Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Broadwing migration in southeast Michigan

I'm very behind on posting the Broadwing Hawk migration in southeast Michigan.  Most of it happened the week before last - with Sunday, September 19th being not too bad.  

On Saturday, the 18th, broadwing migration over the Lake Erie hawkwatch was slow.  On Sunday, the 19th, things turned around.  I led a field trip to Lefurge Woods Nature Preserve on Sunday morning.  It was gray and overcast for most of the morning.  Then around 10:00 am some sun peaked out of the clouds and one of the field trip participants, 13 year old Sarah T., picked out a billowing kettle of hawks rising to catch a thermal in the southern sky.  It was spectacular and this wasn't even the hawkwatch.  Later we saw a couple more kettles and a few broadwings soared just over our heads.  

I liked the color and light of the sky.

Broadwing Hawk overhead

And another

The rest of the field trip was not too bad either.  A few warblers here and there, lots of Lincoln's Sparrows and a flyover Piliated Woodpecker, the first I have seen at Lefurge, were the other highlights.  Overall, a very birdy morning.

The photo in my blog title box is the view across from the Detroit River hawkwatch.  This will remain until a new photo takes its place, so here it is below for keepers.

View of Lake Erie inlet across from the
Detroit River hawkwatch. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Amazing birds

Two web links have recently come to my attention.

A friend sent me this weblink about the UK's oldest Arctic Tern.  The record breaking migration flight of a Red Knot was posted by a birder to the Michigan birding list.

I often think of bird migration as one of the wonders of the world.  In each case, both birds have had amazing migrations.  In the case of the Arctic Tern, its migration occurred over the course of its incredible length of life.  In the case of the Red Knot, its migration occurred in a single flight over the course of many days.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Harold Eyster

Another news story has been written about my young birding friend, Harold Eyster, and appears in today's edition of Ann  I have spoken about Harold and his sister, Artemis, so many times to so many people.  There is even a very nice photograph of the 2010 Young Birder of the Year.

Harold and Artemis appear in various entries throughout my blog, but here's my entry titled Two new art purchases from 03/22/2009 that I particularly like.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tour deux de Point Mouillee

The prediction of cool weather, temps not to exceed the mid-60's, made another visit to Point Mouillee today seem reasonable.  However, accompanying the cool temps was a weird, blustery wind from the south, southwest.  I was meeting Robert Setzer and his wife Judy out at cell three this morning.  I arrived at 8:00 am and began to walk out. Because of the wind, Lake Erie had large mudflats where I saw an adult Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched and eating what appeared to be a large fish.   A little later another adult flew from south to north with what appeared to be a frog dangling from its talons.   

Shortly after making the left turn for the long trudge out to cell three, I saw a dark lump on the road ahead.  A Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) was enjoying some meal.  I quickly snapped this shot and then, clumsily, tried to sneak closer.

This is the above photo cropped down to reveal the bird.  I think I knew, but confirmed, that one cannot sneak up on a Peregrine Falcon.  The bird snatched its meal and was out-of-sight before I had even taken a few steps forward.

I felt certain that I would not see any butterflies today, but I was wrong. This Painted Lady was out early and trying to get warm with wings opens on some gravel.  Lots of Cloudless Sulphurs, Common Buckeyes, one Least Skipper, a couple of Pearl Crescents, Monarchs and Viceroys were all out. 

The four Marbled Godwits (Limosa fedoa) are still present and were back in cell three.

The above photo of the Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) was taken on the west side of the cell while the bird was walking along the shoreline.  It was hard for me to know if the rapidly walking bird was in focus for any of the photos, but in this photo I like the forward pose of the bird.

The photo above and below were taken from the eastern side of cell three.  This is probably one of the same birds I photographed last Saturday.  The photo above gives the bird a comical appearance.  I think it also shows why it is so hard to draw birds from a face-first view.

I include this photo because it is a good shot of the fall plumage feathers on the back of the bird.   For excellent photos of Red-necked Phalarope, see Robert Epstein's Flickr site and see photos posted by Darlene Friedman on the birders at umich grovestreet site.  Their photos are of the birds located at Robert Long Park in Oakland County where I suspect the birds may have been nearer.  Jerry Jourdan also has excellent shorebird photos, including the phalarope, from Point Moo on his blog

This Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla) was walking close to shore on the east side of cell three.  It is easy to see the distinction of its field marks from those of the Baird's Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii) that I posted last Saturday.

