Friday, January 20, 2017

Belle Isle's silent mockingbird

Last Sunday morning was beautiful and sunny so I returned to Belle Isle to see if I could get better photos of the Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos). Some of its celebrity must have diminished.  I had this charming bird all to myself.  In an earlier post I described this as one of birding's golden moments. 

Still plenty of Amur honeysuckle on the bushes to nourish our bird.

The bird seemed to truly enjoy basking in the sun.

I followed the bird around to a couple of different spots.  It drank from the open water in that unpleasant little creek.  I couldn't get unhindered photos of it drinking, but later it flew up into the bare branches above the river.

Looking at these photos reminds me how much I miss a singing mockingbird.  We can look forward to this in the spring time.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Mopane worm

My niece is in Botswana for the next 20 months with the Peace Corps (having begun her service back in October 2016).  She was with friends and took this photo and WhatsApp'd it to my mother.  I copied it to include in my blog.

This is a mopane worm – an edible caterpillar that is a highly popular snack in Botswana!  They come out in the rainy season and are fried and sold to eat.  I shamelessly lifted directly from Wikipedia: Gonimbrasia belina is a species of emperor moth which is native to the warmer parts of southern Africa. Its large edible caterpillar, known as the mopane worm or mopani worm, feeds primarily but not exclusively on mopane tree leaves. Mopane worms are an important source of protein for millions in the region.

Crazy Botswana kids.  I like their adopted puppies too!

Botswana sunset.

I imagine these photos were taken with my niece's smart phone.

Addendum:  May, 2017 - another photo added.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Cedar Waxwings

While looking for the Townsend's Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi) there was no shortage of Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) flying around.  I took these photos after the T. solitaire disappeared from view (above) for the final time during my visit.  

For a brief period in the late afternoon the sky lightened and a hint of sun brightened up the junipers just as a flock of waxwings flew in.

My favorite photo.  I can't resist the chance for a photo opportunity of a bird with a berry in it's beak.

The photo above and the one below are each cropped images from a full photo that included three Cedar Waxwings.

Another great beauty - our American Robin (Turdus migratorius).

An active flock of chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) would occasionally have a nicely perched bird - briefly and in great light.  I missed all my chances.

My one chance for a photo of a Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus) was missed secondary to my distraction by the presence of the solitaire.

Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) were also around but no chances for photos.  It was a great January afternoon to be out and even though I didn't know any of the other birders looking for the Townsend's Solitaire our collective efforts paid off.     

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Townsend's Solitaire

Well-reported and with much better photos by others uploaded to eBird.  This afternoon three small and previously unacquainted groups - about ten birders in all - were at Island Lake State Recreation Area looking for the Townsend's Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi).  Let me say - this is not a gimme (Karl Overman's word for easily found) bird. Island Lake SRA is a large park and this was my first visit there.  We all found our way to the generally correct area. 

In a semi-scattered fashion we all searched for the bird until a sharp-eyed teenager named John (I think) and wearing a red Northface jacket finally found the bird.  This was about 90 minutes into our search.   We all had several good looks and really enjoyed the bird.      

Many of the junipers do not have berries, but when we finally began to see junipers with berries along a ridge I felt our chances might improve.  The bird seemed quite flighty.  It didn't just pick a tree and begin eating juniper berries.  It flew around, perched high in bare deciduous branches and then flew down to the junipers from its high perch.

I don't have a GPS, so the coordinates being given were not helpful to me.  The cement slab that has  been frequently mentioned is not easy to find either and the junipers around the cement slab have no berries. From the slab the bird was located on the next ridge beyond - perhaps another 15 minute walk toward the lake and smaller ponds.

The Spring Hill pond parking lot is quite far from the bird - at least a mile and likely even further.  It wasn't too cold or windy today and so the walk was pleasant.   Upon leaving at around 4:15 pm, I noticed a parking area called the shooting range.  I wonder if this might be a better spot to park and then walk in from there.   

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Belle Isle birding 01/02/17

I didn't know red-headed woodpeckers were there.  And I didn't know that northern mockingbird was there.  I went to look for owls which I knew were there.  But, as everyone knows, even when you know there are owls, you mostly can't find them.

My photos of the two Red-headed Woodpeckers were mostly awful so I was glad I took this 29 second video.  There was one on each side of the trail and they were making their churring sound back and forth.  At first I didn't recognize the sound, then it came to me - woodpecker! - then one of the birds flew into view.  Beautiful as they are, I find them to also be quite comical.

Above and below:  Before finding the Northern Mockingbird, I took this Red-bellied Woodpecker and three other photos - alas, all are a little or a lot pixelated.

The light is a lot better for this Downy posing than for my January 1st photos.  In the foreground a red twig has blurred the slender trunk and makes the bird's tail appear red!

This Northern Cardinal was posing beautifully in the open.  It moved into this interesting pose just as I snapped the shutter - just a little too far away.

Lots of color on this House Finch.  

It's always thrilling to see a Northern Mockingbird.  Reminds me of my Baltimore days.  One used to perch on the utility wire over my backyard and run though a series of sounds from car horn to ring-billed gull to carolina wren to song sparrow.  This bird, however, was completely silent.

The mockingbird was feeding on these red berries, Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), of which there are a lot remaining near the red bridge.  The bird could stick around for awhile.

I feel sad that this photo is so pixelated.  I must have been just a little too far away or my lens out too far.  Love this pose!  

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Dearborn portion of the Detroit River CBC

Up and out of the house around 5:20 am this New Year's morning to find owls in Dearborn for the Detroit River CBC.  Unfortunately, no Eastern Screech Owl for me on 01/01/2017.  

Instead my first bird of the year was American Tree Sparrow found behind Henry Ford College at around 8:15 am.  

The weather was beautiful this year.  Sunny, bright, dry trails with the temperature reaching 41 degrees at the end of counting.  So mild was the weather that when I made a brief pass through Ford Field I saw three men sitting at a picnic table along the river talking. 

In general, for Michigan CBCs I think a little bad weather, i.e. snow, is probably better for the birding.  Today was very slow and I don't have much to write about here.  Some of my best spots were completely empty of birds.

This Great Blue Heron was the only one I counted this year.  Some years there are more and other years there are none.

My final bird of the day was this Downy Woodpecker photographed on the Rouge River channel.

I missed what may be the best bird of the day, Pileated Woodpecker, by about an hour or so.  I received a text from my birding colleagues that it had flown to an area where I had already counted. Plenty of squirrels were around, but I did not see deer or coyotes this year.