Thursday, December 20, 2007
I spent the rest of the day driving various back roads in the area looking for sparrow flocks and open country birds. I had a hard time finding the true open country birds (horned lark, lapland longspur, and snow bunting) for most of the day and I'd only managed two small flocks of Horned Larks totaling 17 birds. Late in the day I did manage to find three Snow Buntings in a recently developed farm field that was fallow in preparation for a housing development... Later on I also saw a distant flock of 15 Snow Buntings where I normally find lapland longspur (whiffed on them this year).
The other major highlight of the day was a flock of 24 Eastern Bluebirds that I stumbled across...quite a large number for winter here.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
From: "Tom PRESTBY"
Date: Tue, 28 Aug 2007 09:09:33 -0500
Sean Fitzgerald and I went on a birding trip to southern Arizona and Southern California for the past week. We flew into Tuscon on Saturday the 18th and rented a car and in the next week we worked our way through Arizona and California to the San Diego/ Orange County, CA area. It was a great trip in which we each saw dozens of life birds and many amazing places. The following are the day by day highlights.
Saturday, August 18
After getting the car in Tuscon we stopped at Sweetwater Wetlands/ Rogers Rd Pond but since it was the heat of the day things were slow. We went to Madera Canyon and birded there until dark. The feeders at the Santa Rita lodge had a lot of Broad-billled & Black-chinned Hummingbirds with a few female Magnificents. Other normal feeder birds such as Lesser Goldfinch, Bridled Titmouse, and White-winged Dove were abundant. A walk up the vault mine trail was pretty quiet but produced our first mixed warbler flock of the trip including over 15 Black-throated Grays and several Grace's Warblers and Painted Redstarts. As the temp dropped a little we headed down towards Proctor road where we found Sean's lifer Varied Buntings, Black-throated Sparrows, and a Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher. Just down the road Cassin's and Botteri's Sparrows were singing and putting on a great show very close to the road.
Sunday, August 19
Dusky-capped Flycatchers (the only ones of the trip). Next stop was at the Ash Canyon B&B where we leisurely watched tons of feeding humingbirds including our lifer Lucifer and a Violet-crowned which was a lifer for Sean. Just up the road at Beattys feeders we had an astounding look at a male White-eared Hummingbird and many nice looks at Magnificent, female Blue-throated, and several others. The Patagonia roadside rest was rather quiet-- just a few YB Chats and Bell's Vireos calling, a Western Tanager in the trees and a Peregrine Falcon on the rock face. Kino Springs was much more productive-- we immediately found the family of Gray
Monday, August 20
Tuesday, August 21
We spent the whole day at the Salton Sea in the Imperial Valley of SE California. On the way to the sea we stopped on a small town and we found a few Inca Doves accompanied by Sean's life
burrowing owls lined the roadside ditches, and thousands of White-faced Ibis filled the wet fields for their morning feeding. The sheer volume of shorebirds was absolutely amazing, definitely a shock to the system of anybody used to shorebirding in Wisconsin. There were at least 6000 American Avocets, 4000 BN Stilts, 7000 Western Sandpipers, 800 Long-billed Curlews,
500 Marbled Godwits, 75 Willets, and large numbers of many more species. The shorebirds were not the only group that impressed, the waders put in a great showing as well with at least
Wednesday, August 22
We started the day at the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve near Palm Springs. There were many feeders set up which attracted several new birds for us including Costa's Hummingbird, California Towhees and Nuttal's Woodpeckers. A walk around the preserve yielded many more new birds including California Thrasher and a family of Western Bluebirds. In the early afternoon we took the tram up to the top of the San Jacinto mtns. Unfortunately, a lot of the
area was closed because of a fire but we were still able to find a White-headed Woodpecker and a couple migrant Pacific-slope Flycatchers among other more common high elevation birds. Towards dusk we drove up the San Bernardino Mtns and stopped at a few pullouts along the way. At one stop a covey of quail which were almost certianly Mountain Quail managed to escape into dense brush without a good look but we did have a nice look at an Oak Titmouse. As we set up camp we were serenaded by a Common Poorwill and 2 Great-horned Owls.
Thursday, August 23
Another day spent in the San Bernardinos after a crisp low of 47 degrees. Highlights in our morning of birding in these mountains included excellent looks at 2 different coveys of Mountain Quail,
scrubby oak/chapparal habitat. The feeders were active with Oak Titmice, Spotted & California Towhees, and Dark-eyed (Oregon) Juncos. We walked the extensive trail system and had a great look at a pair of Wrentits, another covey of Mountain Quail, a California Thrasher, and many more common chapparal species. The last stop of the day was at San Jacinto Wildlife
area. We searched the many Red-winged and Brewers Blackbirds but could not find any Tricoloreds except for 2 birds that Sean saw flying in a flock of Red-wingeds while I was scoping something else. On the small auto tour we ran into a covey of 8 California Quail- a lifer for me and our only CA Quail of the whole trip!
