Sunday, January 31, 2016

Brambling! - 30 Jan 2016

Since it was first spotted by Dan Bertsch below his feeders in Medina County, OH on 19 Dec 2015, this Brambling (Fringilla montifringillahas been THE bird to see in Ohio. I was late to the game, but this morning I decided to drive the 2.5 hrs to Allardale Park on Remsen Rd. in Medina, OH to look for the Brambling, which was reported again yesterday making its routine stop at the last house on the left just before entering the park. This bird represents a 2nd State Record for Ohio.

I've always said that the quality of the bird is inversely proportional to the quality of the photos that record it, and I took some truly bad photos today. Therefore, it must be a great bird...

However, in my (and everyone else's) defense, shooting conditions were not that favorable. Distance (150') indirect sunlight, shade, and traffic made sharp digiscoping images difficult. But I'm satisfied that I got enough fair images to describe the bird: a medium-sized finch with mottled-brown-gray-black hood, thick yellow bill with a black tip, orange chest and shoulder patches, white belly with dark spotted flanks, brown back with black and white wing bars. From the back you can see dark stripes on either side of the gray-brown neck.

Native to Europe and Asia this finch is known for its somewhat gregarious migration behavior. Scattered records are found in North America each year, but typically only in the northernmost latitudes like Greenland and Alaska. Interestingly enough, Michigan has 5 State Records with the most recent coming from Alcona Co. in April 2015 (same bird?).

I arrived at the house just before 8:30 am and learned that the bird hadn't been seen since yesterday afternoon. Mr. Bertsch came out and chatted with us for a few minutes before heading off on errands, and the bird arrived at about 9:55 am. I managed a few digiscoped images of it while it foraged on the ground among American Tree Sparrows, American Goldfinches, and House Finches. It then flew to the bushes next to the house a perched for a few moments before flying off in the direction of the park. Among other birds seen were Red-winged Blackbirds, Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and Dark-eyed Juncos, including on partially-leucistic bird.

Lord I was born a Bramblin' Man, 
Tryin' to get an image and doin' the best I can,
And when it''s time for leavin', I
I hope you'll understand,
That I digiscoped it, man

Monday, January 25, 2016

Harris' Sparrow Up Close - 24 Jan 2016

After digiscoping the Purple Finches and House Finches behind the house I was fortunate to get a visit by the Harris' Sparrow. It foraged for a few minutes in the morning sun and provided some great digiscoped looks before flying off with the rest of the flock.

Purple vs. House Finch, Pt. II - 24 Jan 2016

I took the scope outside for the first time since mid-October. With the Golden-crowned and Harris' Sparrows visiting the feeders I've been doing all of my digiscoping and photographing through a window. It gets me close to the birds without spooking them, but windows make horrible filters and result in softer-than-normal images. But, Purple Finches have arrived, and the sun was shining for the first time in ages, so I needed to do some real digiscoping.

I crouched near the back of the house and waited for the birds to arrive. While waiting I could hear a cacauphony of Dark-eyed Juncos from the woods nearby, and a flock of six Eastern Bluebirds flew overhead. The first Northern Cardinal song heralded a hint of spring!

I'd seen a pair of female/juvenile Purple Finches the past several days, but had yet to have seen a male. Until now. A pair of bright, cranberry-colored males flew in and foraged among the male House Finches and made for a nice study in contrast. Note the lack of brown belly and flank streaks and the red coloration that extends up onto the wings and back. The House Finch males are redder in coloration with distinct brown streaks on the lower belly and flanks.

The females are more distinctly different, as described in previous posts.

A Few Raptor Moments - 23 Jan 2016

I drove out to Willow Run Airport in Romulus, MI (Wayne Co.) to look for Snowy Owls (nope) and possible Rough-legged Hawks (yep). A single, light-phased juvenile Rough-legged Hawk was kiting over the berms just south of the airport service road. Unfortunately it was severely backlit and provided only poor looks.

A pair of Red-tailed Hawks were perched next to each other at the foot of Tyler Rd, but flushed as I drove near. I could only manage a quick flight shot as they both flew off. One perched momentarily before continuing on. I felt bad that my presence disturbed them...

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Purple Finches Up Close! - 19 Jan 2016

I walked in the door just a few minutes ago and looked out the back window. Just under the window were a pair of Purple Finches foraging for sunflower oilers in the mulch pile. With the scope ready at the go I took a few minutes to get some digiscoped images of the two 'apparent' females. Upon closer inspection, one appeared to be a juvenile male that is starting its transition from juvenal plumage to adult plumage.

First, the apparent female Purple Finch. Note the bold white eyestripe that differentiates it from the similar-but-slightly duller female House Finch that has a more muted pattern. Feather color is brown with just a tinge of yellow against white belly and flank feathers. Leading edges of primary feathers show some green-yellow coloration when viewed up close.

The second Purple Finch showed similar patterning of feathers, but is starting to show the cranberry coloration that is apparent in the adult male birds. This bird appears to be transitioning into a adult male plumage? Time will tell...

They would flush moments later when a Cooper's Hawk flew in and landed in the back forty.

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