Thursday, June 29, 2017

Conservancy Farm

After leaving the Willow Metropark Henslow's sparrows, I drove to Conservancy Farm in Superior Township.  What a  beautifully managed grassland!  Although I did not see the Henslow's sparrows that are at the farm, I saw all of the other grassland species - starting with Savannah sparrow, Dickcissel, Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark.  

Above:  I like this photo of the Savannah sparrow perched on the wooden birdhouse.  I think the puffy clouds add nice context.  The Savannah sparrow returned a couple of different times to perch in this spot.

Same for the Dickcissel.  The clouds may not be so dramatic, but this bird put on more of a show.

Such a great bird and one I don't get to see every year.  So, in years when I do see Dickcissels they become my favorite bird for that year.

No far from the bird house was a fence post from which the bird sang. The wind drowned out his sound too.

15 second video of the Dickcissel singing from a fence post, but mostly being drowned out by the wind.  I like that I caught the bird in flight.

Distant photos of Bobolink - the nearest I could get.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Henslow's Sparrows

On Saturday, 06/24/17, Jerry Jourdan posted two Henslow's Sparrows (Ammodramus henslowii) at Willow Metropark.  I'm glad he did.  I needed to discipline myself, but I got out early on Sunday morning to look for them.

I didn't have to wait long before a small bird flew in to the tallest weed in the field and sang.  Although the bird was well seen and vocalized beautifully it still seemed too early to leave.  And my photos turned out to be a little too distant.

There were two birds in this location favoring the right side of the field. The bird above did not vocalize and I thought it might be the female. The vocalizer was perched 20 feet to the right of this bird.  While my photo is pixelated, I like the way the colors of the bird show up.  The head, face and neck feather colors of Henslow's Sparrow are unique for a midwest sparrow.

The habitat.  That's the bird perched up on a milkweed in the exact middle.

Above and nine photos below was the real fun.  The bird was so cooperative and beautiful to see singing from the top of the tallest weed.  I didn't want to crop too closely because this would only highlight the pixelation.

Getting 1:40 video of the singing Henslow's was the icing on the cake. As sweet as this bird is, the noise pollution from the wind and the overhead planes from Metro airport is truly revealing of this area. Toward the end of the video, the wind is drowning out the bird.    

I spent about 40 minutes alone with the birds and learned that there was another on the left opposite side of the field.  I also got video of the left field singing bird which I may also download, but it was singing from within the grass.  

As I was leaving, I heard vocalizing coming from a nearby maple tree.  I found the bird in the tree and could not really be certain that it was not also a Henslow's.  But that would be strange.  A Henslow's sparrow in a tree?  

I took several shots and the one above and two below were the most revealing.  I finally decided that this was a hatch-year Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis).

Another birder that I didn't know showed up and I was able to key him in on the locations of the birds. He suggested that I had "taped the birds in."  I made it clear that I don't use recordings of any kind during nesting season - and for that matter, rarely in any other season either.

Shortly thereafter Jerry Jourdan arrived and I was able to thank him for posting the presence of these great birds.  I had to leave, but was not yet finished with birding.  More to come. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

American antpitta

I came across a fledged robin at the edges of a building in a parking lot I used yesterday morning.  It was accompanying its father and doing the usual begging.  It was a real youngster, still tail-less with that baby-rounded body fledglings have and its legs appeared disproportionately long.  It was a fast runner, but flight would still have challenged it.  Overall, it was not in great baby robin habitat but it looked robust.

As I watched it running along, it reminded me of an antipitta and made me laugh.  I only had my iPhone with me.  It's a terrible photo and you need to look closely to see the round-bellied, long-legged and tail-less antpitta.

Of course, you would never see an antpitta so out in the open as this - but, this is an American antpitta.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Broken ankle artist

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Unsuccessful search for Yellow-crowned Night Heron

I've seen Yellow-crowned Night Herons in Maryland, Florida and Texas.  But, never in Michigan.  So, yesterday evening when I heard of one present at Rouge River Bird Observatory, just a hop, skip and jump from my house, I should have jumped in my car immediately.  But, I didn't.  Shame on me because I wasn't even doing anything - except being lazy.  In birding, there is no option for laziness.  

Of course, when I did get out this morning, the Yellow-crowned Night Heron could not be found.  Again, Mike O'Leary found this bird and his photos on eBird show a beautiful bird perched on an open tree branch. Later when others arrived, it was hidden in the leaves of a tree and they reported that it was hard to see - even with someone pointing out its location.  So, it is possible that the bird is still present in the same general area.  

It was reported to been seen eating a frog, so there is plenty of food here.  I am hoping that it will be reported again.

In the meantime, I went to another RRBO location to look for the bird where I know there are a lot of frogs.   

Above, a tiny Leopard frog.

Above:  An unidentified spreadwing (genus Lestes).  Often there are dragonflies at this small, weedy pond, but today only the spreadwing for me.

Above, these guys were everywhere and vociferous this morning.

