Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sax-Zim Bog Letdown

All of the recent Great Gray Owl sightings at the Sax-Zim Bog persuaded me to take a drive on Sunday (11/24). I spent 5 hours in the afternoon/evening searching for the reported Great Grays without luck. I'm sure they are still around, but they were hiding, and doing it quite well. Therefore, no new photo birds this weekend. I did see a porcupine, a sight I don't often see. I'll be heading back to Michigan for the Thanksgiving break where I'll search for Little Gulls, Short-eared Owls, Long-eared Owls and anything else that might show up. If that Red Phalarope sticks around in Ohio, perhaps I'll make the drive. Hoping for a few new ones by the end of the week!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Two weeks is too long. +2

On this dark and wet day in Minneapolis, I didn't wake early to go birding. Instead I slept in, had a great breakfast, and by 1pm was ready to go look at birds. It had been a full two weeks since my last time even picking up binoculars. To put this in perspective, the last time I had gone two weeks without birding was over 7 years ago!

Since there was a recent eBird report of 6 Gray Partridge south of the cities by only 45 minutes, I thought I'd go explore the area. I've looked for Gray Partridge only once or twice before, so calling them a "nemesis" bird isn't appropriate. More like a much overdue lifer. When we got to the location, the Great Western Industrial Park near Randolph, MN, it was dark and rainy... the exact opposite of what you want for taking pictures. To make matters worse, Gray Partridge are notoriously tough to find without snow (and even when there IS snow), and are often seen only in flight. Even if we did find them, I knew getting photos would be tough.

We walked the area where the Partridge were described from for a while, soaking our feet and pants, but no luck. As I turned to head back to the car, 5 birds flushed away from me. Gray Partridge! I rattled off a few pictures but, shooting at ISO 3200 against a dark sky isn't ideal. The photos leave much to be desired. Luckily, we saw where they landed. This time, when they flushed, there was a slightly better background. While these pictures may be the worst identifiable photos of Gray Partridge that exist, they are still identifiable.

Gray Partridge
Notice the rufous in the tail of both birds, and the rufous face, barely visible, on the top bird. No other game bird in North America will show these features. While Chukar have rufous in the tail, they lack the rufous face and are gray overall. I just barely pulled this off!

We decided to check Lake Byllesby. On the way, two male Ring-necked Pheasants were feeding along side the road. This is always a tough bird for me to SEE, so I was happy to have two very cooperative birds.

Ring-necked Pheasants
While the pictures today are far less than great, I'll take them given the conditions. Two new game birds for the year, and a long overdue lifer! New photo birds continue to get harder and harder to find. Stay tuned!

Friday, November 15, 2013

No Birding = No Birds

Apologies for my lack of posts lately. But, since my trip to Hawk Ridge almost 2 weeks ago, I haven't been out... at all. Its horrible. I've been very bogged down with school the past two weeks. However, I plan to get out once this weekend and once next weekend in hopes of cleaning up a few more birds while the weather is nice. Then, over Thanksgiving break, I'll have 2 full days to go birding in Michigan. So, hang in there. More birds will be coming soon. I promise.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hawk Ridge and Duluth

I visited Hawk Ridge on 11/2 with one goal in mind; photographing a Northern Goshawk. When we arrived at 930am, there were Rough-legged Hawks and Bald Eagles already moving. A nice start. After an hour or so, a very pale Red-tailed Hawk soared right over us, in view for long enough to study the field marks, take pictures, and conclude we had just seen a Krider's Red-tailed fly by. In talking with the official counters, it sounds like maybe 1-2 are seen every fall. This was my first Krider's ever! While the Krider's was still in sight, a Northern Goshawk also started heading our way. It never came close, but it did come close enough for a few distant, identifiable pictures.

Krider's Red-tailed Hawk
Northern Goshawk
We left before noon and ventured to Wisconsin Point for some gulling. When I was an undergrad at Northern Michigan University, I spent 4 years gulling in the harbors just about daily. It became an addiction. Lately, I haven't been able to get my fix as I've lived too far from good gulling locations. Now, with Wisconsin Point only 2.5 hours away, I will be going more frequently. On my last visit a couple weekends ago we had Thayer's, Great Black-backed, Sabine's, Herring and Ring-billed Gulls. I was hoping for Iceland Gull this trip, but no such luck. I did spot what I believe to be a 2nd cycle Thayer's, an age class I don't see many of. At some angles, the primaries looked lighter than others. Here they look pretty dark. If someone wanted to argue "intermediate" between Thayer's and Iceland for this gull, I wouldn't argue back. A beautiful gull, though!

2nd cycle Thayer's Gull

We also had a very snazzy Western Grebe on the Minnesota side of the line. This was a full-on Western with no signs of intermediate or hybrid characteristics and one of the nicer ones I've seen on the Great Lakes.

 I still am managing to find new photo birds, one by one.

Next weekend, I may target Ring-necked Pheasant or Great Gray Owl. Stay tuned!