Friday, September 20, 2013

Persistence Pays Off!

I'm glad I talked myself out of bed this morning considering my first class didn't start until noon. And I only had to hit the snooze button once. Then it was off to my new favorite birding spot around the Cities; the Old Cedar Ave Bridge trails. I've been getting out every spare minute I have desperately trying to find a Philadelphia Vireo. It seems everyone in the area has been seeing them except me. They won't be around too much longer, either.

I walked the trails, enjoying the few remaining fall warblers that are trickling through. However, when it came time to head back I had only seen Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireos. On the way back, I ran into a good group of chickadees with a few scattered migrants flitting in the tree tops. I worked the flock and got a brief view of a Philadelphia Vireo! Too fast for pictures. I waited and waited with no additional sightings. Finally, I heard it call and tracked it down. I overexposed the picture, almost beyond recognition... almost.

Philadelphia Vireo
Some bright eastern Warbling Vireos can look similar to Philadelphia Vireos, but this bird shows a bright yellow throat (a great field mark for Philadelphia), a dark contrasting hood, and, possibly most importantly, dark lores.

I was extremely happy to see and photograph one of these before they are all gone. Check back soon, I'll be birding hard this weekend!

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Last of the Geese

My last get-able goose of the year (if I don't go to the east coast this winter) came in the form of a Ross's Goose. Two had been reported the past two days from Hugo, MN, just outside the Twin Cities. This morning, before class, I made a quick trip over to see if they would continue.

Upon arrival, the two small white geese were mixed in with some Canadas. I inspected them both closely as hybrids or intermediate birds are not uncommon. One bird looked great for a pure Ross's, while the other one left me with some uncertainty.

First, we have the good-looking adult Ross's Goose.

Ross's Goose
Notice the short, thick neck, round head, small triangular bill that is straight at the base, and no noticeable "grin patch".

The second bird however, has a few intermediate traits.

Small, white goose
At times, this looked great for a Ross's, but depending on posture, other times it did not. In this photo, it looks more Ross's-like. In the field, it appeared to have a slightly longer, thinner neck and less-round head. It also has a small "grin patch". The base of the bill is mostly straight. Interesting...

Ross's Goose is my 539th bird photographed this year. This photographic big year is an effort to raise awareness and funds for the American Bird Conservancy's work with endangered Hawaiian birds. To see how you can help, click here.

Still waiting to see a Philadelphia Vireo. I better hurry, the window is closing...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Nothing New

Saturday morning I went to Felton Prairie in Minnesota to look for Greater Prairie-Chickens and Chestnut-collared Longspurs. It was very windy, cool and shortly after arriving the storms came through. I had a flyover longspur give a rattle call, but only heard it once and never got a visual, hence no pics. I also didn't have much luck with the Chickens, until a helicopter flew over and flushed at least 12 birds! I followed them, but they never came out into the open. I had to try to get id-able pictures in flight, but I failed miserably.

 I did, however, have fun with sparrows. There were a ton of Savannah Sparrows, a handful of Vesper Sparrows, a few Lincoln's Sparrows, and a Grasshopper Sparrow.

Grasshopper Sparrow (above) and Savannah Sparrow (below)

So, it looks like the Chestnut-collared Longspurs have taken off already. Guess I'll have to take another trip up there for the Chickens.

Tomorrow morning I'll go look for the reported Ross's Geese just outside town, before I go to class. Wish me luck... the way things have been going lately, I'm going to need it!

Sunday, September 8, 2013


I haven't been getting much birding in lately. With grad school and a surprise visit by some non-birding friends, my birding has been minimal. However, after watching the Lions win their home opener, I thought I would see if I could go score a new photo bird. An American Golden-Plover or two have been seen at Purgatory Creek Wetland near Eden Prairie west of Minneapolis. I took the drive and quickly came up with a few shorebirds, including the Plover. It was somewhat distant, far enough that digiscoping was necessary.

American Golden-Plover
This was my last easy shorebird for the year. If I get really lucky, I could get a Red Phalarope yet, but I am not counting on it.

Now if I could just turn up a Philadelphia Vireo. Everyone else seems to be seeing them...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Terning Point

It is quickly becoming obvious I am going to have to change the way I have been birding, especially now that it is fall migration and breeding birds are no longer singing or on territory. All summer I've been spoiled. I was able to simply go to an area where a target bird was nesting and, more often than not, I could find them. Now, that strategy isn't working.

With that in mind, I have been birding a lot the past few days. I had four targets that would have been nice, two of which I thought I had a decent shot at. The targets were Common Tern, Philadelphia Vireo, Connecticut Warbler and Black-billed Cuckoo. The first two on the list were birds I thought I could turn up. My hope was that with the violent storm that came in from the west, mixed with a cold front dropping temps nearly 20 degrees, Wisconsin Point might be dripping with migrants.

So, on 8/31 I left St. Paul very early. First stop was Mille Lacs Lake, one of four places in the state that Common Terns nest. After scouring every possible vantage point of the lake on the east side, I finally got on some Common Terns. They were pretty distant so I resorted to digiscoping.

Common Tern
After slaying my first target, I moved to Wisconsin Point. Because I had already enjoyed the Jaeger show that continues there (5+ Parasitics), I decided to look for passerines. It was really hot but I was able to find a few scattered migrant flocks that held 14 species of warblers. I then moved to Park Point where I picked up another two species of warbler, but not much else. I did some lakewatching in the evening and saw at least two distant Jaegers... and then the storm rolled in!

My friend Skye and I then caught up, got some dinner, and hung out with Erik Bruhnke.

Today, we birded Wisconsin Point bright and early. We started lakewatching and had a Franklin's Gull come in close. Hearing the warbler call notes from the woods behind us, I couldn't help it and had to go passerine birding again. Were there Connecticut Warblers and Philadelphia Vireos to be had?

The woods weren't as birdy as I had hoped. There was certainly no fallout. I kept bumping into small migrant flocks when an interesting warbler popped up. I got a good look, and some pictures, and finally concluded it is a Mourning Warbler with a pretty bold (but still broken) eye ring.

Not a Connecticut Warbler
I have one more day before I start fall classes. Tomorrow, I'll spend the morning birding just outside the cities. There has to be a Philadelphia Vireo around here somewhere!