Monday, October 15, 2018

On-line Optics store

Potentially an on-line resource, Land Sea & Sky, follows our loss of Eagle Optics over a year ago.

I learned about this company from advertising on the back cover of the most recent North American Birds, Vol 70: No. 2, 2018.   I checked out the website.  Product line seems limited and product details wanting, but some of the bins and scopes are those desired by birders.  I think it's worth checking. Products and product details can always be added.  It seems like brick and mortar optic offerings are very limited with most offerings designed for hunters.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

A day in the park

That is Central Park.  Last weekend I went to a hematology conference in NYC, specifically, mid-town Manhattan.  From the hotel that hosts the conference it's only a 14 block walk to the eastern edge of the park.  From inside the park it's approximately another 15 block walk to the Ramble.  

I am trying to think of the number of times I have visited the park as a birder - perhaps 3 or 4 times - and I would recommend to any birder.    

Rapidly moving stream which attracted birds in the trees overhead.

Female or hatch year American Redstart

This looks to me like a hatch-year cardinal or an adult female with worn feathers.

Acrobatic Black and White warbler on a log over a small stream.

I saw approximately seven Wood Thrushes. 

Robins are plentiful in the park - here a still spotted youngster.

Typically I photograph American Robins in the springtime.  I have never seen an autumn robin or got a photo of one with such obviously worn feathers.


Magnolia warbler in flight

Always charming and cooperative - Gray Catbird

Tree with fruit


Crouching cat

The Obelisk

Approaching the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the three bears statue.

Cultivar orchids in the museum's Japanese meditation garden.

The only dragonfly I saw all day - and somewhat unappealing poem below.

One of the fountains that bracket the stairs to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Belle Isle

A few shots from Belle Isle on Sunday, 09/16/18 - with the exception of a couple of Magnolia warblers an otherwise very slow day.  This is race season at Belle Isle so the place was mobbed.

Alas, the DNR/State of Michigan is taking a very long time to complete their projects on the island.  For my money the jury is still out whether or not they have made improvements.  On a couple of visits to the park this past summer, I saw essentially no dragonflies.  There are a lot more visitors to Belle Isle, which on the surface is a good thing, but I couldn't help but notice that the park with filthy with liter - worse than I have ever seen it in the past 14 years.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Four Tex Wells stories

  Long time Washtenaw Co. resident and avid birder Tex Wells has passed. He was 96. His ashes are to be spread in one of his favorite birding spots, Sabine Woods, TX. No service is being held.
Take care, Sean

The above post to the Michigan list serve many subscribe to prompted me to make this post from the response posts that came in.  With all the mixed text, etc. this post will seem a little multi-media-ish with the various print styles, etc., but you'll read why I had to make the post to save the stories.  All were posted in the past 2-3 days in response to Sean's message of Tex Wells death.

Below from Mark Wloch:

I'm not one to save posts to birders in an archive folder, but I do have one saved post from the past.  It's Tex's brief report of a Washtenaw County Rufous Hummingbird.  It gave me a chuckle at the time. 

I arrived at ----- Whippoorwill Lane at 2:43 pm today and the bird showed up at the feeder at the house next door at 3:27 pm.  It fed for perhaps a minute, then disappeared.  I disappeared a couple of minutes later.

- Tex Wells

Also from Mark Wloch:

Mark wrote the following, very enjoyable, blog post featuring Tex.  Although a Rufous Hummingbird is also mentioned in this post, I don't think it was the same bird that sparked Tex's brief report above.  Mark lived in Wayne County when a Rufous hummer showed up in his yard.

Sycamore Warbler:  Just like Tex said

From your's truly, I offered the following memory:

I didn't know Tex nearly nearly as well as many but there was a brief period of time - maybe about 9-10 years ago so he would have been around 86 or 87 then - when I got to hang out with him occasionally and got to know him a little.  

Tex wanted to get a good start on his Michigan year list - "seen birds only, no heard birds" because he couldn't hear - and he had several targets in mind that could be seen on Lathe Claflin's and Gary Siegrist's February Soo trip that year.  He didn't feel he could make the drive all the way to the Soo and back by himself so he enlisted me as the driver of his car for the trip. "Don't worry, I'll pay for the gas, the motel, everything." When I protested that he didn't need to pay for my motel room he replied, "Why not?  After all, I'm not saving for the future anymore." 

From Washtenaw Audubon President Juliet Berger below:

Birders are known for our dry sense of humor about birding, a somewhat humorous hobby.  Tex was masterful at the art of writing silly reports about birding outings, without cracking a smile.  Below is an example of his writing, circa 1975, after a nasty, cold trip to Magee Marsh, then known as Crane Creek.  We mourn our oldest Washtenaw Audubon member's death today. We'll miss you Tex!

Juliet Berger
President, Washtenaw Audubon Society

Click on the report image to open and read the entire report.

There are many things to notice about Tex's field trip report.  I editorialize a little.

