Thursday, January 31, 2013

Florida Day 2

I previously posted a few pictures from day two of our Florida trip (1/27/2013). The La Sagra's Flycatcher, Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Bachman's Sparrows were great, but there was a lot more to enjoy. We birded Green Cay after seeing the La Sagra's and it was full of birds! Herons and Egrets were everywhere. The birds are extremely tame and are allow great looks.

White Ibis

Florida has a lot of unique birds, many of which can't be found anywhere else in the ABA area. Limpkin is one of those specialties. What a great bird!


The Green Cay Wetlands are also a haven for rails. Soras were messing around near the boardwalk and causing a ruckus. They certainly were not shy.


We also visited Wakodahatchee Wetlands where many herons, egrets and cormorants were sitting on nests or tending to young.

Double-crested Cormorant

And then there are the ever-present Boat-tailed Grackles. While some birds are quiet and shy, these birds are neither.

Boat-tailed Grackle

I took too many pictures to post here, but you can find more pictures from Day 1 and Day 2 of my Florida trip on the flickr page. Coming soon will be details and pictures from Day 3 which included looking for rarities and exotics in Miami. We still have a day and a half left to bird before I drop my dad off at the airport and get moved into my new home for 3 months. Check back soon!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Keep em' Coming

The lack of updates has been directly due to the lack of internet access. We haven't had it in a couple nights. We have been birding from sunrise to sunset every day and have been kindly rewarded. The trip list sits at about 146 birds, many of which I have been able to photograph. It was great birding the Everglades, but we couldn't find a Short-tailed Hawk or the Black Rails along the Coastal Prairie Trail.

Today we birded along the Tamiami Trail to the west side of the state. Nothing overly exciting, although a very cooperative Purple Gallinule was fun to play with. We checked a few beaches on the west side including Tigertail Beach on Marco Island and Little Estero Lagoon near Fort Myers Beach. A lot of new year birds were had including Wilson's Plover, Red Knot, Sandwich Tern, and Magnificent Frigatebird, among others. All were very cooperative.

I'm going to start updating my list and posting more pictures, starting with the first day of the trip. I already posted pictures of the sparrows (see below), and I only took a few other pictures on the first day. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Black Scoter and Laughing Gull were all photographed.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Black Scoter
Laughing Gull

Because a lot of day one was driving, few pictures were taken. Check back for an update on day two (although I already posted a few goodies from that day). We still have a few more days to bird before my actual job starts. Many more birds to come!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Killing it, Florida Style!

We have been extremely fortunate/lucky with our trip so far. We decided to try our luck at Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and Bachman's Sparrows. We nailed both! Bachman's Sparrow isn't singing this time of year, but we still lucked into one. The Red-cockaded Woodpeckers were just a matter of covering ground. We found four.

Bachman's Sparrow

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

We then booked it down to Green Cay Wetlands for the La Sagra's Flycatcher. We weren't even to the spot yet and we could hear the bird calling. It called for a few minutes until it stopped, then called intermittently the rest of the time we were there. However, seeing the bird was a different matter. After 3 hours at the park, the bird finally came right into the open and close. This is a great Myiarchus!

La Sagra's Flycatcher

I obviously photographed a lot more than this. However, I'm getting up really early again tomorrow to look for rare birds in Miami, so this will have to do for now. I promise once my job starts and I have some time to spare, I'll post many more photos and get this blog back in order. Pay no attention to the "birds photographed 2013" counter on the right. It will be updated soon, too.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ammodramus Madness and an Ani

I left Lansing, MI on Friday the 25th with my dad. We headed south to Florida. We drove through the night, battling treacherous driving conditions nearly the entire way. It was the toughest driving I have done since living in the Upper Peninsula. We got to Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estaurine Research Reserve, our first stop, at 830am and had no trouble at all finding the ammodramus sparrows being reported. In fact, they were everywhere. I estimated at least 30 ammodramus sparrows filtering in and out of the area we were watching. Incredible! We had Seaside, Nelson's and Saltmarsh and multiples of each. They were close, but the lighting was bad.

Seaside Sparrow
The drab "Coastal" Nelson's Sparrow
Saltmarsh Sparrow

We then drove to Gainseville and picked up my friend Craig Bateman. He showed us where the Groove-billed Ani is hanging out at Paynes Prairie Preserve. We had a bit of trouble locating this skulky bird. Finally, after giving up hope and ready to leave the park, the bird flew up right in front of us! I managed a clear enough picture to show the grooves on the bill.

