Friday, April 29, 2011

The Last Hurrah

Before I leave the great state of Michigan and miss the best of spring migration, Adam, Brad and I hit Monroe County, and we hit it hard! Ended with 13 species of shorebirds (14 counting the Woodcock we saw on the way home), but less warblers. Passerines were hard to come by, except this magnificent Prothonotary Warbler. It couldn't have posed better in the morning light right next to me. I fear I will never get a better picture of this bird in my life. It looks even better in full resolution.
Maybe my best picture ever?
At cell 3 we were diggin' through shorebirds, Dunlin mostly, when Brad pointed out a distant, interesting shorebird. Because Western Sandpiper doesn't register in spring migration, it took a while before we realized what was going on. The bird flew to the back side of the cell along the dike, so we followed, and the bird ended up walking right by us! Unfortunately the light was poor, almost overhead, so the picture isn't the greatest.
Western Sandpiper- Point Mouillee 4/29/11 

Just then, a GIANT TIGER MUSKY jumped out of cell 3 and ate the Western Sandpiper.
Gotta love photoshop.
Obviously I am low on sleep and a little slap happy so I'll make this short. Other shorebirds were American Avocet, 2 Marbled Godwits, 7+5 Willet, 2 Wilson's Phalarope, among the more common ones. Day list was over 110 and put my year list right at 300.

Next stop, Anchorage. I'll be there tomorrow night. Keep an eye on the blog for details from the north!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Eastern Whip-poor-will

While trouncing around Fenner Nature Center today in Ingham County, I flushed a strange beast. It took me about 5-6 times of it flying until I finally caught it sitting still on a log. Whip-poor-will is an extremely good bird in Ingham County. I've heard reports of birds seen/heard but they are mostly from quite some time ago, and very sporadic. I've never found one in the day before, and only actually seen one or two before, so this was quite exciting. I was able to show it to a few other birders as well.

While keeping my distance as to not flush the bird again, I managed to get some good photos while trying out my dads monopod. The photographic conditions were terrible. Luckily with my fixed lens, monopod and the cropping capabilities of photoshop, I managed a few decent pics. However, I was interrupted when a White-throated Sparrow nearly landed on him, spooking him to a new spot.
Eastern Whip-poor-will thinking I can't see him.
Glad at least a few intrepid souls got to see him. Who knows where he will stop next.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

White Wagtail What!?

Nope, I'm not in Alaska yet, and yes, I did see a White Wagtail today. Originally found on April 9th at Point Mouillee, the White Wagtail continues to put on a show. I saw him both on April 9th and again today. Today he was much more cooperative and even allowed me to take over a hundred pictures of which none turned out well. They do, however, show an unmistakeable image of a White Wagtail.

White Wagtail. Point Mouillee 4/21/2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Florida Everglades

After our cruise was done, my mom and I rented a car and took off to the Everglades before turning into the airport. We took Hwy 41 (aka Tamiami Trail) and did an airboat tour out of the Everglades Safari Park.

We arrived early, before they were running any tours. I was chatting with the fellow behind the desk, ignoring my mom saying "David there is a bird". I finally went over to her and she said "I think it was a Gallinule". I found this amusing since she isn't a birder. About 20 seconds later, this little guy popped up.

Lifer Purple Gallinule dancing for me. Boom!

That was too easy. We finally took the tour around the park. Airboats are loud! Lots of herons, egrets, ibis and spoonbills to keep me pleased. I thought I saw a Snail Kite flying away from me, but it was tough to tell. On the way back, I started getting nervous, until I saw this beaut!

A terrible picture of a beautiful bird. Snail Kite!
We also went to Shark Valley and took the tram around the 15 mile loop since we were too hot and lazy to walk at all. Plus the flies were starting to come out. This is where I got my FOY and probably OON (Only of Year, I just made it up) Limpkin. Also managed a few other shots.

Anhinga. I should have gotten a better picture.
Green Heron fishing
The ever present Black Vulture
And for those of you interested in Butterflies, here are a couple from outside my hotel the first night. Dainty Sulphur and Barred Yellow (lifer).

Not easy capturing this tiny Dainty Sulphur with a 300mm F4 lens.
Barred Yellow doing its thing
So, pretty much what you would expect out of the Everglades. Given the Snail Kite and Purple Gallinule were basically handed to me, I can't complain. I still need to do an actual birding trip to Florida, so many still to see!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Da Bahamas, mon

Greetings fellow bird nerds. Just recently returned from a cruise to the Bahamas with my mom. We visited Grand Bahama, Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay.