Above and below:  My first Indigo Bunting of the season seen only now in mid-June.  I heard one at Crosswinds Marsh a couple of weeks ago but did not chase it down.  This time I forced myself to be more patient and was rewarded.  Nearby, there was also a singing Eastern Towhee.

Above:  male Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata) found when I circled back around the lake for a second look.

A search of other spots that I thought might be good for Yellow-crowned Night Heron came up empty.  There is so much suitable habitat for them in this area that, by now, the bird could be anywhere.

Friday, June 16, 2017


From Friday evening, not good photos but I was happy to get them. Mike O'Leary found a bunch of Dickcissels in the large and beautiful meadow at the corner of Rotunda and Southfield.  On my first visit I counted four singing males - mostly singing from within the grasses. This is the only singer that perched in the open.  

When leaving Friday evening, a Dickcissel flew from the field and landed on the faux brick wall surrounding the Ford test track.  As I drove by, I heard at least two birds singing from within the test track wall.

On Saturday morning early I went back for better light and a chance for better photos.  I did get eye-level photos but they were horribly pixelated.

Below:  I was able to get clearer video.

I don't think I have noticed before how pretty the back streaking is on Dickcissels.  

Undaunted, I went back again on Sunday morning.  From yesterday's count by others, it was estimated that there may be as many as fourteen birds.  Below, a pair were perched up together.  Still pixelated, but maybe slightly better.

Above and two below:  female Dickcissel.

Above and below:  male Dickcissel.

This is such a beautiful field.  Several years ago there were nesting Grasshopper Sparrows here.  Julie Craves alerted the field owners of the nesting Dickcissels and they were quick to put up Rare Bird nesting signs.  Please honor the words on the sign.  The birds I photographed are easy to see from the mown edge.  Also, there are no plans to mow the field until later this summer.  In this highly urbanized area, one day it will be developed, but for now we can enjoy the occasional special finds here.    

Monday, June 5, 2017

Huron-Clinton Metropark vs. Nature

I want to bring readers' attention to a blog entry posted by Macomb County birder Paul Pronto on his blog titled, Pronto's Birding Macomb Township and Beyond.  See blog address below.  Depending upon when you are reading my post here, you may need to scroll to find it.  I would say that Paul fairly regularly adds new entries to his blog.

I've used the title of his June 3rd blog entry, Huron-Clinton Metropark Authority vs. Nature, in my title line.  I don't think Paul will mind, especially if it encourages our action.

If you are one who is hesitant to read blog narrative, scroll to the two photos at the very end of the post and I think that will be encouragement enough to continue reading.

In his post, Paul points out incidents that have occurred at several Huron-Clinton Metroparks.  With the exception of Lake St. Clair Metropark, I have not visited the Macomb metroparks.  I do, however, visit the Wayne County metroparks often, and though I cannot cite specific incidents as Paul does, I can say with certainly that the issues are the same - especially with regard to mowing.  I hate it.

Thanks to Paul Pronto for bringing this to our attention is such a clarifying manner.  I have joined the fight.  I invite you to do the same.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Crosswinds Marsh

With Belle Isle off limits this weekend, I went to Crosswinds Marsh for a couple of hours.  I am still trying to figure out if CW deserves more time for observations.  The thing is, it's so large with so many different habitats that it can be hard to break down.  Yesterday I just did the routine boardwalk route and managed to find a few things.  

Above:  I think I did expect to see Eastern Pondhawks (Erythemis simplicicollis) - here an immature male - but I saw only two, both immature males.

Last year I began photographing dragonflies much later in the season. So in early June I was excited to find a new dragonfly for me.  Above and below:  Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta) - here an adult male perched on a lily pad.  Though new to me, the dot-tailed whiteface is widely distributed throughout the entire northern tier of the country.

Above:  Immature female Dot-tailed Whiteface.

Above:  Essentially unidentified bluet.  As a complete novice, I am always tempted to peg a bluet sighting as being Familiar Bluet just because of their extensive range.  But that's dumb - there are so many bluets - and this is not a Familiar Bluet. I wish it was a Lilypad Forktail, but I am going to guess instead Skimming Bluet (Enallagma geminatum).  I think bluets need to be held in the hand to make their identification.

Below:  Even with details of the eyes, head and thorax under a magnifying glass, so to speak, I think in an expert's hand it might come down to the appendage.

Above:  With maximum cropping and the black abdomen and appendage circled and enlarged, the appendage is still not seen.  All appendages are different, whether a little or a lot.  So, it remains an unidentified bluet.

Below:  a photograph of the appendage drawing from Dennis Paulson's book*.

I was thrilled to see Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor) at Crosswinds. There are also Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudocorus) here but my photo was out-of-focus.

Eastern Phoebes were seen along the boardwalks.  It's likely they nested beneath the bridges.  Above and two below:  Finally one that was close enough to try for photos.  This is a hatch-year bird.

*Paulson, Dennis.  Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East, Princeton University Press, 2011, page 121.