Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dearborn's first Ross's Goose, #1847-26353

Just as I was ready to pick up my neighbor to go out for a Thursday evening meal at Roman Village - wonderful live music by two terrific, traditional musicians - I received a phone call from Julie Craves.  Jim Fowler had found a Ross's Goose on private property in Dearborn and they were on their way.  I picked up my neighbor and we joined them approximately fifteen minutes later.  Mike O'Leary, a Dearborn police officer, had already arrived and had taken photos.  The white goose was tiny next to the three companion [probably local] Canada Geese it had selected to settle with in this location.

When everyone who was coming had seen the goose, I creeped up behind a large tree to get closer for some photos.  The sun was bright and so there was a lot of evening western glare.  A cloud floated in to briefly block out the sun and I got the photo above.  Below is the cropped image of the head to improve field mark viewing. 

As is evident in this close-up crop, there are some troubling things that suggest hybrid.  The slope of the forehead, the ragged edge where the bill meets the face and the evidence of a grin patch - albeit a small, narrow one.  However, the bill is not too big and the base is bluish and having the start of the warty appearance (called caruncles) that is described in male birds. In his guide, Sibley allows for a hint of a grin patch.  Hmmm!     

Remarkably this bird was banded!  What an excellent spot for this bird to stopover.  Being banders, this was initially much to Julie's and Darrin's chagrin because no one had bothered to bring a scope.  They know exactly how to chase down the origin of a banded bird.  But when I looked at my photos in the camera I saw that I could zoom in on the numbers to identify.  I cropped each image where the band is visible as above and I could clearly identify five of the numbers - the 26353.  Julie knew that there were more numbers - like xxxx - 26353 - so we were still missing the first four.    

Mike O'Leary's photos revealed the band from a different angle and he was able to crop enough so that the first four numbers could be identified to 1847.  What a fun little investigative project.  The numbers still need to be confirmed before we will know for sure.  Stay tuned!

Follow-up:  On Monday, 03/28/2011 the Bird Banding Lab confirmed that this Ross's Goose was banded on Nunavut on August, 7th, 2006, a male of undetermined age.   Check the google map for the location of Nunavut, Canada and you can see that from Michigan this goose, heading straight north, is on a direct path to Nunavut. 

Second update:  Julie Craves has received additional information about this Ross's Goose that is very interesting.  Please check Julie's Net Results blog to read more.   

Flash back to the end of 2007 and other Ross's Goose photos for comparison.  

I had seen my life Ross's Goose in Delaware in November, 2001.  That sighting was a distant view and I was not as discriminating then as I am now.  So when Walt Palowski found a Ross's Goose at Willow Metropark, I drove out to see it on 12/01/2007 and took the photos above and below with my Canon Powershot.  Photographing birds was new to me then and I was thrilled with these.  I changed this Ross's Goose to my life bird.

Exactly one week later in December, 2007, on Karl Overman's Detroit Audubon Society field trip to Niagara, Ontario, Karl and Alan Wormington found the Ross's Goose below.  I decided then that this is my favorite goose.    

Julie has a more detailed review of the Dearborn Ross's Goose on her Net Results blog.  As follow-up from the Bird Banding Lab reveals, our efforts to piece together the band number of this bird were correct.  See also in Julie's comments section an interesting report from Joe Hildreth, an Ohio birder, about a banded Ross's Goose he found on the Bowling Green University golf course on March 13th.

Another excellent review of Ross's Goose identification is on Caleb Putnam's blog, Avian Tendencies. You'll need to scroll through several pages to his March 8th and 9th, 2011 entries.  

Fun Thursday evening birding.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

First day of spring

Finally, it's here.  All of my recent blog entries hankering for spring have been wishful thinking.  Today there is no turning back.  Everyone I know is ready to say goodbye to this past long winter.

I went to Crosswinds Marsh this morning to look for signs of spring and I found them complete with overhead airplane - common at this location - to compete with the frog chorus and, from somewhere, a passing train whistle .

Silly goose

For years there has been a domesticated Greylag Goose associating with Canada's in the vicinity of the main pond near the parking lot.  I don't go to Crosswinds as frequently as I once did and I have not seen the greylag in recent visits, but certainly this poor bird is a member of its progeny.  I found another recent photo of Greylag x Canada by Don Appleton of England taken in February, 2011 at a location in Norfolk, England where Greylag Geese and Canada Geese are common residents.  Don Appleton photographs and comments on hybrid bird species as he did recently with a goose located on Belle Isle March 8, 2011 and photographed by Alan Ryff.  You can also see other hybrid photos and discussion on  this same link.

