Sunday, November 12, 2017

Belle Isle Goodies - 11 Nov 2017

Another cold morning. But not cold enough to dissuade a number of us to return to Belle Isle to look for the female King Eider, and the Snow Goose. I showed up at around 8:30 am and found several birders already present at the south end of the island. The eider was spotted downstream just a few minutes ago, but had already disappeared by the time we got there. I would get a call from Mary Tremblay about an hour later that it flew in from the lighthouse on the Detroit shoreline and was now among a large raft of Greater Scaup, Redhead, Bufflehead, mergansers, and a pair of Surf Scoters.

In the meantime I decided to drive around the island. The Snow Goose was foraging next to the road near the fountain and provided a single decent photo from inside the car. Photographing from the car is terrible as convection currents formed by heat leaving the car act as vaseline filter to befuddle focus and produce lousy images. So, I opted to park up a ways and digiscope the bird as it foraged in my direction. It then joined the Canada Geese in the water and swam to the far side of the pond.

I continued on and found the 8-10 Dunlin that were reported yesterday by Allen Chartier. They were foraging in the recently-drained lake at the north end of the island. I spent some time digiscoping them. Dunlin in November are a great bird anytime in Michigan.

A juvenile Red-tailed Hawk appeared on the far shore, so I spent some time digiscoping it as it flew down from the willow into the lake bed and pick at a dead fish carcass. A second Red-tailed Hawk could be heard calling in the background.

I returned to the south end of the lake and scoped the female King Eider out in the middle of the river. I was able to get a couple of digiscoped images at full magnification for record.

A Bonaparte's Gull foraged along the shoreline in front of us, so I tried to capture a few pics as it floated by.

Once the eider disappeared from view I decided I was cold enough to head out. I stopped long enough to get a few more bad pics (from the car) of some Bufflehead in the canals along the west side of the island.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Snow Goose - 10 Nov 2017

Robert Bochenek found a female King Eider and a Snow Goose at Belle Isle Park in Wayne Co. yesterday. Since I was home early this morning getting contract work done I decided I had time to drive into Detroit to look for the birds. Last night brought record low temps for November 10 (19F) so it was cold. But, clear skies were nigh so I decided to go for it.

I arrived at Belle Isle at 9:30 am and found Joe Kwasniewski, Mike Mencotti and Jeff Stacey at the tip of the south side of the island scoping the Detroit River. The eider was about 400 yds away and barely a blob on the water. Winds were gusting and it stung to look into the scope. Despite a face mask and cap I was freezing. But, I did get a view of the bird despite the distance and watering eyes. It would fly into to shore 2 hours later, but I had to leave.

Luckily, the Snow Goose was nearby and easier to photograph. It flew off to the lawns up the road, so I stopped long enough to get a few photos and some digiscoped images before heading back to work.

On the way out I found a half-dozen Bufflehead frolicking in the canal, so I jumped out and got a pic or two before they swam off. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Sterling Morning for Waterfowl! - 29 Oct 2017

Justin Labadie posted some nice pics of American Wigeon and Northern Pintail from Wm. Sterling State Park in Monroe Co., MI yesterday, so I thought I'd go check them out to see how well I could digiscope them.

I first took a ride down to the Summit Rd. exit just before the Ohio border to check out the Lotus Rd. ponds. Ring-billed Gulls were the only show, with a pair of 1st-winter and 2nd-winter Herring Gulls among them. On the way back north, though, Bay Creek Dr. yielded a pair of Sandhill Cranes that were close enough to photograph from the car, and to digiscope from the side of the road. Despite the overcast skies the light was sufficient for some decent images.

I then arrived at Sterling State Park and proceeded to walk the bike path around the west side of the park. Flocks of Tree Swallows were moving overhead to the west. To my right, on a small log near shore of the pond sat a fluffed up Northern Rough-winged Swallow. I spent some time digiscoping it from the trail.

Near the corner of the pond, where it narrows to a small canal, swam pairs of Gadwall

Farther in, and along the canal, were several small groups of Green-winged Teal foraging among the duckweeds.

Near the southwest corner of the walking trail, where the canal opened into a larger pond, a pair of Northern Pintail were foraging. Unfortunately, they were a bit too far even for digiscoping.

Some of my best opportunities for digiscoping would come on the way back to the car when I came across a small group of American Wigeon and Gadwall. These birds gave me the opportunity to study wigeon plumage like never before!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A Fox and Two Zonotrichia sparrows - 28 Oct 2017

Two years ago this week I was blessed with a Golden-crowned Sparrow that appeared under the feeders. Today, I'd be happy to see the first White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows of the Fall.

I'm back to digiscoping through the back window since heat convections are sufficient to destroy images when trying to shoot with the window open. Gonna have to build a blind on the porch...

If you've ever watched Song, White-throated, White-crowned, Harris' and Golden-crowned Sparrows forage its amazing to see how they can scrape the ground without moving their heads. Its only possible to capture with fast frames (or video, as in this case).

A Fox Sparrow was a pleasant surprise, as well! And, I'm up to 2 Dark-eyed Juncos now.

Addendum: At 5:30 pm I counted (2) Fox Sparrows, (4) White-throated Sparrows, (1) White-crowned Sparrow, and (4) Juncos!

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