First stop was Grand Bahama where we booked an excursion to visit Lucayan National Park. I was excited and hungover all at once. It was supposed to have a 40-50 minute nature walk that went through pine woodlands... this was not the case. Our leader knew nothing about the wildlife around, only a few plants that he blabed about for a while. He also tried to tell us about some of the science behind the island, but all he kept saying was "carbon dating", even for samples of fish and inverts taken from the caves today. So, left to fend for myself, in the middle of the day, I skipped out on most of the cave presentations and got my bird on. Lucky for me, a few birds were still braving the heat, including a nice La Sagra's Flycatcher.
I scored this Western Spindalis while the leader was busy saying something else about caves that I didn't care about.
Western Spindalis of a subspecies
Not really a whole lot else to report from the day, except the wintering warblers were still present in pretty good numbers. I found Worm-eating Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo (a decent bird for GB I guess), Thick-billed Vireo (lifer). I also got flashed by a male Cuban Emerald as the leader stopped the van to say something else. Not the best of looks, but it'll do. Also had a Manatee in the water where we kayaked through a Mangrove swamp. It was quickly obvious that I wouldn't be seeing all the birds I had wanted, so instead of getting frustrated, I decided to relax and just have fun.

After a night of drinking and dancing with a few new "birds" that I had found, I arrived to my room at promptly 6:15am to catch an hour of sleep before the Nassau experience. My mom didn't seem amused. We made our way to the taxi and I told him we wanted to go to The Retreat. He had no idea what I was talking about, but said he did, and took us to the complete other side of the island. He dropped us off at 9am and told us he would be back at 1:30. Of course, this place also lacked any pine woodlands (aka there goes my best chances for Loggerhead Kingbird, Cuban Pewee and any other pine woodland birds). This place was called Clifton Heritage National Park, and besides the Coppice dominated habitat, was pretty sweet. One of the first birds I saw was this female Bahama Woodstar.
Also managed to pick up this Bananaquit.
One of the most common birds in this habitat was Thick-billed Vireo. They really were everywhere. I even manged to get a pretty good shot of one.
Again, La Sagra's Flycatchers were pretty easy, especially since they were calling often.
Everyone kept telling me how common Red-legged Thrushes are in the Bahamas. I don't know if I was just not in the right area or if I was too tired and out of it to notice them, but it took me a couple hours to find even one. They are quite the arousing bird!
Finally managed to find one Black-faced Grassquit as well.

Had a few species that hit a little closer to home. This Northern Parula posed nicely for the camera. Too bad the light wasn't a little better.
 This Prairie Warbler hasn't quite got his full breeding plumage back.
This Ovenbird really didn't care for me pishing everywhere I went.
One bird that I really wanted to see was the Bahama Yellowthroat. I finally found a Yellowthroat in some Coppice habitat that was away from any water. Unfortunately it turned out to be a Common Yellowthroat. Talk about a buzz kill.
Most hated Common Yellowthroat of all time
I also found a few butterflies that would actually sit and let me take their picture. This Julia was pretty cool, and quite common in a few areas.
Also came across this really cool looking skipper, Zestos Skipper, which is apparently extirpated from Florida but still found in the Bahamas. Have a few other pics of butterflies, including one small dark skipper, but haven't taken the time to ID them yet.
At 1:30 our bus driver never showed up. 2:15, still nothing. The people at the National Park called us a taxi that wouldn't be around for at least another hour. Luckily, one lady working at the park offered to drive us all the way to the other side of the island to our boat, but she needed gas money. Not a problem, we paid her a nice sum of money since we just wanted to get back.

The next stop was Great Stirrup Cay where we decided to go beaching and snorkeling. Since I was going on a whole 2 1/2 hours of sleep that day, I passed out in the chair in the shade by the beach until noon. Snorkeling was awesome, the diversity of fish was truly amazing. There was some interesting looking habitat on the Cay, but by this day I was too burnt out to try to find anything new.

All in all, not a bad cruise despite missing a few prime birds. Guess I'll have to go back!

Stay tuned for another blog post from Florida and the Everglades.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Most Expensive Trip to Maple River Ever!

What do my Jeep, spotting scope and laptop all have in common? That is correct, they are all broken.

Got my loaner scope from Zeiss today after I complained that it has been over 7 weeks and no news about my scope. I told them I needed one for Alaska and this is unacceptable. The obvious move was to go check out some foul at Maple River. About 10 miles outside of Lansing the Jeep decided to crap out on me, damn water pumps. Well that was $350 I hadn't planned on spending today.

The past few days have been great for migrants in Ingham. The most notable were Brown Thrasher, Yellow-rumped Warblers (2) and Field Sparrow. Ingham is lousy with Fox Sparrows right now, more than I can shake a stick at. Sapsuckers are really sucking right now, they seem to be everywhere, and Winter Wrens are here too.

Since my laptop is also broken, these pictures are all unedited except a quick crop.

Black Duck chillin'

A pished-off Junco

First Field Sparrow of the year
The way things are going, the next thing to break will either be my camera... or maybe an arm.