Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sharpie! - 17 Jan 2016

I spotted a Sharp-shinned Hawk perched in a tree out back late this afternoon. I was able to get a few digiscoped images from the back deck before taking a digiscoped video of it. What a cutie. A dangerous cutie...

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Gray Bird on a Gray Day! - 14 Jan 2017

Patrick Wright had found a Townsend's Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi) at Island Lake State Recreation Area on 8 Jan 2017. Since then, several birders have been able to relocate the bird despite its gregarious range in the SRA and the miserable crappy weather the past four days. I decided to drive out there this morning to look for the bird, myself.

My adventure started a bit early, unfortunately. I was forced off the highway on the way to my destination, which caused my camera to slide off the front seat and onto the floor. When I reached the parking lot I noticed the autofocus failed to work. Removing the teleconverter restored autofocus to the camera, but I then could not get it back on the camera. So, I went to work using the naked 300/2.8 VRII on the D500.

I met Joe Kasniewski in the parking lot near the dunes where the bird was last located. The flooded trails had frozen overnight so walking was treacherous. We found our way to the last known coordinates and started looking around. Nothing. We would eventually see Myles McNally, Andrew Simon and Andrea Rose in the area. Nothing from them, either.

In the meantime, a small flock of Eastern Bluebirds made an appearance, so I spent some time following them and trying to get some digiscoped images in low-light. They would provide about the only color of the day.

I would hike down around the ponds and back up onto the dunes, eventually running into Lyle Hamilton, Scott Jennex, Greg Smith Mary Trombley, and Dan Fox. Their only highlight of the morning were four Field Sparrows back from whence they came.  After another half-mile walk Lyle got a call from Myles stating that the bird had been refound (at the lake where I had just come from).

We headed back to the dunes and split up. I headed back toward the trees, and after a few minutes spotted the bird flying out over the lake and landing in a tree near Joe. After a few minutes it flew back toward me, but I couldn't get the camera out of my harness and missed it flying right over my head. Ugh.

Luckily, the group refound the bird and we were able to get some images in the poor light. My only decent pics were of the bird on the other side of the lake while it perched atop a treetop.

Once the crowd left, the Townsend's Solitaire reappeared in the trees overhead. I spent some time trying to digiscope it from the bottom of the hill, but then saw Lyle and Greg photographing it from the top of the dune. Joe, Tim Thompson and I would then hike to the top of the dune and spend some time digiscoping it from a better angle.

The poor lighting would require a digiscoped video in order to get any usable pics.

Joe and I would then head back to our cars, but not before stopping to try to get some last looks at the bird before it flew back toward the lake. It was great meeting you, Joe, and thanks for all the help finding the bird (and my car...).

Late Night at the Moo - 13 Jan 2017

Robin and I got back from dinner this evening, and it was still light. In fact, with little-to-no wind and  quiet sunset occurring I got the bug to run down to Pt. Mouillee to see if I could pick up a Short-eared Owl or two at dusk. So, I grabbed the bike and headed to Siegler Rd parking lot. From there I biked the North Causeway to the junction of Vermet and Long Pond Units where I would walk far enough to scope the junction of Middle Causeway, Vermet and Long Pond Units.

I quickly learned that temperatures were a good 10 degrees cooler near Lake Erie, and a fairly stiff wind was blowing from the north, so my quiet / mild evening suddenly got COLD! Lucky for me I had a face mask and a second hat, as I would need both to survive this suddenly-stupid idea. The Border Patrol guy had it right; he was parked at the junction of Vermet / Long Pond Units, and had the heat running. I waved and rode past before dismounting and walking the rest of the way.

I got about half way along the dike and spotted a single Short-eared Owl perched on a post next to the Middle Causeway. I was too far away to get any pics, and it was gone by the time I got close enough to digiscope. As it got dark I just stood and listened to the dozens of Tundra Swans trumpeting as they flew past in flocks of 10-20 birds.  Otherwise, it was only me and the wind. And cold.