As we tried to leave the Lake Erie-side dike of cell three, Bob, Judy and I became distracted by the presence of numerous damselflies and dragonflies.  In this location there is a stand of trees and they offered a wind block for small flying things.  This may have accounted for the large numbers because we did not see numerous and diverse species anywhere else.  We stopped for a significant time to take photographs. It's both fun and hard to take photos of odonata and these are of the ones that were cooperative. Others did not land or stop long enough. Thanks to Julie Craves for helping me with identifications.  As always, check out Julie's excellent blog entry titled, Identifying Odonata from photographs.  The following are my best ode photos.  To see how really spectacular they are, you need to enlarge the image. 

Eastern Forktail (Ischnura verticalis)

Top:  female forktail sp.   Bottom:  bluet sp.

Female Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)

Male Blue Dasher

Another female Blue Dasher

Another view of a male Blue Dasher taken the following
day at Proud Lake SGA

In trying to identify the above myself (I couldn't!) I came across the Michigan Odonata Survey website.  It's a volunteer site and so perhaps not as comprehensive as it might be.  The website photo gallery includes the following photo of this really spectacular dragonfly. Amazing!

Earlier in the morning we met up with several others also birding Point Moo, including a guy named Tom, who reported seeing seven Buff-breasted Sandpipers (Tryngites subrufficollis).  He watched them for a long time but they flew off and he had not been able to relocate them. Nor had anyone else.  I doubted that I could improve on my experience from the week before, but I did want Bob and Judy to also have a chance to see them.  Everyone else had left, but we ran into Tom again on our way out to the Lake Erie side of the cell.  Still the buffies had not reappeared. Tom left and we continued on to see the stuff above. Finally, when we tore ourselves away from the odonata, we returned to the grassy area of last weeks' Buff-breasted fame.  We had not walked but a few steps when there again, just in front of us, were five Buff-breasted Sandpipers feeding in the grass.  Bob's camera began firing. Again, however, the harsh sunlight and the light-colored, dry soil made the light conditions difficult for me.  I took a few photos, but in the end I only kept the one below - sort of a regal pose.  While photographing the five, two others flew in to join them thereby accounting for the total of seven that Tom had reported seeing.  The two that flew in gave their call note and I think this was the first time I have ever heard Buff-breasted Sandpiper.  

Judy, Bob and I all agreed that, despite the fierce wind,  it had been an excellent morning.  We began the long walk back to the Roberts Road parking lot. At one point four Palm Warblers (Dendroica palmarum) flew over the road and landed just at the edge.  They were too far for photos with my camera, but one of Bob's photos is included below. Again, the bright sun and white road wash things out.  Double click to enlarge the image and you'll see that the bird on the right has a juicy caterpillar in its beak.

When we reached the big, long yellow gate, Bob commented that he felt like he had reached the finish line.  Judy wears a pedometer and reported that we had walked just over five miles.

Still plenty of good birds at Point Mouillee to be seen.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Summer visitors

A few weeks ago, on a damp morning after a rainy night at the end of July, this garden snail showed up on my garage vinyl siding.  I thought it was completely cute and its shell beautiful.  I know they are supposed to be garden pests, but one would never know by the looks of my garden.

This afternoon, as I was on my front lawn watching contractors give me new front doors and new shutters, I happened to glance over to the garage where new shutters would be placed.  I saw this (I think male?) praying mantis perched on my garage window frame.  Even though I rarely see praying mantis, I do think I have seen another in my backyard once before.  Still, this was a surprise.  As the guys began to put up the new shutters, it moved along the top of the window frame before flying off into the Norway maple.

Look at those pinchers!  I did half wonder if its presence in my yard had anything to do with my hummingbird feeders as in this 1:06 minute long YouTube video.  My feeders are not nearly so active as the feeder in the video, but I did get a chance for a few photos one recent evening when dueling birds were battling for feeder dominance.