Groove-billed Ani

I'm extremely low on sleep. I took a few other pictures, but you'll have to wait for another time. I'll update the rest of the blog and flickr later as well. Hopefully these teasers pictures will be enough to entice you back. The trip just started and we are already off to a great start!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Heading South

Apologies for the lack of posts the past few days. My car has been in the shop getting some maintenance before I take her south. Tomorrow, my dad and I will leave Lansing at noon and head for St. Augustine, Florida. Here we will look for Saltmarsh, Nelson's and Seaside Sparrows at sunrise. Then we move to Gainesville to find the continuing Groove-billed Ani. Then on to Miami. We will scour Miami for two days looking for rarities and exotics before moving to the 'glades. We will then continue up the gulf side before ending near Tallahassee. I'll try to update as much as I can, but as we will be camping part of the time, updates may be sporadic. One thing is for sure, many a bird will be seen and photographed!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tundra Swans

A report came through the local bird line of 4 Tundra Swans hanging out at Park Lake, Michigan in Clinton County. I saw Tundra Swans on 1/1 but they were fly-bys and I was too slow to photograph them. I quickly gathered my things and found the Swans mingling with Canada Geese on Park Lake. Sure enough, Tundras.

Tundra Swans

In with the Canada Geese was a strange hybrid looking thing. It has been decided that this is a Canada X Greylag Goose hybrid, but I'd be open to hearing other opinions.
Strange Goose

It got cold today... really cold. I'm busy trying to plan out a birding route for Floirda, pack for Florida, and get squared up with my doctor. I may not have a lot of time to bird in the next few days, but I'll try to get out for one last big outing.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Birding Western Michigan

The past two days have been spent birding western Michigan, from Berrien County to Ottawa county, with many stops along the way. On 1/18, Adam Byrne and I started at the Forest Lawn Landfill for the Fish Crow(s) that have been present for a few years now. I had yet to chase this bird; glad it stuck around for me. We were successful in hearing a Fish Crow give one call and so we moved on.

The shore near Douglas Beach in Allegan County held thousands of ducks, mostly Common Goldeneye. Try as we might, we couldn't pick a Barrow's. Adam spotted a snazzy male Harlequin Duck as a consolation. I digiscoped it from a great distance. Who knows when I'll see a Harlequin Duck next.

Harlequin Duck- not a great picture, but possibly my only chance this year
We also had a few Bonaparte's Gulls on Kalamazoo Lake.

Bonaparte's Gull
We stopped by a friend's house in Allegan who has a pair of Carolina Wrens at his feeders. I scored pictures of a Wild Turkey as well. This Turkey was hurting, take a look at the foot area. It was extremely gross.

Wild Turkey with a messed-up leg
We stopped by a few feeders that held a few good winter birds for Michigan. The first stop was for a Chipping Sparrow. I'm sure I'll get better pictures later in the year when they are everywhere.

Chipping Sparrow
The next stop was for a beautiful adult male Black-throated Blue Warbler at a private residence that has been present for a while, feeding on suet and bread. It isn't a great picture, but you get the idea.

Black-throated Blue Warbler
Today, 1/19, my dad, grandma and I went back to Forest Lawn Landfill for the Fish Crow (a state bird for them). It took us an hour to get the bird to call, but it did. I managed to shoot a flyover Red-tailed Hawk while waiting.

Red-tailed Hawk
We moved to New Buffalo beach and had an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull roosting with the handful of Ring-billed and Herring Gulls. It wasn't until later I noticed the banded Herring Gull in the background. Interesting...

Lesser Black-backed Gull with banded Herring Gull behind
After finding the previously reported Townsend's Solitaire at Warren Dunes State Park, we moved to Tiscornia. We found my target bird to photograph for the day, Red-throated Loon, but it flushed and eluded me. I was happy with this Surf Scoter for consolation, though.

Surf Scoter
You might remember my horrible Red-breasted Merganser photo from earlier this year. I was able to take a better one at Tiscornia.

Red-breasted Merganser
From Tiscornia, it was to Sarrett Nature Center to photograph a Pine Siskin which wasn't hard at all. They were quite numerous and very confiding.

Pine Sisken
We hoped for Purple Sandpipers, so we moved north to Holland State Park where two have been seen off and on for weeks. Unfortunately, they were "off" today and we couldn't find them anywhere. Of course, I wasn't disappointed in an aythya flock holding Lesser Scaup and Redhead in Macatawa Bay. They were semi-digiscopable, but the wind shaking my tripod didn't help.

