Wednesday, March 11, 2009

County line waterfowl spots

Spring has definitely sprung here in SE Wisconsin along the Racine and Walworth County lines. This has prompted renewed checking of my various favorite local lakes, ponds, and puddles in search of the latest migrant waterfowl and/or shorebirds that may have dropped in. Today was no exception, and I checked 11 of the highlighted locations below. Many of them yielded nothing, but most held at least something of interest.
Probably the best bird for this area was a lone Tundra Swan that I actually saw yesterday fly low over my house heading west. Today I checked the large wetland complex between STH 20 and Honey Creek Rd (labeled "Game Farm Wetlands on the above map) and out among the geese was a single swan with a black beak that I presume (bins only) was the same Tundra that buzzed my house previously.
Other things of note included Northern Pintail at 2 locations, Wood Duck at 3 locations, Hooded Merganser at 3 locations, Common Goldeneye at 2 locations, and Redhead (5), Northern Shoveler (3), Gadwall, Common Merganser (18), and Cackling Goose (2) at one location each. Last week this same loop produced Ring-necked Duck (3) and Lesser Scaup additionally.

One of my favorite parts of this season is that the ducks don't really have many places to go so with a little caution you can often get digi-bined shots of these birds without ever having to get out of the vehicle or even have a scope along. Both photos were taken today through my Vortex Razor 8x42s.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Lesser Canada Goose

I've been checking the same stretch of Sugar Creek near Burlington several times a week in the hopes it will yield more interesting geese. The numbers have been quite impressive for the location (over 4500 yesterday evening) but have been low on diversity since I first found Cackling Geese there a couple of weeks ago. Today I saw a goose that was definitely smaller than the surrounding Canada's but whose beak just wasn't small enough for it to make the cut for a Cackling Goose.
It was very interesting when reviewing my photos of the bird of how marked the difference head angle made when comparing the relative length of the beak compared to the width of the head. I cropped in on two images taken one after the other to illustrate this point (both on the left). Not only does the second shot make the bird look smaller beaked but it also appears to accentuate how steep the forehead is on the bird! Now even the second shot appears to have too long of a beak to be a Cackling, but it is reasonably close (comparison head shot of a Cackling Goose on the right that I photographed at the same location on 2/16)! Here are a few more size comparison shots of the Lesser Canada with other Canada's (presumably Giants).