Sunday, September 17, 2017

Like Trying to Photograph a Knuckleball - 13 Sep 2017

Robin and I were returning from dinner just a little before 6 pm when we approached the entrance to Del Webb's Bridgewater community here in Brownton (Ha, auto-correct just corrected "Brownstown"  because it thought I was going to mention my home here at Brownton Abbey!). Anyways, I saw a flock of swirling birds that I initially thought were swallows, then I realized that they were pretty large. Purple Martins? It took my head a few seconds to recalibrate and realize that I was seeing a flock of low-flying Common Night Hawks! They were flying over the ponds and feeding on insect swarms in the late afternoon sun!

I dropped Robin off (at Brownton) and grabbed the camera and headed back to spend the next 20 minutes or so shooting off ~2000 frames trying to capture these nightjars while they dodged photons coming from my camera. My arms were tired trying to track them while maintaining focus. It felt like someone was throwing a knuckleball not knowing which way it'll dip.

But, I managed a few keepers, including some with their mouths wide open and ready to snatch flying insects.

A nice way to come home. I took Asia out in the yard a while later and saw the flock return right over the house. This time they were much higher, but I was able to count 60 birds!

I love this place.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Detroit River Hawk Watch - 10 Sep 2017

Yesterday's hawk count netted 1500+ Broad-winged Hawks, so I decided to run down and spend a few hours with Kevin Georg, Andy Sturgess, and Raburn Howland. Glad I did!

The first birds of the morning were a few Sharp-shinned Hawks, but by 10 am the Broad-winged Hawks started coming through in distant kettles. Most birds were streaming northward toward the stacks and crossing over near the canals to the north, but by 11 am they were starting to cross over almost on top of us. Between 10 - 11 am (9 - 10 am hawk time) we counted 2000+ Broad-winged Hawks alone!

I had to leave at 11:30 am so I'll be curious to see what the total was for the day.

Fall Birding at Magee - 09 Sep 2017

Robin and I drove down to Magee Marsh and walked the boardwalk. High winds were blowing out on the lake, but relatively calm on the boardwalk, itself. Birding was a bit quiet, but we did see a few fall warblers. Blackpoll Warblers were most abundant, along with Palm and Yellow-rumped. This Cape May Warbler was the only cooperative bird for me.

A Philadelphia Vireo was a nice find, as well. As was a Gray Catbird.

We then drove over to Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and took the Wildlife Drive through the refuge. Water levels were a bit high, but we did see a nice flock of 55 Long-billed Dowitchers and a single Greater Yellowlegs.

Common Gallinules were abundant. Mostly juveniles.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Misty Morning Kayaking - 31 Aug 2017

The last day of our visit greeted us with chilly, partly-cloudy skies and mist rising off the waters of White Sand Lake. Overnight winds had settled enough to produce a relatively smooth lake surface, so I opted to grab the kayak and head out for a morning of birding.

I headed straight for the opposite bank of the lake where Bald Eagles could be heard calling from perches along the shoreline. The rising sun was blindingly bright, especially with steam rising off the water, so I wanted to get it behind me as soon as possible. I paddled by the juvenile Common Loon and opted not to bother trying to photograph it since I was more interested in finding the adults. They were nowhere in sight, so I continued on around the shoreline to check the rest of the lake.

As I turned the corner of the first peninsula ahead of me a Merlin shot out from a birch snag and attacked a Spotted Sandpiper that flying low over the water. The small peep had to dive headfirst into the waters to avoid being plucked off the surface of the lake from the Merlin, which hovered momentarily above it before flying back to the cover of the shoreline.  I spent a moment watching the Spotted Sandpiper as it sat in the water for several moments before quickly flying to the cover of the rocky shoreline.

With no loons in sight I headed back toward Little Sand Lake and quietly paddled through the quarter-mile canal that separates it from its much larger sister lake. I saw a Hooded Merganser along the way, but it was far enough away that I didn't bother to try to photograph it.

Heading back to shore I heard the adult loons calling near the cabin, so I was able to quietly drift past the pair of birds that popped up in front of the kayak. They regarded me momentarily before diving several times. I had about 30 seconds of photographing them before they dove and disappeared from sight. I was impressed by how long they can stay under water and how far they can swim before resurfacing. I wouldn't try to follow them. Instead, I headed back to the cabin to start cleaning up and spend the rest of the morning watching old Merry Melodies cartoons (Bugs Bunny) while Asia slept on my lap.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Rain Day in WI - 30 Aug 2017

Its Wednesday morning at 6 am and I am awakened by the sounds of a pair of Bald Eagles squabbling nearby. I look out the bedroom window and there, on the grass just 30 feet away, are a pair of adult Bald Eagles fighting over a fresh-caught walleye. Asia and I watched from the window as the pair of birds took turns stabbing at the fish before one claimed it as its own. Since the cabin is right on the water, I looked out the living room window and saw the juvenile Common Loon floating just 100’ away as the sun tried to break through the morning clouds. A Pileated Woodpecker was also calling from across the lake but sounded like it was coming from the tree next door. Not a bad way to start the day!

Rains moved in shortly thereafter, and we would have intermittent rains and clouds all day. One benefit of the cloud cover was that I could get some digiscoping in without severe backlighting. The juvenile Common Loon spent the day near the tip of the peninsula, so I managed to get a few digiscoped images.

I spent the rest of the day in Minocqua catching up on Game of Thrones videos and waiting for the rain to stop. The sun would break late in the afternoon and provide a nice outlook for tomorrow.

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