Lesser Scaup
Redhead with Lesser Scaup and Bufflehead
These pictures, as well as not-so-special pictures of an American Coot and Common Loon can be found on the flickr page. It has been quite a successful two days of birding, helping push my birds photographed list to 75.

If you haven't had the chance yet, please consider pledging for the American Bird Conservancy's work with endangered Hawaiian birds. See  this page. Its easy, and the ABC receives 100% of the donations.

Keep checking back, there are still plenty of birds to photograph.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Nothing New, Just Improved

I was unable to find any new birds to photograph for the year. I searched unsuccessfully for Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings previously reported around MSU. So, I moved to Fenner to enjoy the continuing Townsend's Solitaire. I found the bird and started taking pictures.

Townsend's Solitaire
As luck would have it, Eastern Bluebirds were enjoying the sunshine along the edge of the field. They would fly down to the thawing ground to feed.

Eastern Bluebird
Both of these pictures were taken by digiscoping. I'm absolutely loving the camera combined with my scope, as long as the bird isn't too far away.

More birding tomorrow. Hopefully more photos, too.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Solitaire, Hoary, Rough-legged +

The past day and a half have been great for birds and photography. Yesterday afternoon, a Townsend's Solitaire was found at Fenner Nature Center. I got to the scene just in time to view the bird and snap a few digiscoped pictures in fading light.

Townsend's Solitaire- digiscoped

Today, Adam Byrne and I left Lansing VERY early, 3am in fact, to do some owling on the way to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. We managed one Barred Owl at Maple River State Game Area, but it was just a bit outside the range for my flash. No pictures... of that individual.

Once we got to St. Ignace, just across the Mackinac Bridge, we re-found the previously reported Western Grebe. It was clearly an Aechmophorus grebe, but was too far to see the finer details. We even got to see the bird take off the water and fly 300+ yards, a sight not often seen in Michigan.

We had one finch while trying to re-locate the Grebe. Amazingly, this single finch was a male Hoary Redpoll! This was great luck, as Hoary Redpoll was one of my target species to photograph before leaving Michigan.

A nice male Hoary Redpoll, one of very few finches today

The weather started getting pretty nasty with blowing snow and high wind. We drove a few back roads hoping for finches, but no luck. I did finally get a Common Raven picture, but with the blowing snow, it turned out pretty horrific. I'll spare you the picture, but it can be found on the flickr sight.

The weather turned VERY bad, we were lucky to get south of the bridge alive. We worked many back roads and state parks but couldn't find anything of note. Finally, we spotted a Rough-legged Hawk along the highway.

Rough-legged Hawk

That highlight lasted for a bit, until we spotted another Barred Owl, this time right along the road in the daylight. I had better luck photographing this one!

Barred Owl

We made our way back to Lansing and so ended a good, long day of birding. Tomorrow I target Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I mentioned in a previous post that I scored a very cheap Canon S90 off eBay and rigged up a digiscoping adapter for it to attach to my Kowa scope. It has been years since I last properly digiscoped and I am still coming to terms with the settings. Today was sunny for a while in the morning, so I gave it the first real-world run through.

I went to the ADM road in Grand Ledge, Michgian where Snow Buntings and Horned Larks have been reported. I found 0 Snow Buntings, but Horned Larks were around. One perched up not too far off the road and so started my digiscoping. I'm very pleased with the result.

Horned Lark

Obviously, not all of my future digiscoping pictures will turn out like this, but it does show the potential. I'm really looking forward to using this more and learning the finer functions of the camera.

Also, please remember that one of my goals for this photographic big year is to help the American Bird Conservancy raise money for bird conservation in Hawaii. A few people have already pledged, which is great (THANKS)! See the "Donate" tab in the top header for more information.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Surprise Flicker

I've been working a lot lately, which has really cut down on my birding time. While packing my car this morning, I heard the unmistakable call of a Northern Flicker coming from somewhere in the yard. Much to my amusement, he was feasting on the suet. While I know there are overwintering birds in the state (and even in the general area), it was nice to see in the yard. Picture bird #55!

