Thursday, July 30, 2015

San Francisco Birding - 22 Jul 2015

Western Gull w/ blue eyes!
Robin and I flew into San Francisco International Airport this morning via Delta Airlines. She is here for a weekend conference and I'm going to occupy myself with birds. I was glad I had Hertz Gold Membership thru work because there were 3 dozen people standing in line waiting for their cars. I could just head to the garage and go. The lines at Hertz were a sign of things to be, 'cause we soon learned what it was going to be like driving in SF...

We were going to try to drive by the Hilton Union Square then look for something to eat. It was soon very apparent that there are no parking spots in the entire city. So, we drove on and decided to go see Golden Gate Park. Still no place to park, so we drove on to Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the ocean. It turned out to be a great decision because we found a nice restaurant (Beach Chalet Restaurant) with a great view of the ocean, and it even had parking! We ate lunch while I scanned the shoreline for Western and California Gulls, Brandt's Cormorants, and Brown Pelicans.

Common Raven
From there we drove south along the coast and stopped just long enough to get some pics of the numerous Common Ravens and Brewer's Blackbirds hanging out along the coast. I tried to find a Band-tailed Pigeon among a couple dozen Rock Pigeons, but wasn't lucky enough.
Robin then decided that she wanted to see the famous Lombard Street and its twisting turns and steep hill driving. We took it downhill among the hundreds of tourists, and wondered how anyone could live on such steep roads. I think the nearby straight up and down streets were just as bad, especially when GPS kept kicking out while trying to get back to the hotel. Dinner at Johnny Foley's Irish Pub was a nice end to the day.

Rictal bristles are half the length of the culmen (upper bill).
On smaller Chihuahuan Ravens the rictal brushes are more than
half the length of the culmen.

Brewer's Blackbird

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bridgewater Birding - 11 Jul 2015

After breakfast and a quick run out at Lake Erie Metropark Robin and I arrived home shortly before 10 am. The sun was shining and forecasts called for mid 80's today, so it was a gorgeous day to be out. I decided to grab the scope and explore the community a little bit.

I drove over to Paradise Lane and Walloon Way and parked along the street. The fields north of the intersection were growing over but provided a nice mix of trees, emergent wetlands, and fields of Sweet White Clover. The white picket bridge goes over a tiny running stream and provides a nice natural setting for those folks entering the Del Webb Community of Bridgewater.

I headed into the field along the edge of the stream and worked my way through the grasses and wet soil to see what I might find. Red-winged Blackbirds were abundant and singing up ahead. Off in the distance I could hear a few Savannah Sparrows singing. Mosquitos weren't terribly bad, but I managed to feed a few as I moved through the wet surroundings.  A few Black-eyed Susans were starting to bloom nearby, so I stopped to photograph a few. Tiny flowers could be seen at my feet, including several varieties of Pinks and tiny Rudbeckia(?) button sunflowers. Daisy Fleabane and Chickory were blooming, as well!

I heard the "Peet-weet" of several Spotted Sandpipers and was surprised to see them flying low over the grass up ahead. A patch of the construction road was under water, and I suspected a nest nearby. I tried my best to photograph the birds as they flew by me in protest to my presence. I faired poorly...

Luckily, I had an easier prize nearby in the form of a Savannah Sparrow. It would perch in the clover just a few feet away and chatter away at me in the open. My only challenge was to get in position with the sun to my back so that the bird wasn't horribly backlit. I took a few photos of the bird w/ the Nikon D7100 and 300/2.8VRII before trying to do some digiscoping.

The bird was following me around, but keeping its distance, so I suspected that it too, had a nest nearby. I was able to get some wonderful digiscoped portraits of the bird in a variety of poses from just 20' away! The Nikon 1 V3 and Digidapter™did a great job capturing the bright yellow eyestripe and bold chest markings. I've been worried for these guys since the fields were mowed earlier in the week; I love hearing their "Tsit-tsit-tsitter-SEE-Say!" song.

I tried to spend as little time as possible near the bird so I didn't spook the nest, so I quickly moved on back toward the car. I found a small patch of Purple Coneflower and decided to photograph it with the D7100 (left), V3, and digiscope it for comparison.

