneaut though.
Yesterday I was able to see the Pacific Loon (lifer #381) at Sterling State Park in Monroe. Unfortunately I was not able to get the great looks many had as it flew off shortly after I saw it.

The only other notable bird I have been able to photograph lately was a Brant at Belle Isle when I was back for fall break in October.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Another Audubon's Warbler!

Karl Overman and I headed down to Ohio yesterday hoping to see some spring migrants and were not disappointed. Along state route 2 we saw hundreds of Broad-winged Hawks flying over along with the occasional Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, or Turkey Vulture mixed in. After trying unsuccessfully for the Black-necked Stilt we headed to Metzger to try for the Tricolored Heron. It was right where it had been previously reported, running around in the marsh. The Tricolored Heron was lifer #359 for me.
Down by Lake erie there were lots of Bonaparte's Gulls along with Caspian and Forster's Terns.

The trees were full of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Yellow-rumped Warblers and Karl spotted a Yellow-throated Warbler.

After Metzger We headed over through Ottawa to get to Magee Marsh. Along a back road we were happy to find an adult male Cape May Warbler along with Pine and Yellow-rumped Warblers in a tree in front of a house. The Magee boardwalk was overrun with Myrtle Warblers, we estimated there were about 200. A Blue-winged Warbler was nice to see and provided a photo opportunity.
Along with about ten species of warblers we also saw a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, several Brown Creepers, lots of Hermit Thrushes, and a Winter Wren.
Back at the parking lot we checked the lake and found hundreds of Ruddy Ducks and good numbers of Lesser Scaup and Bufflehead as well. We decided to walk along the edge of the parking lot to see if we could find any more warblers. As we were walking over there I asked Karl how good Magee was for stray western warblers. Just after he said it was not a great place for stray western warblers, I spotted an Audubon's Warbler in the trees!
Incredibly, this was the second Audubon's Warbler I had seen in two weeks! Looking at the Magee checklist it was unclear whether or not this subspecies has been recorded at Magee before, so this might be the first record for the park! While driving around the area a little more, we found a Merlin and two Long-billed Dowitchers. We decided to try the entrance road for Metzger one last time to see if we could find the previously reported Cattle Egret. This time we found it in the grass close to the road where I was able to get this picture.
After a stop at the lost peninsula in Michigan where we added Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Common Yellowthroat to our list for the day, and stopped at the Erie Marsh Preserve where we saw a Common Goldeneye, Solitary Sandpiper, lots of Dunlins, and a Vesper Sparrow, we headed home. It was definitely my best day birding this year and one of my favorite birding days ever.

Friday, April 15, 2011

White Wagtail

I finally got out to Pointe Mouillee with Karl Overman yesterday to see the White Wagtail that was found on Saturday by Adam Byrne. Incredibly, this is the third state record for Michigan. On the way in from the Mouillee Creek entrance we were pleased to see a Rough-legged hawk flying over the marshes. We reached Cell 3 at about 10:30 and the wagtail had not yet been seen. Within fifteen minutes, however, a birder from Pennsylvania spotted it feeding at the edge of the mudflat near the west dyke of Cell 3. After getting good scope views, we decided to move closer to try to get some pictures. We managed to get somewhat close and I got a few bad pictures.
Eventually, The Wagtail decided we were too close and flew to the Vermet Unit. After checking the gulls and finding a Glaucous, and several Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Karl and I headed over to the Vermit Unit where it flushed again after a little while and appeared to fly back toward Cell 3. As we were biking off, however, we heard a the two note chiz-zick call and the White Wagtail flew back in. I grabbed my brakes and almost went flying over the front of my bike, and we scanned the field for it. Pretty soon, Karl found it in the field and I eventually saw it as well. After a little while it flushed again and appeared to fly back to Cell 3. After biking around the Vermit Unit and finding lots of ducks but nothing unusual, we headed back to the car. A stop at the Erie Gun Club later turned up a Peregrine Falcon and a Northern Harrier along with several Bald Eagles.

On Wednesday, I was able to fit in a trip to Kensington to see the Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler. I got good but rather brief views of this western stray, and was able to get some good pictures.

The White Wagtail and Audubon's Warbler were both great birds and were the third and sixth state records respectively. Especially with the White Wagtail, these were not birds I was expecting to see in Michigan.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

January Birding

Today I went up to Port Huron to try to see the Harlequin Duck found by Darlene Freidman a week ago. On my first scan of the ducks I was pleased to see a White-winged Scoter with the Long-tailed Ducks but I did not see the Harlequin. After scanning the ducks for about fifteen minutes I was just starting to walk further down the river when I saw a small duck flying upstream. I assumed it was another Long-tailed Duck but as soon as I saw two spots on its face I knew it was the Harlequin. Fortunately, it landed within sight and I was able to get nice views through my scope and get a few pictures.

After I had been watching it for twenty minutes it flew further north out of sight. After I walked a little further down the river I noticed a Glaucous Gull soaring over Canada. It finally flew briefly over the American side before returning to Canada. An adult Bald Eagle soaring over the bridge was also nice. I then headed down the St. Clair river to look for more waterfowl. Marine City had good numbers of waterfowl including Tundra Swans as well as 4 Great Black-backed Gulls. Driving by Anchor Bay on the way home, I was amazed to see hundreds of cars parked on the ice. I knew a few people drove out to go ice fishing, but not this many.

On Friday, I went to see the Green-tailed Towhee in Bloomfield. After fifteen minutes it came out of the bushes for about five minutes. It was great to see such a rare bird in my home county of Oakland. I took a few very bad pictures.

It has been a surprisingly good week for me with other highlights being Peregrine Falcon and Lapland Longspur.