Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Goose Chronicles

Got some news back from the bird banding lab tonight. Turns out the goose pair (441 and 443) were both banded as adults in Lansing, Michigan in on 6/26/2002. The banding lab gives Lat and Longitude coordinates, but does not give an exact banding location. Doing a little Dexter work, I was able to pinpoint the location on Google Earth, making the geese banded behind the Allsafe Storage unit north of Willow Road.

Still waiting to hear about the goose that was banded in 1997. I can tell you are all waiting on pins and needles!

Went out to Lake Lansing this afternoon with the father. A decent diversity of ducks including Redhead, Canvasback, Greater Scaup, Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Gadwall, Mallard, American Wigeon, Horned Grebe and... drum roll... a pair of COMMON LOONS! Nice to get another year bird, I assume I'll see plenty of those soon enough. I'm sure I forgot some foul as well.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Where do Geese Come From?

Whilst desperately (not really) trying to find an American Black Duck for my year list (fail), I stopped by Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Michigan. Upon exiting my jeep, I immediately noticed a pair of Canada Geese, both with U.S. Fish and Wildlife metal bands on their legs. Obviously this brought up the age old question of "where do geese come from." They let me walk right up to them, and I was excited at the chance to use my camera to document this find. I've never seen geese in Lansing with FWS bands on them before, maybe because I wasn't really looking. I took pictures of the bands at multiple angles to assure a full combo was had.

I continued on my merry way, only to find another Canada Goose banded, this one sporting the old style FWS band. Peep the pics below.

The older style FWS bands, used quite a while ago.
As you can see, the first two band combination are very close in number, only separated by one digit. Since these geese were acting as a pair, I can only wonder if they have been nesting together for a while. I sent the combos out to the bird banding lab, and will have detailed information about their banding location soon. I did get a little information already, though. The first two birds, with the newer bling, were both banded in 2002 in Michigan. I should know more about the location later.

The goose with the older style band was banded somewhere in Michigan in 1997! That makes the goose at least 14 years old, surviving at least 14 hunting seasons!

Does anyone know of goose banding in the general area? I didn't think anyone was really banding geese in the Lansing area, but I could be, and probably am, wrong. Check your local geese to see if they are hauling around any extra weight with them. I've never submitted anything to the banding lab before, it is a pretty fun experience.

I then heard a  Pileated Woodpecker, another overdue year bird, give off some loud, high cackles. Shortly after, I saw this robin and slayed him with my lens. Actually it isn't that great of a picture, I need to learn how to use my camera.
Just your typical Turdus

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cheap Image Stabilization?

Many of you may have seen the video suggesting you no longer need to carry a tripod or monopod for your lens that doesn't have image stabilization. If you haven't, take a look:

I thought I'd give you my first hand experience. My new lens, the old 300mm F4 ED does not have image stabilization. My old lens did, and the lack of IS is immediately noticeable. I'm finally getting over being sick so I thought I'd give it a shot and make my own IS for my lens. I went in with high hopes, but is it as good as it looks?

Here is my "setup".
The essential tools. 1/4" screw and 3/4" washer along with some string. Cost me a total of less than $4 at Home Depot.
Make the string about your height, tie one end to the washer and one end to the screw. Screw the screw into the camera/lens and step on the washer to stabilize your setup.
I tried it out with the screw attached to the body of my camera. Lets just say I was not impressed. Horizontal shake was still there, although vertical shake was maybe a little better. I can't really say it would make a huge difference to be honest.

I then realized I could attach the screw to the tripod mount on my lens. This seemed to work a little better. Although there was still a bit of shake, it seemed to be a little more under control. I took a few pictures with very slow shutter speeds and the stabilization didn't seem to make a difference. I took pictures at slightly faster speeds (1/30, 1/40 ect) and there didn't seem to be a noticeable difference either.

Overall, seems to be a waste of time, plus you might look like a fool in the field. Honestly, a tripod is always going to be the best option, but if you want something more portable, give this idea a try. Maybe it will work better for you.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Waiting Game

If you have been wondering why I haven't posted in a while, which you probably haven't, it is because I have been busy visiting friends in Milwaukee and then went on a booze-fueled road trip to Panama City Beach for a week with another group of friends. Although amusing, I'm sure a post during this time would have been rambling, incoherent and full of typos to say the least. Now I have come down with a nasty cold, or whatever the hell is going around, and it really sucks.