1.  So happy I figured out how to transfer the copy of Tex's original report to my blog.  Tex's report was perfectly typed on a manual typewriter for the very old-style Washtenaw Audubon newsletter - probably mimeographed.  It's a visual thing.  None of us will ever again read another field trip report written with a manual typewriter unless it's from the archives.

2.  I can only imagine how different Ottawa Refuge and Crane Creek must have been back in 1975 - over 40 years ago.

3.  For how terrible the weather was, the participants of this 1975 field trip certainly saw a lot of birds.

4.  Tex lists the birds seen with lower-case letters.  I think nowadays most would write out the birds names with uppercase spelling.  He was also fond of punctuating with commas. 

5.  This field trip report is all Tex Wells.  His droll humor and sharp wit never changed.  He was so much fun to be with.

RIP Tex.  You've left your mark, will not be forgotten and will be missed.     

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Final thoughts on Tilghman Island

Many years ago when I lived in Baltimore friends and I rented a rustic old waterman's house each summer on Fishing Creek off the Little Choptank River outside of Cambridge in Dorchester County.  For short we called our rental Town Point for the road driven from Cambridge to get there.  I rented it with the same friends who were able to join me on this vacation.  At Town Point we'd pick our weeks to stay but would usually be joined by the other renters in addition to other invited friends.  The house was one of those places where there were many sleeping nooks and crannies and nearly every other horizontal surface could also be used for a bed.  I always slept on the screened-in porch.  I could listen to the Chuck-will's Widows calling incessantly (music to my ears) and it was also on the porch where I heard my one and only Black Rail calling throughout the night (magic).  On Friday evenings, after work, we would join the thousands of other Eastern Shore lovers for the made dash down the I-97 and over the Bay Bridge for the weekend.  Then on Sunday mid or late afternoon we would  join the traffic for the drive back to Baltimore.   For the ten years my friends rented it, I think I was in on the rental for six or seven of those years.  I have so many memories from that experience that will always make the Eastern shore of Maryland special to me.       

This year I got a bee in my bonnet to return to the Eastern shore for my birthday.  My b-day was always my chosen week for a Town Point stay. Sometime in late winter or early spring (late for these kind of searches) I got on-line and began looking for rentals.  Most of the rentals cost a lot and slept tons of people.  But then I found this little cottage on Tilghman Island and snapped it up.  There were only four available nights to select from during my birthday week which was perfect, although when the time came to leave I wished for a couple more days. Perfectly situated, cute little place right on Harris's Creek.  The Eastern shore is always hot, humid and sunny this time of year.  It's also mosquito heaven (my body bears the evidence) and all sorts of other good things - see my three prior posts.  I went swimming every day (got bit on the toe by a blue crab), ran every morning, searched for dragonflies and birds and found plenty.  The rest of the time was just hanging out with friends.

Sweet little cottage.

The next door neighbors had an Osprey nest at the end of their pier.

We made a visit to one of our favorite antique stores, Foxwell's in Easton, and then went on to Blackwater NWR where we visited the new Harriet Tubman (born into slavery in this area) museum. I recommend a visit here for everyone.  We didn't go by the Town Point cabin because it was quite a bit out of our way and cannot be seen from the road anyway.

After our visit to the Harriet Tubman museum, we drove around Blackwater NWR and ended up on Hooper's Island for a late lunch/early dinner.  Hooper's Island is a place which maintains its strong regional identity and where one can see the workings of people who have spent all their lives on the water.

Our final day was Saturday, the 28th and we spent the day just lazing around - reading, swimming, eating leftovers and playing bridge.  An old black lab from one of the other houses on the road came around with his chewed up tennis ball and to beg for food.  I went to the very end of Tilghman Island for dragonflies and found some good ones. Sunday, the 29th, we had to be out by 10:00 am.  Thus ended my Tilghman Island visit for 2018.  I hope I can return next year. 

Sunday, July 29, 2018

More TI dragonflies and other things

Try getting a decent photo of a tiny, finicky black dragonfly in bright sunlight.  It's difficult.  Over the course of three days I worked hard to get the photos below.  It looks like a meadowhawk.  It acted like a meadowhawk.  But Black Meadowhawk (Sympetrum danae) is a northern fresh water species.  Definitely not where I was on this trip.  

A little out-of-focus.

Pretty beat up.

Above and two below:  my best attempts.

Abdomen looking a little clubby.

Maybe my best shot.  So what is it?

It's the female of the species that made this dragonfly identifiable.

Much more cooperative, easier to photograph in the bright sun and a real beauty.

Seaside Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax berenice).  So common in all the locations I visited.

Above and below:  Holy cow, what is this beat-up old dragon?  Believe it or not, I am going to make a guess - Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans) - going further, possibly female.  I'll submit to Odonata Central to see if the regional expert will concur.  It was a large dragonfly and the behavior and habitat are suited to the ID.  Curiously, it was the photo in the tiny beginner's Stokes guide that clued me in to consider GBS.

*Addendum added 07/30/2018:  My ID of this dragonfly confirmed by Michael Boatwright of Odonata Central with the following decision note:  Very mature female.     

