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...

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