Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Ingham Outing

Having been cooped up inside studying for the GRE lately, I decided to take a break and see what Fenner Nature Center had to offer. Hopes were for a Philly Vireo, but it wasn't in the cards. I quickly found one flock of migrants including Warblers such as Black-throated Green, Tennessee, Nashville, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Magnolia, Blackpoll and Black and White present. Also, in the same area were a duo of Blue-headed Vireos, Red-eyed Vireo, House Wren, two Brown Thrashers, two Eastern Phoebes, an Eastern Wood-Pewee and a few White-throated Sparrows.
American Redstart at Fenner Nature Center

The gates were open for the Kenneth A. Hope Soccer Complex off Aurelius Road, so I decided to look for Buff-breasted Sandpiper. No go on that bird, but I did come across a pair of Eastern Meadowlarks that were both calling and even singing. Too bad they weren't Western Meadowlarks.
Eastern Meadowlark #1
Eastern Meadowlark #2

Monday, September 26, 2011

Nelson's Sparrow #400

On my way to Milwaukee to visit some friends this past weekend, I stopped at Tiscornia to see if any ducks were flying. There was a moderate Blue-winged Teal flight, and 2 Whimbrel flew over calling. There was also a Nelson's Sparrow present, but it was very difficult and flew into private property and not relocated in a few tries (hence the reason no report). We gave up after searching for 1.5 hours. This was year bird #400 for me. I have never kept a cumulative year list before, but with all my traveling this year, I thought it would behoove me to do so.

I managed some terrible photos, but I do think they identify the bird as a Nelson's Sparrow, barely. These pictures, along with my personal observation of the dark gray median crown stripe and dark gray, unstreaked nape should eliminate Le Conte's Sparrow. The sharp delineation between the white belly and bright breast with blurry, non-distinct streaks should eliminate Saltmarsh Sparrow.
These guys do not like to stay out in the open, or stay still for very long. Thank god for manual focus.
The bird is looking to the left, and part of the gray nape and gray median crown stripe are visible.
Only 100 more year birds to go to reach my goal of 500. With a trip to S. Texas for a week and a winter Alaska cruise in the Bearing/Chukchi Sea, with a return to Dutch Harbor, I fear I may fall short of my goal, but will have a good number to beat next year!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Recent Happenings

It has been a while. Nothing too exciting happening for me lately, in the bird world anyway. I've been working my way around the state of Michigan trying to clean up some year birds that I have regrettably missed while in Alaska. My first trip was to Whitefish Point where I picked up Least and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, and enjoyed some shorebirds at the tip as well.
Buff-breasted Sandpiper was not hard to photograph
American Golden Plovers were running by the shack.
You had to be careful while waterbird watching. Sanderlings were running around everywhere, you could almost step on them. 
The rest of my time has been spent around the central part of the state, where Ingham was mighty nice to me, adding 2 more year birds- Scarlet Tanager and Northern Parula. This sets me at #399 for the year.

This is only part of a massive Tree Swallow flock in Ionia County. It was quite fun to enjoy.
So, whats next? I'll be going to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas from October 23-30th for a bird/butterfly ragefest. Unfortunately, none of my friends can go during this time, so I'll be raging alone. Then I go back to Alaska for the 3rd time this year to do a winter seabird observing job on a 400ft+ icebreaker. The route takes me from Seward through Unimak Pass into the Bearing Sea, and up through the Chukchi Sea, then back down to Dutch Harbor. It is a 6 week cruise. I can almost smell the Whiskered Auklets! With only a few hours of daylight each day, it will be interesting to see how surveys go.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Arctic Ocean Pelagic

I have just returned from 3 weeks on a boat in the Arctic Ocean as a seabird observer for Fish and Wildlife. Needless to say, there were some exciting sightings, but nothing too outlandish. The eastern Beaufort was quite boring, sometimes only seeing a few birds a day. Black-legged Kittiwakes were one of the more common species, often following the boat hoping for an easy meal.
Shooting through the glass of the ship resulted in no good photos, only useable for identification purposes.
Northern Fulmars were around, with a few seen on a typical day, and more seen further west in the Beaufort.
Phalaropes were on the move, with both Red and Red-necked Phalaropes being seen.
Mixed Phalarope flock. I thought these would be the only shorebirds seen on the trip, but this Pectoral Sandpiper threw me a curve-ball and landed on the boat! 
Why couldn't it be a Sharp-tailed!?
One of the most common birds ended up being Short-tailed Shearwater. None were seen in the eastern Beaufort, but thousands of them were seen in the eastern Beaufort, and I had at least 15,000 at one time. Here are 3.
The big surprise was the amount of Kittlitz's Murrelets I found. I counted 12, and I'm sure I missed a lot due to the choppy water that was the norm. On the few calm days, it was easy to pick them out. Here are two of them.
Foggy Kittlitz's Murrelets in the Beaufort Sea.
2 species of finch were seen in the Arctic Ocean, which was 2 more than I expected. The first to land on the boat was a Pine Sisken. He was at least 24 miles north of the closest land mass, and who knows how far from the nearest pine tree! He should have stopped at the Brooks Range.
Near the end of the trip, a tired Common Redpoll landed on the boat.
This Common Redpoll has a fairly small bill, but had heavily streaked undertail coverts. I have a picture, but it isn't very good.
Then there was the one that got away. On two occasions I saw a small, dark alcid too far away to identify. I snapped a few pictures, but it can't be identified to species, or really even from the Loch Ness Monster.
It appers to have an Auklet appearance, and also appears to have a Crest and a white line on the face. Not that I'm suggesting anything....
A total of 27 species were seen on the trip, not bad for that far north. Sorry this wasn't a more entertaining post, I'm still adapting to Michigan and have more important things to do, like look for year birds!