Sunday, May 15, 2016

NAMC birds and narrative

What a day!  It was the end of October on 05/14/16 - cold, windy, wet, muddy - but birdy.  For the birds, this was probably the best NAMC I have counted in years.  Having said this, there were also startling absences.

On my last blog post, I commented that the photo transfer link to Blogger is broken.  I sent feedback to Google and figured out a copy and paste method to attach the photos to my blog.  I checked with a Google blogger friend and he's not having trouble.  Hoping it was fixed, I optimistically tried my blog this morning.  Still broken, but now a small notification comes up saying it's broken.  I used the same time-consuming copy and paste approach this morning.  It's funny how we come to rely on computer things just working right.  It's not something that we can take to the repair shop and get fixed.  If anyone else is having trouble - please send feedback via the little box on the lower right.

I started the day at Belle Isle and spent 5 hours there.  Then on to Rouge River Bird Observatory for 2-1/2 hours there.  Then to Willow Run airport for a 30 minute around and back drive for primarily 3 species.

The best bird of the day for me was one of my first out-of-the-car early in the morning birds and then I was puzzled by what it was.  My second best bird of the day was a singing Orchard Oriole.

My first best bird of the day turned out the be the female Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius).  The birds were quite near (for those who know Belle Isle) to each other - the female was in the bushes east of the historic zoo building and the male was across the ball fields at the entrance of the woodland trail.  Orchard Oriole is a completely beautiful bird and not one we can expect to see with any regularity in Wayne County.

In the singing Orchard Oriole video link you can hear the Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) singing his heart out between the oriole's song.  For my money a singing E. towhee is about as delightful a sight as one can see.  Unfortunately, all of the singing photos were slightly out-of-focus.

First spring male Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia).  In this pixelated photo the beginning of his just developing red breast streaking can be seen. Yellow warblers are common on Belle Isle.  This bird was in the bushes near the lighthouse.

As expected, Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) showed well all day.

In a moment of sun, bathing Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii) at RRBO.

My first identification of this bird was least flycatcher.  It was chipping constantly and showing well often perching on open branches - good opportunity for photos.  I began having very good looks and then didn't like my least flycatcher ID.  The eye ring was not right.  If not a Least then what - Acadian, Alder or Willow are our next best choices. Fortunately the bird was chipping the whole time and based on this chip note I will call this a Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii) and post the photo below when I enter my eBird checklist.  By the photos and location (deep woods), I think that some will want to call it an Acadian (E. virescens), but the Acadian's note is too sharp and has a slightly different cadence from the Willow's call note.  Shortly after seeing this bird I saw a silent Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus) and, by contrast, its bright and complete eye ring was very obvious.  It's difficult from still photos and no vocalizations, but any disagreements or comments on this empid's ID will be appreciated.  After photographing, I tried to get video to capture the chip note, but the bird flew.  

Above and two photos below:  the ever beautiful Veery (Catharus fuscescens).

The Veery was at RRBO where I saw two.  Earlier in the morning there was one at Belle Isle.  Curiously, I saw 7 Swainson's Thrushes at Belle Isle and none at RRBO. 

What a thrill to get a photo opportunity of an Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla).  As I was chasing around the Veery for photos, this bird popped up on an open branch.  Immediate diversion.  Such a charming bird!  Damn that twig.

Damn those blurring leaves.

Ah hah!  Thank you.  Both the bird and this photo opportunity reminded me of our Streak-chested Antpitta experience in Panama.

As I was leaving RRBO, this Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) was busily picking little things from the pavement; one of two I counted at this location.

Finally, to end the day, I drove about 20 miles to Willow Run Airport (WRA).  I nearly talked myself out of it.  My feet were muddy, soaked and cold and it had begun to rain hard.  I was tired.  I hope I'm not getting too old to do this kind of counting.  Grit made me persist and I drove on.

Eastern Meadowlarks and Bobolinks are Wayne County regulars at WRA, but the real reason to go to WRA is for the annual Upland Sandpipers - if you can find them.  For as many years as I've been using eBird I'm still a novice.  I can enter and share my sightings but my skill stops there.  I have not learned how to find specific sightings entered by others.  From the list serves I hadn't read anything about Upland Sandpipers being found this year.  By the photos, it's obvious that I did find Upland Sandpipers (Bartramia longicauda).  

When found, arguably Upland Sandpiper may be the best bird we can add to the very urban Wayne County NAMC.  The large area grassland around WRA with a landfill along the south road and more large open space at the west end of the airport still make this suitable habitat for the Upland.  WRA seems to be trying to change the habitat, but they have left some excellent grassland at the east end of the airport.

I entered the airport grounds and drove slowly around.  Nothing.  I turned around and drove slowly back.  The airport has selected out a large tract and is growing a green monoculture crop - wheat? - in this area.  There is also an area of cleared, smooth plowed land where nothing is yet planted.  I found a single Horned Lark here.  I reached the end, turned back and made the trip back.  At the very end, after making the left turn for the final stretch, I heard a whisper of the airy Upland song.  There they were, two birds right at the fence.  Relieved to know I had not made the trip for nothing and happy to see the Uplands, I ended my NAMC count.  

The entire day was cold and windy and at the airport even more so.  Of note, I did not see or hear a single meadowlark or bobolink.  Savannah sparrows, typically found here by the dozens, literally, were scarce.  I counted only six.  No Eastern kingbirds.  I hope it was only the weather that deterred these great Wayne County birds from popping up.  

Now the task of entering into eBird and tallying the numbers from my fellow Wayne County counters.  Counting is fun.  The tally is not!

During one of my breaks I looked out the window and saw white stuff on the lawn and around my landscaping - in May - and then saw a male Yellow-rumped warbler in my front yard tree.  More birding today?


Matt said...

I would call the empid a least, strongly contrasting eye ring, looks small headed (Acadian looks bigger headed usually), primary projection looks short (Acadian usually looks long). The bill also looks quite dark, least has more dark to the end of the lower mandible than the others do.
Though usual caveats/disclaimers apply wrt impressions from photos...

Cathy Carroll said...

Matt, thanks for your comment. I agree that Least would seem most likely given habitat and time of year (early for Willow). But the eye ring and call note didn't seem right for Least. I'll post another photo. If you have a chance please have another look.

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