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.