I stopped by the stream and spotted a mink moving along the opposite bank! It stayed in the undergrowth, however, so I was not able to get any pics. But I was even more surprised to see small Ebony Jewelwing damselflies fluttering along the bank! These tiny black and iridescent green damselflies are arguably the loveliest of the 'odes' in Michigan. While digiscoping one little fella I spotted a Green Frog resting quietly in the background!

I then hiked back to the edge of the road and took a few pics of the shallow pond nearby. A Widow Skimmer dragonfly was resting nearby, so I digiscoped him. I was too slow to capture a large Green Darner dragonfly that was hovering just above the water...

I would pause just long enough to get some pics of some Liatris(?) spikes growing in the grass next to the pond. Their bright yellow anthers are confusing since most Blazing Stars do not have colorful anthers. I am "0" for suck when trying to ID these wildflowers, so if anyone can correct me, please do so!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Some New Visitors - 05 Jul 2015

I've moved the hummingbird feeder a bit closer to the house so that I could try to get better closeups of the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. This gorgeous male comes by every 20-30 minutes or so, and stays only seconds. Trying to capture that iridescent gorget is tricky!

Saw a Black-crowned Night Heron fly over the house this morning. That, and hearing a Black-billed Cuckoo behind the house brings the yard list to #51!

Despite their notorious nature, even a Brown-headed Cowbird can look very handsome in the right light.

This young Mourning Dove is showing lots of fresh feathers - check out those fringes!

The male Rose-breasted Grosbeak is starting to get used to the feeder. Its kinda odd that the male Ruby-throat seems to appear right after the male grosbeak does. Competition for best throat color???

Despite the hawk attack from a few nights ago, the Mallard family has taken up thistle-feeding the last several evenings. While mom holds sentry duty the young six frantically gobble up any thistle that is lying on the ground. They've been picking the ground clean!

A half-dozen young Red-winged Blackbirds have been coming to the feeder lately, including this stunning female! Check out that yellow!

All photos taken w/ the Nikon 1 V3 + FT1 Adapter + 300/2.8 VRII + 1.7TCIII ~ 1377 mm EFL.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Wayne Co. Dickcissels - 03 Jul 2015

I took an early morning drive out to Willow Run Airport in Romulus, MI to look for grassland birds. I was hoping to see an Upland Sandpiper or possibly a Grasshopper Sparrow, but was surprised to find two pair of Dickcissels along the south end of the airport!

The drive into the airport was met with the usual suspects: Savannah Sparrows and Eastern Meadowlarks were singing and could be seen either on the fence or flying over the grass. But I was surprised to hear the "Tsit-ser-ziiiii" of Grasshopper Sparrows coming from the large hills across from the airport. Though I waited for a long time the birds would never show. I would eventually see a pair of Grasshopper Sparrows about halfway up the hill singing on grass tips.

As I continued driving toward along the service drive I started hearing the 'drr-drr-dididi' of a Dickcissel! Sure enough, a large yellow sparrow landed on the fence and started singing "Dik-dik-cere-cere-cere'.

A second Dickcissel appeared on the opposite side of the road a short distance later. Another pair could be heard off in the grasslands across the fence line. I would spend the next half-hour or so photographing several birds from inside the car using the Nikon V3+FT1 Adapter attached to the 300/2.8VRII and 1.7TCIII (EFL~1377mm). What a nice morning!

I would dip on Upland Sandpipers, but not unexpected. Soybeans and oats have been planted all along the fence line where the sandpipers are normally seen, so they have either been driven away, or are hiding farther inside the airport proper. Allen Chartier did report a pair of them in early June...

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Some Fun w/ the Nikon 1 V3 - 28-30 Jun 2015

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
The Nikon 1 V3 with the FT1 Adapter is a great little camera, especially when coupled to a Nikon 300 mm f/2.8 VRII and TC17III Teleconverter. This combination provides an effective focal length of 1370 mm. And the results are most impressive!  Resolution is sharp, and color balance is wonderful.

Baltimore Oriole

I spent some time shooting the yard birds from inside the house with the window open and the rig attached to to a Manfrotto Tripod. Best results occur when you use manual-assisted autofocus. That is, manually focus the lens until the subject is almost in focus, then use the camera to lock autofocus. At 10-20 fps its easy to get sharp images. On a Jobu Jr. tripod head the camera swivels easily in all directions for following birds moving through the yard.

Northern Cardinal

Mourning Dove

fledgling House Sparrow

Common Grackle

House Finch


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