Northern Flicker, with the tongue

I won't be working much this week, so keep an eye out for updates. I also have all weekend to bird. Now to just find a way to get to British Columbia...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Local Birding

I haven't had time to get out of Lansing lately. However, I keep finding new birds to photograph right around home. I went to Fenner Nature Center without much hope, but managed to find a Pileated Woodpecker and a White-throated Sparrow. Pileated is good for the park, and White-throated is good for this time of the year.

White-throated Sparrow

Pileated Woodpecker- these are the pictures I hope to improve on. Anything is better than this one!

I then moved to Shubell Park along the Grand River and had a group of American Black Ducks, although they were quite far.

American Black Ducks

On my way out, I heard a Carolina Wren calling, so I tracked it down. Another one bites the dust.

Carolina Wren

I have been out owling the past two nights as well, scoring both Barred and Eastern Screech, but both eluded photography. Luckily, I have plenty of time to get these. Barred Owls are quite easy in Florida, and Eastern Screech can be had too. I'll probably try once again before leaving, though.

Also, I just got a great digiscoping camera for dirt cheap on eBay. I rigged up an adapter and am very anxious to use it. Now I'm just waiting on the memory card to arrive...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The First 50

Yesterday saw my big year reach the 50 birds photographed mark. Not that this is an impressive number, but for Michigan in winter, it isn't too bad.

I birded Rose Lake area where a local birder has an Evening Grosbeak coming to his feeder. Apparently the bird only comes once in a while, so while waiting I had fun photographing a few other species. My first Purple Finches of the year were coming to their feeders.

Purple Finch (female/1st year male type)

A Hairy Woodpecker enjoyed some suet after chasing away a Downy.

Hairy Woodpecker

And finally, the Evening Grosbeak dropped by for a few minutes.

Evening Grosbeak (female)

There were reports of Bohemian Waxwings in the area, so I looked for them also. I had a nice flock at Burke Lake that only stuck around for a few minutes. There were probably at least a dozen birds. I then drove around and found a big waxwing flock on the corner of Stoll Road and Peacock Road, just west of the intersection, on Stoll Road. There were at least 40 Cedar Waxwings with a few Bohemian Waxwings mixed in. There are a lot of berries here and it wouldn't surprise me if they stick around for a while.

One of the Bohemian Waxwings

What to do next? I could go over to Muskegon and target a few birds over there. I could go to Berrien and look for the Townsend's Solitaire. I could head east to Lake Erie Metropark for ducks. Stay tuned...

Monday, January 7, 2013

More Progress

Yesterday I attempted to see the Varied Thrush that has been hanging around Nashville, Michigan, but had no luck. However, some birding in the area resulted in a few more birds photographed, so I chalked it up to a minor success. While grabbing some Tim Horton's in Lansing, a Cooper's Hawk sat up nicely on a billboard. I've seen some decent sized Cooper's, and this was one of them.

Cooper's Hawk

We also came across a few berry trees hosting an American Robin.

American Robin

One of the fields we drove by had a hovering American Kestril. I have had the worst luck photographing this species, and I'm not talking about just this year. Every time I drive up to one, riiiiiiiiight before I come to a stop, they fly away. I'll have to outsmart one, but this picture will do for now... I guess.

American Kestrel

And last, and certainly least, the ever present Rock Pigeon. But hey, it had to be done.

Rock Pigeon

So, this brings the 2013 birds photographed list to 46. I'll be birding a bit this week, trying to track down a few Michigan winter specialties. I "accidentally" won a decent digiscoping camera on eBay that I thought I had no shot at, so no more crummy iPhone digiscoped photos in the near future! It should come in handy in Florida.

If you are wondering, I have only enticed one other person to donate to the American Bird Conservancy, besides myself. I thought this would be more of a hit, especially after the ABA making a big deal about the need for conservation in Hawaii. I guess we will continue to see how it shakes out!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Little Sun Goes a Long Way

It was a beautiful day today. Unfortunately, I was unable to venture far from home, so I focused on photographing a few more feeder birds that eluded me thus far. House Finch, House Sparrow and Blue Jay finally met their match. It was a lot easier getting a decent photograph when there is a little light!

Just a House Sparrow
Blue Jay
House Finch

A surprise was a Sharp-shinned Hawk flying high overhead against the blue sky. I quickly snapped off a few pictures, but the bird was very high and distant. Still, you can tell it is a Sharpie.

Tomorrow, depending on my work schedule (I'll find out tonight), I may try to get to one of the big lakes. If I can't, I may just do some owling and try to photograph a few more easy ones around Lansing.