I was suddenly startled by the bugling of a flock of Sandhill Cranes flying overhead. 26 birds! eBird would later consider this a rare sighting. A single Northern Harrier was also making the last round of the night before settling down for a night's sleep.

I stayed long enough to lose visuals through the scope and started back to the car. I would have a bit of difficulty finding the bike next to the trail in the dark, but managed to get back to the car without ditch-diving. I was also fortunate that the road had refrozen, which made riding easier.

US-MI-Rockwood-37205 Pte Mouille, Monroe, Michigan, US
Jan 13, 2017 5:37 PM - 6:37 PM
Protocol: Traveling
1.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Went before dark specifically for Short-eared Owls. Saw one bird perched for several minutes. Inland ponds frozen.
6 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  10
Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus)  50
American Black Duck/Mallard (Anas rubripes/platyrhynchos)  100
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)  1
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)  1
Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis)  26     Flock of 26 flew overhead just before dark moving south. Heard them bugling before looking up. Photos available if needed.
Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)  1

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S33648330

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Exit Stage Left - 08 Jan 2017

A couple of images from the past week. I photographed a Northern Flicker in the yard on the 7th of January, and managed to get a flight shot as it took off. Now you know why they're called Yellow-shafted Flickers!

A Red-bellied Woodpecker was on the suet feeder a day later. I got this still from a 4K video capture. I was too close to get a full wing spread. Oh, well. I'll try again.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Say-What??? - 01 Jan 2017

Happy New Year! May 2017 allow us all to overcome the disappointments and struggles brought by 2016, and make us all nicer people.

Allen Chartier and I covered Belle Isle Park on the Detroit River as part of the Detroit River Christmas Bird Count. We wanted to get some owling in, so we agreed to meet at the Nature Center at 6:30 am. I would arrive at 6:15 am and try to call in some Screech Owls before Allen would arrive. In minutes I would be serenading a gray-morph Screech Owl next to the Nature Center parking lot. After 10 minutes I could not get the bird to come close enough for a photo, although this one was not bad for a 50' distance using the Better Beamer and flash. 1st bird of 2017!

Allen arrived at 6:30 am and announced that he had heard 2 Saw-Whet Owls in the woods behind the Nature Center. We then headed down Center Road and stopped to try for more Saw-Whets. When Allen played the distressed call we got an immediate response. Soon, a bird was "toot-toot-toot"-ing in the distance. At that point Pat Jakel and Joe Hammerle arrived, and we heard 3 different birds calling from 3 directions.  One bird called for 10 minutes straight!

At our third location we heard another 2 Saw-Whet Owls calling, as well as another Screech Owl.

With the sunrise appearing, we then tried for Great Horned Owls. A bird "screeched" in the distance, and soon we could see its silhouette perched 150' away.

With sun-up we decided to work the Blue Heron Lagoon and look for a Northern Mockingbird that Karl Overman found yesterday. Our only clue was red-berry bushes, and the lagoon had lots of honeysuckle bushes loaded w/ berries. We found American Robins: 120+! Two dozen Cedar Waxwings were also present. We walked the entire lagoon and could not relocate the mockingbird, though.

Few ducks were on the Detroit River. We saw Common Goldeneye, a few Redhead, and large flocks of Canvasback flying south. Bufflehead were seen in the distance. We could not find any Peregrine Falcons near the Whittier Building. Mute Swans by the dozens were along the beach area near the Belle Isle Bridge, and a few Tundra Swans were also among them. Hooded Mergansers were seen in small flocks near the Yacht Club. This Red-tailed Hawk took off from the woods next to the road; I created a composite from five consecutive images.

We returned to the woods to look for roosting Saw-Whets, but would not find any. Allen called Karl and got locations for the Red-headed Woodpecker (also found yesterday),  Northern Mockingbird, and Eastern Towhees that Karl had seen this morning. We would refind the adult Red-headed Woodpecker, but it stayed far enough away to prevent photos from being taken.

I took off for home while the rest of the gang continued to look for the Northern Mockingbird (yes) and Eastern Towhee (yes).

Nice start to 2017!

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