Friday, August 24
We spent the day birding with David Vander Pluym and Leigh Johnson (see her blog post on our visit here) who live in the LA area. We started at Point La Jolla in San Diego where we conducted a 2 hour seawatch. We didnt see as many seabirds as we were hoping to but we had fairly nice looks at several Black-vented
more places in the San Diego area and picking up
Yesterday afternoon and this morning were excellent at Tawas Point State Park (Iosco County).
Highlights of 5/23:
Whimbrel - 300+ located at tip of the point and only present until about 3:30PM when a young couple walked all the way out to the end of the point. The Whimbrel all took off and headed west over the bay. Jim Stevens reported seeing the birds from the McDonald's parking lot as the flew past at the same time.
Northern Mockingbird - seen briefly on my way out to the point and observed again out at the tip flying out to the islands and back to the lighthouse. "Record shot" on right...
Yellow-breasted Chat - Heard about 200 yards in from the actual point and briefly observed near the stand of Jack Pine on the bay side of the point.
Highlights of 5/24:
Summer Tanager - a first year male was seen and heard all along the point during the am
Northern Mockingbird - continued and was very noticeable as it called and flew up and down the point
Red Knot - 2 birds out at the tip of the point
Piping Plover - a single adult out at the tip of the point as well
Connecticut Warbler - a male was heard singing near the tip at about 10AM and then briefly seen
Dickcissel - 2 birds feeding in the "Horseshoe" Jack Pine stand about half way out
21 warbler species for the two days (including 5 Mourning - 5/24 and Prothonotary on the morning of the 23rd that I didn't see), Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, Red-headed Woodpeckers, White-rumped Sandpiper, Black-bellied Plover (~50), American Wigeon, Merlin, and Philadelphia Vireos. I haven't totaled the species list for the two days, but it was my best two days ever at a migrant trap.
Two days later, a "Tropical Kingbird" was reported from Tawas in the afternoon and I dashed down there for what would have been a life bird. It turned out to be a much more regionally unexpected and rare Couch's Kingbird which I was able to enjoy with numerous other birders that evening. I also spotted an Eastern Screech-Owl roosting in the midst of one of the Jack Pines out towards the end of the point, apparently a very rare bird out on the point... This was also the first red morph ESOW I've personally observed.
Gervase and Ann Orton had met me on one of my Kirtland’s Warbler tours this past summer in Grayling, MI. We had hit it off nicely and they were privileged enough to hear the first Black-billed Cuckoo of the year at the site that morning in early June. They had generously extended an invitation to put me up and show me around in
I don’t know the names of most of the places we went so my account will be rather limited by that. Suffice it to say that we birded some outstanding areas in the course of the next three days. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to keep my eyes open as we got into the afternoon of the Monday as I’d been up for close to 48 hours with only about 4 hours worth of naps. So we weren’t able to bird as many areas as we could have conceivably been able to if I had been able to keep my eyes open a few more hours!
One of the highlights of Monday’s birding was an area on the coast where we were looking over these cliffs and had Northern Fulmars less than 30 feet away as they glided on the updrafts over the cliff where they were nesting. Looking down on the beach and the tidal flats held foraging parties of Bar-tailed Godwits, Eurasian Oystercatchers, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Grey Plover, and Common Redshank. The stiff winds (30mph plus) prevented us from locating very much on the sea but the great looks at fulmar were really quite a treat. A stop by some sugar beet fields on our way to the bungalow yielded a resting flock of Pink-footed Geese (~1000+) along with 6 Whooper Swans. Some open country roads also yielded a good sized flock of Yellowhammers (a bright yellow bunting) with a few Corn Buntings also tagging along with the flock. My first European Golden Plovers flew over while we were here too. We lucked out with a nice Red Kite that flew over town not a mile from the Bungalow in Little Snoring – one of the rarer birds we saw during my three days in the area and probably our best self-found bird. A female Stonechat was seen near a flock of Fieldfare, both of these species are winterers and it was problematic whether we would be able to find these species or whether they would have already headed north. We saw a lot of other common species (like the Dunnock pictured to the left) before heading to the bungalow so I could take a short nap and we could head back out. That turned into an all afternoon nap and I was woken by Gervase at 6PM for supper as they said I was dead asleep at 3 when they tried to awake me. We had a great supper which included parsnip which is sort of a sweet legume. Unlike anything I’d tasted before and quite good. Turns out Ann is quite the cook and she either packed us nice sandwiches and pack lunches for our days out so we were never wanting for food or treats. Some sort of pudding with nutmeg and raisons was our desert and the next morning I had Crumpets – a sort of English muffin meets pancake – very difficult to describe but quite delicious. I also had the beloved
Tuesday we hit up several woodlands trying to target some of the songbirds that are found in
Wednesday was a rather gloomy looking day when we first got up (remarkably the first day I wasn’t seeing the sun – quite the feat in March in
We then went to Abbey Farm to look for a little owl that is supposed to be very reliable – haha. We spent over 2 hours waiting for the bird to stick its head out of a root bundle with no luck. We did finally catch up with Stock Dove here – the wild version of a Rock Pigeon basically – only rather tough to find when you actually go looking for them it seemed. Many Gadwall were present in this pond and we had nice looks at a lot of other species like Red-legged Partridge, Egyptian Goose, Redwing, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Eurasian Jay, and Northern Lapwing (pictured right), Eurasian Curlew that we had seen along the way but this gave us more opportunities to enjoy them. We finally left with about 45 minutes of light left to try for golden pheasant – a species we had tried for on Monday at midday with no luck. We arrived at the golden pheasant spot with about 35 minutes of daylight left and waited for most of it without seeing more than a couple of Goldcrests (the old-world equivalent of Golden-crowned Kinglet – which sound almost identical) when Gervase spotted a pheasant walk across the road behind us – a quick look in the fading light revealed that it was indeed a male Golden Pheasant – what a magnificent bird. About a 10 second look and it and disappeared into the brush on the other side of the road.
