Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Holiday Beach Hawk Festival - 20 Sep 2014

I gave a Digiscoping Workshop today below the Hawk Watch Tower at Holiday Beach Conservation Area in s. Ontario during the 2014 Hawk Festival. It was a beautiful day with high skies, however winds were out of the south so prospects for a big push of raptors was not looking good.

I arrived at the tower just after 10 am and spent 2 hours atop the tower scanning the skies for hawks. Blue Jays were moving by in flocks of 20-30 birds, and almost 1000 birds were counted for the day. Shooting into the sun was difficult, and the birds were moving fast.




Sharp-shinned Hawks were the big movers today, but only about 250 were counted.







Other raptors included a couple of Northern Harriers, American Kestrels, and Merlin. Three Peregrine Falcons were seen today, as well.

A Merlin was captured and displayed for the crowd at the base of the tower. I took some pics of the angry little bird as it was removed from its Pringle's can. When it was finally released it circled the trees then attacked a passing Sharpy that became the object of its anger at being banded.



My non-raptor sightings included Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Red-eyed Vireos, Palm Warblers, Great Egret, Gray Catbirds, and a myriad of ducks: Mallard, Gadwall and Blue-winged Teal.

After a quick lunch I walked around the beach looking for something to photograph, but had to settle for a pair of Black Saddlebags that were hovering in the winds above.


I was itching to digiscope something, so I decided to turn the scope on the rehab raptors in the tent nearby. A Barn Owl, Great Horned Owl, Peregrine Falcon, and Red-tailed Hawk were gathering lots of attention from interested onlookers.









My talk went well, but there was no competing with another bird-banding demo going on nearby, so I kept it short and answered questions for those interested in digiscoping.  I then high-tailed it for the bridge as storms were moving through the Detroit Area.  It was nice to get back out in the field after not birding since the end of August.  Now to pack for another out-of-town trip...


Monday, September 8, 2014

Zion National Park, UT - 01-04 Sep 2014

Robin and I spent a wonderful four days at Zion National Park, UT.  We flew to Las Vegas, rented a car, and drove 2.5 hrs. to the town of Springdale, UT. Located just outside of the park, Springdale is a lovely strip of shops, galleries, restaurants and cafe's. We stayed at the La Quinta Inn and enjoyed nice views of the mountains/canyons from our room. With temps in the 100+F everyday we tended to spend the afternoons napping or watching reruns of Buffy.

Random thoughts of the trip, in no particular order:

It was HOT in the canyon. Mornings were cool (60's) and windy, but quickly warmed as soon as the sun made its way down the canyon walls. We enjoyed late morning/afternoon leisure time in the shade of the Zion Park Lodge, or Human History Museum, and quickly retreated to local pubs when it got too hot.







We took the shuttle from the Visitor's Center to the very end (Shinawava Temple) 1st thing each morning and ran ~4.5 mi (downhill) back to Zion Park Lodge. Views were stunning, though early morning winds were chilly. Luckily, most of the wind was at our backs. Running past 8-pt Mule Deer bucks was a nice treat. Peregrine Falcons and Turkey Vultures were visible soaring above the canyon walls in the early morning. I pished Canyon Wrens and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers while we ran.

Disappointed that we did not see a California Condor. Last time one was reported was 3 mo, so not too disappointed.

Crowds were heavy day before/of Labor Day, but quickly thinned out on Tuesday. So surprised how many young parents brought toddlers and infants out in the hot sun. Many were on day hikes through the canyon.  Germans, Italians, French and Indian were more numerous than Americans during the week. No complaints here…

Happy to see water flowing down the Virgin River throughout the park. Cottonwood Trees were just starting to turn yellow in some parts, but still weeks away from gorgeousness. I enjoyed seeing all of the sagebrush growing everywhere.

"Utah boasts over 200 species of birds" was what we heard while riding the shuttle. I believe it was a mistake, and they meant to say 200 total birds… Birding was tough, and single birds were hard to come by. But some of the highlights included: Common Ravens, a Great-tailed Grackle that was falling apart in the mid-day heat, Peregrine Falcons soaring over the canyon, Black-chinned Hummingbirds zipping by every once in a while, Lesser Goldfinch and Eurasian Collared-Doves were more visible in Springdale.  I was excited Tuesday evening to see a Say's Phoebe, Black Phoebe, Western Tanager, Mourning Dove, and Black-chinned Hummingbirds in a 5-minute span near the Bit and Spur Restaurant.


Great-tailed Grackle w/ serious feather issues

Black Phoebe in the black
Red-tailed Hawk

Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk

Lesser Goldfinch

Western Scrub Jay
Kolob Canyon was a nice morning drive on Wednesday. I managed to get photos of Western Scrub Jays, White-throated Swifts, Clark's Nutcracker, and see Stellar's Jay, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Red-tailed Hawks.  A covey of Gambell's Quail was a nice find on the way back to Springdale!



Clark's Nutcracker

White-throated Swift

Gambell's Quail




While photographing a Black Phoebe trying to bash the brains out of a hummingbird moth that it caught, I saw a small woodpecker fly by in the late evening sky. When I overexposed the images of the bird, I was able to ID a Red-cockaded Woodpecker! They are found in the region, so not an unusual find, but a great bird anytime.


Red-cockaded Woodpecker?



If you want to test your photographic prowess, try photographing the tiny (Brown?) bats flying through the sky at sundown. I took over 300 pics and had only 1 sharp enough to keep. I added a blurry spread-winged shot as a composite just to show the subject.  Dozens of them were flying over the parking lot in Springdale, so it was very enjoyable just watching them.


This photo is a bit soft, but the Greater Roadrunner was captured at 1377mm hand-held!

We stayed at the Palazzo in Las Vegas Thursday nite before flying back to Detroit on Friday. Connected via boardwalk to the Venetian, the place was huge, and our best navigation of the place occurred when we walked outside the hotel to find the Walgreens and restaurants we wanted to try. Lots of $$$ in this place. I tried to play a couple of $0.25 slots, but I would've had to buy credits. Too much work. Spectacular view of Las Vegas and Trump Tower from our 47th floor room. 

I may have seen a Ferruginous Hawk as we drove out of Utah and into Arizona, but I couldn't stop. It was a 'white-headed' raptor on a light pole with reddish feathering (legs?) on the underbelly.


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