Friday, November 25, 2016

Low-light Birding - 25 Nov 2016

Today was a carbon copy of last weekend, with less wind. That meant dark skies, drizzle, cool. I decided to bird Monroe Co. again, anyways. I would be thankful for using 4K video to record most of today's action.

I drove down to Lotus Rd. in s. Monroe County to look for gulls, and found 9 Lesser Black-backed Gulls among 50 Herring and Ring-billed Gulls. It was too dark to digiscope stills, so I took a video using 4K to record the gulls on the water. I had spotted what appeared to be a first-winter LBBG, but it flew off before I could get my camera from the car to hook up to the scope. Still, there were adult and what appeared to be 2nd-winter LBBG's (2nd-cycle birds if you follow the Humphry-Park's System, as in Howell and Dunns "Gulls of the Americas").

Greg Links reported as many as 17 LBBG's later in the day among thousands of gulls from the nearby landfill. Now is a great time to look for them before the inland waters freeze. He even gave a short summary of the history of Lesser Black-backed Gulls in Ohio and Michigan:

"A brief history of the Lesser Black-backed Gull and its expansion in our area - the 1st one ever for Ohio was discovered in Cleveland in 1977, "only" about 40 years ago. Lou Campbell found the first local one a year later, and Michigan's 1st came a year after that. "Birds of the Toledo Area" by Anderson et al (published 2002) remarked that 5 individuals seen on a couple of different days was still noteworthy. Today, they are easy to find almost anywhere the larger gulls frequent in the winter and it is more unusual NOT to see them in the double digits, if you know where to look. Great Black-backeds, while still regular, are now significantly less numerous than Lessers in our area in the winter. Remarkable how things can change, and in a relative hurry."

I then drove to Erie Gun Club but saw no ducks on the bay. Continuing to the Whiting Plant produced a handful of American Tree SparrowsGolden-crowned Kinglets and Black-capped Chickadees, but only a scattering of Bufflehead out on Lake Erie (hunting had driven most of the ducks deeper out into the lake).

I encountered several Red-tailed Hawks while driving the roads, but could not get the scope out fast enough to keep from spooking them before digiscoping them. So, it was a bit frustrating getting hawk photos this morning. This Red-tail was out in the middle of the field far enough away not to feel threatened by my presence 100 yds away.

Luna Pier was void of waterfowl, as well. As was Bolles Harbor.

I stopped at Sterling State Park and photographed a few Bonaparte's Gulls near the boat ramp, and found a single American Kestrel that I digiscoped from almost a ¼-mile away. I would find a pair of kestrels along the turnpike as I drove north toward Pt. Mouillee.

I took a swing down Hagerman Rd. and found  a Northern Harrier perched on the fence surrounding the antennae farm. It took off as I approached but stayed close to the fence. It landed and appeared to be hunting for mice, so I pulled over and approached the fence slowly w/ the Nikon D500/300mm lens. I was able to get numerous pics through the fence from about 50 yds away. I then walked back to the car and was able to grab the scope. I managed to digiscope a video at full magnification (75X) on the scope, and 4K allowed me to grab a few sharp frames from an otherwise blurry video. Damn stick was in the way the whole time, though...

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving! - 24 Nov 2016

I just came into the house after cleaning/disinfecting the feeders and filling them up when I spotted a pretty male Purple Finch! Early morning mist and low light required a pretty high ISO photo from inside the house. 1/25 sec, ISO 6400, f/5.6.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Monroe County Birding - 19 Nov 2016

Seventy degrees yesterday. Forty degrees today with rain and snow showers. Welcome to Michigan.

I drove down to Lotus Rd. to check for gulls and found only a handful of Ring-billed Gulls, a single Red-tailed Hawk, and six Great Blue Herons. It was quickly apparent that the tide was out here along the shores of Lake Erie as the canals and shoreline were exposed mudflats.

I drove over to Sterns Rd on the east side of the turnpike to scope the marsh along the south side of the Gun Club. I was drawn by the 400+ Bonaparte's Gulls, but stayed for the 700+ ducks that included 400 Northern Pintail and another 300 Gadwall. Another 100 or so Northern Shovelers and American Wigeon with a dozen or Mallard and Black Duck mixed in.  Farther out in the canal were another 1000 ducks that included Ruddy Ducks, American Coot, Common Mergansers and most likely Bufflehead and possibly some Common Goldeneye.

I would drive over to Bay Creek Rd. and scope the flocks again from the north side of the canal, and manage to get a few pics from a half-mile away. A Bald Eagle flushed the duck flock, so I was able to get a few pics of the birds in flight with the knowledge that the true size of the flock was about another 5-6 fields of view larger.

A 4K video of the ducks allowed a frame or two to be captured.

I then drove to the Whiting Plant and walked the beach. With the Consumers Energy Plant now shut down, and the winds pushing Lake Erie to the west I was able to walk the beach past the discharge canal w/o getting my feet wet! A single Lesser Black-backed Gull and two Great Black-backed Gulls were found among the two hundred or so Herring / Ring-billed Gulls that crowded the sandbars. A Horned Grebe was a nice find, as well.

At Bolles Harbor a Belted Kingfisher was close enough to digiscope, but low light made for a challenging subject.

Three Bonaparte's Gulls were the highlight at Sterling State Park.

Pt. Mouillee was a no-go due to the number of waterfowlers along Roberts Rd.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Consolation Fox Sparrow - 11 Nov 2016

I was tempted to take the day off, but a strong northern wind would've made birding difficult today. That said, I was intrigued by a report of a Sagebrush Sparrow showing up at Whitefish Point this morning. The bird was found by Leonard Graf and would remain for the rest of the day. I was tempted to leave work and drive up to look for it, but it would've been 7 hrs up and 7 hrs back tomorrow; work wouldn't let me out in time to consider it.  But, as a small consolation, this handsome Fox Sparrow was foraging below the feeders when I got home. I was able to get some digiscoped images in the late afternoon light before it flew off.  About a dozen Dark-eyed Juncos were keeping it company.

White-breasted Nuthatch! - 02 Nov 2016

A White-breasted Nuthatch was a nice treat this afternoon here at Brownton Abbey. The bird flew back and forth between the feeder and a tree at the edge of the property where it seemed to be probing for insects. I was able to get some nice digiscoped images from the back window.

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