Thursday morning Ann took me to the Peterborough train station where she helped me negotiate the delays that were associated with the Scottish Signal Workers strike which nicely coincided with the one day in the year that I would be traveling via rail in Scotland… Due to the disruptions I was able to catch an earlier train that had been delayed over an hour and basically left when I was scheduled to out of Peterborough. The train trip was really rather nice as I had basically four seats to myself and they have a plug for the laptop and I’ve typed up my whole report thus far on the trip. We are about 30 minutes out from
Friday we headed for the Scottish highlands in search of some of the specialties like the highly sought after capercaille, the endemic Scottish crossbill, and crested tit. We started the day out quite well finding a distant Black Grouse out along the grassy edge of distant heather. A couple of Eurasian Siskins also flew over at this point, unfortunately they were the only one’s of the trip. Pheasant were abundant and we even saw a couple of Green Pheasant – a very striking looking subspecies of the more common Ring-necked Pheasant. Continuing on we moved up into higher elevation where there was more bare rock visible along with some snow cover. We began scanning for Ptarmigan (Rock Ptarmigan to those of us in the
Saturday was my last day of birding in the
The following morning Torcuil drove me down to Edinburgh airport and I caught a British Airways 757 down to Heathrow where I was able to connect to O’hare without issue. All in all an excellent trip and one where 123 different species bumped into me, 53 of which were lifers!
A photo of me scanning the North Sea for seabirds in coastal Scotland (taken by Torcuil).
The first three days we birded some of the best regions in England for waterbirds and we saw a good number of birders while we were out. I was fortunate to experience atypical March weather my entire time in the UK and it only rained once during my week there! The Norfolk area produced plenty of the typical birds as well as a few "rares" as the Brits like to call them (aka rarities for the US birders). Things like Dartford Warbler, Little Gull, and Red Kite were all seen.
Scotland was incredible and some of my highlights from there were Smew, Brambling, and Black Grouse (whiffed on all the Scottish specialty birds though...a definite reason to come back!).
A summary that I typed up is posted above...
The summer was spent in Grayling, MI leading the Kirtland's Warbler tours again for the USFWS/Michigan Audubon Society. I was able to make it over to Tawas Point State Park on Lake Huron for a few days and saw some good birds at that phenomenal site during my trips over there (summary above).
I led some private "specialty" tours up into the Upper Peninsula during the first three weekends in June. Connecticut Warbler, Black-backed Woodpecker, Spruce Grouse, Le Conte's Sparrow, Grey Jay, and other boreal targets were all targeted.
I also found a Western Meadowlark at one of the Le Conte's Sparrow locations which is not nearly as common in MI as it is in WI.
Following summer classes through the Au Sable Institute near Mancelona, Tom Prestby and I flew down to Tuscon and birded SE Arizona, the Salton Sea, and the southern CA coast during our week prior to classes starting up again. (summary below)
Once classes resumed I wasn't able to bird much. I literally was able to get out only a few times although I was fortunate enough to make a trip back to WI when the Green-breasted Mango showed up. Thanksgiving break I was able to bird a portion of a day and picked up the returning Mew Gull at South Metro piers in Oak Creek for the fifth consecutive year.
In the week preceding finals I was sitting in a Panera Bread shop studying and I looked out the window to see a large (~200) flock of Common Redpolls landing in the weedy field next to the parking lot. I hurried out to my car and pulled up right next to them. Among them was a very frosty male Hoary Redpoll - a long overdue life bird for me.
Last week I spent two days doing a winter trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario in search of gulls. Caleb Putnam typed up a very good summary so I will refer you to his blog for details on that trip. The King Eider that we refound was a long-time nemesis bird for me and was my only lifer of the trip. It was a subadult male, the only thing that could have been better would have been a full blown adult male...someday!
Above the falls, the sheer number of gulls can be partially seen in this photo as the seven species of gulls present at this particular location react to a subadult Bald Eagle flying over...