I did pick up a Lesser Black-backed Gull in Milwaukee before heading to my friends place. In Florida, when I wasn't enjoying the nice, new "scenery", I did pick up a few year birds. Don't worry, I triple checked with myself just to make sure I wasn't seeing things. Fish Crow in the Wal-Mart parking lot while loading up on an unhealthy amount of frozen pizzas (and beer), and Laughing Gulls on the beach were two year birds in Florida. When our car broke down at 4am in the middle of nowhere in Kentucky (yikes!), I picked up a singing Eastern Phoebe as day broke.

Today I finally started feeling a little better from this cold, and it was kind of sunny, so I decided to give my new-ish lens a whirl. I managed to pick up this decent picture of a White-breasted Nuthatch. Given the distance and conditions, I was pleased.

It seems now is the period of time when we are awaiting the arrival of the migrant birds that people actually care about; Warblers, Vireos, Hawks, ect. Yeah, Red-winged Blackbirds and Grackles were nice... for a day. At least it will give me time to get better before any real birding needs to be done.

I leave for Florida again in 16 days. This time I will be with my mom on a cruise to the Bahamas. I've already arranged for some birding to be done, so I'll finally get to see some new species.

Just a quick side note. If you have a Zeiss scope and are thinking about sending it in for repairs, I would think again. I sent my Diascope 65 T*FL in at least 6 weeks ago and haven't heard anything about it. I called yesterday and the lady told me they had to send it to Germany because they don't fix scopes in the U.S. and she was just waiting to hear from them. My guess is I won't have my scope before migration hits, and I wouldn't be surprised if I didn't have it before my job starts in Alaska. Thanks, Zeiss!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cleaning Up

As I'm attempting a run at 500 ABA birds for the year, I figured I would try to clean up some of the more common species around Michigan present right now, especially the ducks. My dad and I hit Muskegon, and we hit it hard. As we sifted through the rafts of year birds that are the "sea-ducks", we noted a female Harlequin Duck chillin' with the Long-tailed Ducks near the end of the lighthouse. This was at Pere Marquette. We could see it from the "safe" part of the pier, but to get some documentation for all the non-believers, we journeyed to the end. I left my camera in the car because I am an idiot, so props to my dad for clicking this pic.

Harlequin Duck hanging with his homies
I may attempt to find American Black Duck and Hooded Merganser tomorrow around Lansing for 2 more year birds. It should get crazy, stay tuned.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Year Birds

Being back in Michigan has provided me with ample opportunity to see new birds for the year. Trash birds like Black-capped Chickadee, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpecker, American Goldfinch, American Robin, Tufted Titmouse all provided me with a split-seconds worth of amusement.

My father and I birded the Ingham/Eaton/Ionia area with hoping to pick up some early migrants. Cranes are making themselves known. We managed a few nice birds, including 2 Red-shouldered Hawks in Ionia along with at least 5 Bald Eagles. My "new" 300mm f4 lens got its first workout in sub-par conditions, but performed better than I had hoped. Below are a few shots from today. The birds were far away and the conditions were garbage, but I can see some potential in this lens.

The second Red-shouldered Hawk of the day. At the distance this was taken, and the overcast conditions, I am quite happy.
A young Bald Eagle soaring over the road in Ionia County.
Maple River is a potential for tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Close to the End

Surveys are wrapping up and the field season is coming to an end. Baird's Sparrows continue to disappoint, as neither my partner Garrett nor I have seen one in Arizona this winter. At the beginning of the season, we attended a 10 day training period in Mexico. Janos was filthy with Baird's Sparrows, and we even banded some. Since I don't have any cool pictures from the last day or so, here is me holding a Baird's.

The field season started with such promise for this elusive species.

Another interesting find in Janos was a Loggerhead Shrike that apparently has a taste for other Loggerhead Shrikes.We noticed this LOSH had another LOSH head impaled right outside our bunkhouse.
Shrike eating Shrike
Surveys go through Thursday, back to Michigan on Friday.