Monday, April 30, 2012

Magee Marsh surprises

This past weekend began on Friday evening after work.  I was walking home from a visit with a neighbor when I heard blue jays creating a ruckus in a nearby spruce tree.  High up I could see a large perched bird - clearly an owl, but which?  I could see that it had the overall size and bulk of a Great Horned (Bubo virginianus).  I ran home to get my bins and camera and returned just in time to see the owl flying across the street with the blue jays in pursuit.  I almost gave up on the chase but I could still hear the blue jays so I followed their calling.  I finally found the owl perched in a large cottonwood.  A single blue jay, giving a weak Cooper's hawk imitation, gave it away.  The bird flew twice more always with jays in pursuit.  I learned from this just how well blue jays can imitate Cooper's hawks. 

On Saturday morning I drove to Magee Marsh with birding friend, Rodolfo Palma.  When we finally figured out our way around all of the I-75 south entrance closures we arrived at Magee Marsh about an hour later than planned.  The weather was predicted to be poor, but this had not yet arrived in the early morning.  Overall, the birding was very quiet.

Then, shortly after our arrival, we were shown a bird that made the whole day worthwhile.  Apparently, this american woodcock (Scolopax minor) had been reported the day before and, remarkably, it remained in the same general area at least through Saturday morning.

This was thrilling for me.  I've only seen a daytime woodcock a few times.  Mostly they are displaying at dusk or startling when they flush at some sound, like my footsteps.  The bird was so well camouflaged that, at first, I had trouble seeing it less than ten feet from where we were standing on the boardwalk.  Remarkably, the bird remained in this location for any visitor to see at least through the morning.

Check out my 2:05 minute video of this completely charming and super sweet bird.

I have yet to get a well-focused photograph of a yellow-rumped warbler. This was my best effort on Saturday.

While trying to photograph the yellow-rumped, this eastern phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) flew in to perch unobstructed.  A little fuzzy, but overall, not bad.

Rodolfo and I had been around the boardwalk once and were on our second circuit with the plan to remain until the rain began.  We heard from a field trip group of the presence of a summer tanager (Piranga rubra).  Shortly after we met up with a couple who had tried for it but had not been successful.  We walked on a bit further when the bird began vocalizing.  We called the couple back and we all enjoyed several unobstructed views of a first year male.  The other nice bird we found along the boardwalk was a blue-headed vireo (Vireo solitarius).

The rain did come and we made for the car to have lunch and explore some nearby roads - Stange, Krause and Benton-Carroll for upland sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda).  All expect Benton-Carroll were a bust.  We never did find uplands but we did come across a large man-made puddle in a field with several closed banding nets.  There were 100+ dunlins (Calidris alpina), lesser yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) and sanderlings (Calidris alba).  Rodolfo also found a pectoral sandpiper (Calidris melanotos).  Unfortunately, by this time it was raining hard and very cold.  These conditions did not allow for leisurely viewing.

Our final stop was at Metzger Marsh.  More dunlin, lesser yellowlegs, pectorals, spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularius) and wilson's snipe (Gallinago delicata) were the good finds here.  

A stop at McDonald's for ice cream ended a great birding day.  Not great numbers or diversity but the american woodcock photo opportunity gave the whole day an upbeat feel.  Adding the tanager and shorebirds were an additional sweet spot.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Belle Isle birding

Now toward the end of April, Belle Isle is getting birdier.  Ovenbird, Palm Warbler and an unidentified singing warbler, along with previously seen Yellow-rumped Warblers, were present this morning.  I heard one White-crowned Sparrow in with all of the singing White-throated Sparrows.  Common Terns were feeding and calling on the Canada end of the island.

It was mostly cold and windy and the sun faded in and out making interesting light conditions for taking photos.   

Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)

Belted Kingfisher (Ceryl alcyon)

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Eurasian Wigeon

This morning while attending a field trip sponsored by the Washtenaw Audubon Society and led by Harold Eyster in the Nichols Arboretum, we received a tip from Mike Sefton that a Eurasian Wigeon was found this morning at Kensingon Metropark.

Following lunch at the Village Cafe on Jackson and Maple roads in Ann Arbor, Rodolfo Palma and I drove to Kensington to find the bird.  

We arrived in time to meet up with Mike Mencoti who was already looking at the bird through his spotting scope.  Mike left and other birders began to arrive.  In the end we ended up spending about an hour or more looking at the bird and angling for the possibility of improved photos as the light conditions changed.  

The bird was distant, so obviously all of my photos are heavily cropped. 

As we were leaving and others arriving a motor boat went through and scattered the birds.  The bird remained out-of-sight until the wigeon was relocated in the same location around 4:30 pm.