I've seen Great Blue Skimmer once before and they are beautiful dragonflies especially, I think, the female.  Poor thing.  Certainly on her last legs.  It's kind of an honor to have seen her at this stage of life and to have gotten a couple of photos.

Several fresh Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) butterflies were around but were perching with wings closed.  Underwing pattern nothing like upper wing, but still attractive.

Above and below: male Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) perched in obelisking position.

Above and two below:  the female version of either Golden-winged (L. auripennis) vs. Needham's (L.  needhami) skimmer.*  I sent my photos of the presumed male Golden-winged Skimmer to Odonata Central. The photos, write-up and location were acknowledged but the identification could not be confirmed (see prior blog entry).  The only thing confirmed was my over confidence in making my identification.  I have submitted two of these photos to see if the female of the species may give new ID hints.

*Addendum added 07/31/2018:  Needham's Skimmer confirmed by Odonata Central reviewer Mike Moore with the following decision note:  Submitted as GW Skimmer. Dark proximal costa contrasting with bright distal costa and tan legs indicate Needham's Skimmer.

I wonder if this female Needham's Skimmer confirms that the males I saw were also Needham's Skimmers.  Made me also wonder if, with the geographical and habitat overlap, there might be a lot of hybridization between the Libellula species Golden-winged and Needham's.

The photo above was taken at the Harriet Tubman Museum and State Park just outside Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County.  It's a terrible photo for sure.  I was shooting up - never good for a dragonfly photo (and no, not that kind of shooting up) - but I took the photo because I wanted to confirm that it was a Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina).  It was.  Outside of the museum, there were so many dragonflies flying around that I could have been occupied for a couple of hours taking photos. But I was with friends who have no interest such things, so this quick photo was an indulgence.

I got one shot of this bluet damselfly.  The bluets are beautiful and common, but nearly impossible to identify from photos.  Having acknowledged this, I found this damsel in a marshy area - as many areas are on Tilghman Island.  Could this be a Marsh Bluet (Enallagma ebrium)?*  Curiously, the 2011 Paulson's book does not show the Marsh Bluet extending into Maryland's eastern shore. However, the 2002 tiny Stokes guide does.  I submitted this to Odonata Central as an Unknown Damselfly.

*Addendum added 07/31/2018:  Confirmed by Mike Moore of Odonata Central with the following decision note:  Pale stripe on carina and points to all black marks are key field marks for Big Bluet.  

Marsh Bluet may not have been a bad guess, but the Big Bluet (Enallagma durum) is truly a coastal species.

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) in shallow, tidal water.  Also numerous this trip and a pleasure to see.

Dun Skipper (Euphyes vestris)?  Just a guess.  Dun Skipper is our most widespread, plain brown skipper.

Above and below:  Spot-winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea).  This was the only time I saw the Spot-winged.  A first for me and exciting to find. All week long I saw many Wandering Gliders (P. flavescens), but I never considered seeing the equally widespread and, I think, very different Spot-winged.

Maryland crab boat plying the waters off the tip of Tilghman Island.

Unusual to see perched, but if I have to guess it would be Wandering Glider (P. flavescens).  What else could it be?  They were so numerous all four days that it stands to reason one would be seen perched sooner or later.  Incidentally, Wandering Glider is a truly worldwide species.  

The brightest and most beautifully marked female* (see below) Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) I have ever seen.  So much so that initially I thought I was seeing a new species for me.  I was disappointed when I realized it was not but just goes to show, with dragonflies as with anything else in life, how important it is to pay attention.  

Addendum added 07/30/2018:  My species ID of this dragonfly confirmed by Michael Boatwright of Odonata Central with the following decision note:  Immature male. 

Go figure!

I think this may be Hibiscus lasiocarpos, known as the hairy-fruited hibiscus or rose-mallow, a self-compatible herbaceous perennial native to fresh and brackish marshes of the southern and eastern United States.

Postscript:  For readers at all interested in dragonflies and damselflies, I highly recommend the Princeton Field Guide Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East by Dennis Paulson, copyright 2011 by Princeton University Press.  If you live in the west, Paulson also published a completely separate West edition of this guide.  Secondary to the nature of odonata the book is not an identification gimme, say such as a bird field guide might be.  But, the challenge of identifying odonata is completely absorbing and Paulson's book goes a long way to help.  

There is a paradox when looking for odonata.  Unless one is going to net a specimen and send the voucher to a natural history museum collection or such (I don't do this), one must have a decent camera, i.e. not an iPhone.  A good point and shoot with built in zoom, as I have, will serve you well.  The paradox is that many dragonflies or damselflies cannot be identified by photo alone.  This is endorsed by my photos of male Golden-winged vs. Needham's skimmer identification. 

Finally, I have been using for posting my sightings since September, 2016 when I posted three photos of a Shadow Darner photographed in northern Idaho.  After this trip, it's my new favorite website.  For my questionable IDs, both regional experts, Mike Moore and Michael Boatwright, added decision notes that I have included as addendums on this blog.  So helpful.

And so much fun!