Tuesday, August 28, 2012

First Few Days in Gambell

I’ve been on St. Lawrence Island in the town of Gambell for a few days now. After the airlines really messing things up, I made it to the island on the afternoon of August 26th. It turned out to be a beautiful day. But beautiful days aren’t what you want for birds on Gambell, and only a few migrants were around including an Arctic Warbler and Red-throated Pipit, both lifers. I also found the second fall record of … drum roll please… American Wigeon!

On my first full day, August 27th, I spent the entire day scouring the boneyards, mountain side, the point and the sewage ponds. We also got a ride to the end of Troutman Lake. Around town, migrants were slow again, but a Northern Wheatear was nice. I had a total of 3 Slaty-backed Gulls, 2 at the point and one at the end of Troutman Lake. Also at the end of Troutman, in the smaller ponds, was another second fall record! This time it was a Common Goldeneye. I sure wish they were second fall records from Asia, but I’ve got time. I had one Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, a bird that does not appear to be around in numbers this year (at least not yet, only a total of 3-ish this fall!). Upon arrival back into town, completely tired and broken, Paul tells me about a Gray-tailed Tattler along the mountain side. So, after a quick dinner, I hiked through more pea gravel and finally found the Gray-tailed Tattler right where he described. It was quite friendly!

Today, August 28th, has been more of the same. Landbird migrants are few and far between, although there was a bit of a Pipit/Wagtail thing going on. I did get my lifer Bluethroat, too. A lot of the tour groups are coming in soon. Should make finding those rarities easier.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Off to Gambell

My next job starts soon in Gambell, Alaska. I'll be surveying Yellow-billed Loons for the Alaska Fish and Wildlife Service. Just about every serious birder should have at least heard of Gambell, a hotspot in spring and fall for rare Asian strays with a handful of first-ABA records. It is so close to Russia, you can see the mountains on a clear day.

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I'll be on the island from August 25-Oct 12 and will be in the field daily. I should be able to update this blog once in a while, so check back often to see what blows in!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Quick AZ Trip

Just returned from a quick and successful trip to SE Arizona. It was great seeing some birds that I haven't seen since 2008 including Red-faced Warbler, Elegant Trogon, Elf Owl and Short-tailed Hawk, among others. We started out birding Carr Canyon. Mike Lester was nice enough to play tour guide to my dad and I. We camped at the top of Carr Canyon and birded the top in the morning. Buff-bellied Flycatchers were quite abundant, our target for the morning. After birding our way down, we lucked into a pair of Montezuma Quail on the road! The male even posed for pictures.

Another abundant bird we encountered just about everywhere was the amazing Painted Redstart.

We also were amused by this Rufous-crowned Sparrow gathering nesting material.
Virginia's Warbler was nice to come across in a mixed flock of warblers in Carr Canyon.

We stopped in Ash Canyon to take a look for the Plain-capped Starthroat. We scored the consolation prize of Lucifer Hummingbird. An uncommon bird in Arizona this year!

Magnificent Hummingbird is another spectacular bird to have around the feeders in the mountains. I never get tired of these birds.

In Madera Canyon, we found my dad his 600th ABA bird, the Mexican Whip-poor-will. We even got amazing looks at is as it called from a close tree.

On our last day, we visited Rose Lake but failed to find any Greater Pewee. So we drove to Inspiration Lookout and enjoyed the continuing Short-tailed Hawk along with a Zone-tailed Hawk. A great way to end the trip!

I'll be leaving for my next job on August 24th, and will try to keep this blog going. I'll be working in Gambell, Alaska doing Yellow-billed Loon surveys for Fish and Wildlife. If all goes well, I should be in Gambell on August 25th. Check back soon!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Moths at My House

I'm back in Michigan after completing my third field season on Alaska's North Slope. I've really been enjoying being able to go birding! It is nice to bird in a place with trees and more passerines than just Lapland Longspur and Savannah Sparrow. I've tracked down a few warblers I missed earlier this year including Prothonotary and Cerulean. Flycatchers are still calling and I have seen Alder, Willow, Acadian, along with Eastern Wood Pewee. I'm leaving early tomorrow morning (8/3) for a trip to the UP to look for more birds/butterflies and moths.

Speaking of moths, I'm finally getting time to use my blacklight. I've only used it in my backyard in Holt, but the past two nights have turned up quite a diversity. I'm still trying to identify a lot of the smaller ones (and some of the bigger ones), but here are a few cool ones that made an appearance.

I'll start out with my personal favorite, Apantesis phalerata, or Harnessed Tiger Moth.

This one is a bit smaller, but is has a lot going on. The new Peterson moth guide leads me to ID this one as Cenopis reticulatana.

The biggest moth to visit was this Banded Tussock Moth, (Halysidota tessellaris).
I'm a fan of the strange looking moths, and this one sure did stick out. It is a Dark-Spotted Palthis or Palthis angulalis.

This one also has a strange appearance. It sits up on the front legs which are "hairy" if you will. It is a Boxed Leaftier or Galasa nigrinodis.

I'll be bringing the light with me on my trip to the UP this weekend. Hopefully being away from the city will help turn up even more moths. I could go for a Sphinx!