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.