Mink on the boardwalk

Mink pausing when it sees me

Mink departing

Singing Red-wing Blackbird

Spring Robin

American Wigeon and submerged Mute Swan

New Bald Eagle nest - directly opposite the old nest.
Double click to enlarge and eagle is on the nest

It is true that, in Michigan, we'll still have a little more winter - but, it's all over but the shouting.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fading winter

After just writing about not having been birding in my last blog entry, yesterday morning with the sun shining brightly, I went to Belle Isle.

I was quickly rewarded with two good birds.  One cannot sneak up on an Eastern Phoebe.  This is especially true when trying to sneak through mud, large puddles, vines and snapping twigs.  It's never going to happen.

Finally, the bird flew to the fence of the handball courts for this poorly focused and brightly lit shot.  The bird was calling its horse phoebe call nearly the whole time I watched it.  Even though it was one of the birds I hoped to find, it still seems a bit early for its arrival.  I checked Julie Craves' book, Birds of Dearborn (although Belle Isle is in Detroit), and Julie's earliest date for phoebe arrival is March 22nd with the more typical arrival being March 31st.  So, this is an early bird.  It was flycatching in typical phoebe fashion in the sunny location of the handball courts and the woods opposite.

Leaving the phoebe, I startled an American Woodcock from its hiding spot.  

While the morning started out with bright sun, clouds returned and it was suddenly back to being winter.

Setting my clocks forward for the first day of daylight savings time again reminded me of spring.  While not too cold, again it was gray.  On Saturday, there had been reports of Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs still present at a traditional location for these two birds - Gotfredson and Vreeland roads and Sunday morning I drove out to see them.

Red-winged Blackbirds are everywhere and their song was heard all along Gotfredson and Vreeland roads.  

Unfortunately, there were no Snow Buntings or Lapland Longspurs seen by me.  There were plenty of Horned Larks around.  This bird was distant, but perched on the corn stalk and I was able to get this photo. 

After finishing up on Vreeland Road, I went briefly to the parking area of LeFurge Woods preserve.  The trail was muddy and icy and walking was not easy or enjoyable.  Tree Sparrows were pecking in the weeds all along the trail, but I cannot resist singing Song Sparrows, my nom de querre.  Winter is fading.  Now for a bit of sunshine to brighten up these photos.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Closer to home harbingers of spring

I think I am well overdue for a new blog entry and recently a few friends have asked if I've been birding much lately.  The answer to this question is that, with the exception the Soo trip at the beginning of February, I've done almost no birding at all this winter.

This is not to say that I've been completely inactive - just laying around on the couch.  In January and February I started and completed a major house redecorating project and am now enjoying the finished product. For the first time ever, I did not do the project myself but I organized it and lived with the disorganization that any house project creates. Additionally, I've taken this winter as a time to work a lot.

All this to say that I have found this winter to be a long one.  Could any day as dreary as yesterday (heavy rain followed by heavy wet snow) dampen our spring spirits more?  So, when the sun peeked out late this morning I hustled over to the channelized Rouge River to see what might be out.  This time of year, the  channelized Rouge is pretty typically unbirdy so it was not exactly like I was making a big birding commitment for the day.  But for an hour or so, it felt good to be out.

True to the reputation of this area, few birds were around.  Canada Geese dotted the still winterized landscape of the TPC golf course.  I heard a Red-bellied Woodpecker and a few sparrow chip notes but the actual birds remained invisible.  Though this area does have a Red-tailed Hawk pair and it is possible to occasionally see a kestrel, I saw no raptors.  My good luck with the peregrine at the end of January did not repeat itself today.  Had it not been for the return of bad weather, I might have had daydreams of seeing an early phoebe or meadowlark. Indeed, Jerry Jourdan reported Eastern Meadowlarks near Vreeland and Gotfredson in eastern Washtenaw County today.      

The TPC pond is still frozen, but it is here I saw my first harbingers of spring.  I slid through a hole in the fence to to get closer to the pond. Three Great Blue Herons took off from a small rim of open water around the little island.  Undoubtedly they had overwintered and I feel certain they are pleased to see the end of it.  Then the call of Red-winged Blackbirds sounded as three birds flew overhead.  Later a grackle flew over also calling.  Both of these have been seen and heard recently in our neighborhood.

Finally, I heard a Killdeer.  I know from the reports of others that these have been recently seen in southeast Michigan.  Killdeer nest in the stony edges along the river.  But, I never did see the bird.  This left me reluctant to call this my first of the season Killdeer secondary to the presence of abundant starlings in our area.  

Still, as the sun continues to shine today, I know that phoebe, meadowlark, killdeer and all of the others are not far behind.  In another week the ides of March and spring soon to follow.