Monday, April 29, 2013

Sora and non-birding in Georgia

I had big ideas for birding in Georgia this past weekend during a visit to see my sister and her family.  A fall that occurred on Saturday, April 20th because I missed the final step has left me with a worrisome knee injury that is, as yet, undiagnosed.  X-rays taken in the ER shortly after the injury occurred revealed no fractures.  But x-rays will not show all of the parts of the knee.  So, I wait now to see a sports medicine knee specialist on May 6th.

Thank goodness I had no big trip planned for this year.  But, I did and do have plans for lots of local birding that, in addition to this Georgia trip, includes Point Pelee and Tawas Point.       

I wasn't planning to allow my knee to disrupt birding on this trip either but on the first evening of my arrival, I was "walking" (actually my gait is a stiff-legged limp) on uneven terrain to enter a large woods when I miscalculated a step, my knee buckled and I landed on my backside with what felt like a re-injured knee.  Over the weekend, it recovered back to baseline, but that incident pretty much put the kibosh on any further attempt at real birding.

The focus of my Georgia trip was to be a visit to Sandy Creek Nature Center near Athens, Georgia to actually see Swainson's Warbler.  I visited there in 2011 and had good luck hearing the bird, but never did see one.

The one birding exception was a visit to a very nice local park that has all kinds of beautiful habitat.  Earlier in the day I had purchased a $12 cane in a resale shop we visited.  Curiously the cane was exactly the right length and though it looks like it was in use during the civil war, I had to buy it.  Using it to walk helps my knee feel more stable and I feel safer.  I was so pleased to see this cooperative Sora - not a bird I see everyday.  

Shortly after the Sora slipped into the grass, this solitary Wood Duck floated by.  I took this terrible photo to show my family just how ornate this duck is.

C'est la vie.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Magee Marsh in mid-April

Rodolfo Palma and I braved the bleak weather report for Saturday, 4/13/2013 to travel to Magee Marsh for some mid-April birding.  Our weather during the prior week had also been terrible so it seemed silly to let a little weather deter us.  We also went to Magee Marsh on the previous Saturday, April 7th, (check out our eBird list) and while the weather was slightly better, the birding was quite slow.

The bleakness of the weather did not disappoint, intermittent showers were occasionally heavy with low, grey skies all day, but we still got some terrific birding in.  Though waterfowl diversity was greatly reduced and species count was still somewhat low, the numbers of birds was high.  We lost count of Hermit Thrushes, Fox Sparrows, Eastern Phoebes and Robins.  Ebird checklist is here.  Perhaps the bad weather of the prior week accounts for the absence of some earlier arriving migrants like Black and White warbler, for example.  

For those acquainted with birding at Magee Marsh, there is usually little narrative to go with the birding.  For this blog narrative I offer my photo highlights of the day.

Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)

Pied-billed Grebe

Gadwall (Anas strepera)

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)

Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)

Brown Creeper (Certhia americana)

Canada Goose (Branda canadensis)

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)

Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca)

American Robin

Winter Wren (Trogoldytes hiemalis

Winter Wren

Winter Wren

A word about the fox sparrow, phoebe and wren photos.  I spent all day trying to get a good photo of phoebe and fox sparrow.  The best I could come up are here.  With the phoebe, I think the combination of the grey day and the birds high activity levels conspired against me.  The bird is basically the same color as the day.  With all the fox sparrows of the day I thought I should have been able to get at least one unobstructed photo. No such luck.

I have included my three best winter wren photos here.  These were the only keepers from approximately twelve attempted of this bird.  I have been trying for a long time to get a good photo of this bird.  My point and shoot camera is just not fast enough for this active little bird.  I came close this time - but not close enough.  When I read Jerry Jourdan's blog post from today, I was reminded that I am still waiting to take a good photo of a creeper too.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

American Woodcock rescue

Every so often an opportunity presents for doing something good.  I had such a chance today.  

Early this morning I was at work at my very urban hospital and in a patient's room.  I was just mentioning to him why his room was one of my favorites because the windows looked out into a grassy courtyard of sorts.  This morning I noticed that the landscaping crew was working to clear out the flower beds.  Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something fly but it disappeared behind a conifer tree.  What was that? It was not normal flight.  I continued to watch and it flew again - this time around the corner of the building and out of site to the front of the hospital.  The second time I got a good enough look to make an identification.  "A woodcock" I said to my patient, "I'll be right back." 

I walked to the front of the hospital where I saw it fly.  Along the base of the building were four window wells.  In the last window well was the woodcock tucked away into the corner.  The black box is, apparently, a rat trap though I haven't verified this.     

Above is a cropped view of the bird tucked safely into the corner atop some blown leaves.  I made a couple more visits to check on the bird throughout the day.  I considered that the bird might have been able to fly out, but there was something about the depth and the shape of the space that made me think it could have trouble.  Then, even if it was able to get out, it would still not be in a good place.  I finished out my day and returned with a packing box a colleague gave me.

It took me time to figure out how to get down into the well but I did. The bird fluttered against the window and in doing this it confirmed my concern that it was likely it would not have been able to fly out on its own.  

I took the woodcock to a woods with meadow and lake near my house.  

I opened the box and it didn't move.  However, when I tried to scoop it up in my hands it needed no additional encouragement to fly out of the box and to the ground.  It was clearly in familiar territory now as it scuttled into the undergrowth so quickly that I was unable to get a photo.  Ten seconds later it was out of sight.

The woodcock left a few feathers and a dollop of poop behind in its temporary shelter.  A nice ending to a little unexpected birding for the day. 

All photos were taken with my iPhone 5.