Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Taste of Mexico

Traveling down to Mexico in this VW bus was a memorable experience.
While in Mexico, I was able to pick up a few new birds for my Mexico list
such as Lark Sparrow, Violet-green Swallow, and Gambel's Quail.

Eric writes: Greetings from Johnson City, TX

If you've never been to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona, there's no better time than now.  In past years, much of the park has been closed due to illegal activity relating to the United States-Mexico border but it is now completely open to the public.  I was there conducting breeding bird surveys but most of the highlights came in the afternoon, after completing the surveys.  

Here are some photos from the week I spent there:

The US-Mexico border from the Mexico side.
Western Diamondback from Organ Pipe.  In one day, we had 8 rattlesnakes of 3 species.
The first Sidewinder I had ever seen.  We saw 5 on this night.
A Western Diamondback that was very well hidden.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Birding in NW Ohio in Preparation for the Biggest Week in American Birding

Rob writes: I always look forward to April. The weather starts to get better in my area, the trees start to bud, and most importantly, many of our migrant birds begin to return. April is also the time of year that the preparations for the Biggest Week in American Birding enter the final stages as we count down the days until the start of the festival in early May.

Each April, I make two trips to Black Swamp Bird Observatory and Magee Marsh in Ohio to spend time meeting with all of our amazing volunteers who serve as leaders and drivers for over 100 field trips during the festival. Once these meetings start, I know that both the festival and the warblers will be arriving very soon! Like any birder, I always find some time to sneak away during my trips and do a bit of birding.

During my time at the famous Magee Marsh boardwalk this past weekend, the area was full of typical early spring migrants such as Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, Fox Sparrows, and Yellow-rumped Warblers. There were also a few surprises, like a very early Ovenbird and a species I'd never seen at Magee Marsh before - Henslow's Sparrow!

There were many Brown Creeper calling as I walked along the Boardwalk.
Hermit Thrushes foraged on the ground and seemed to ignore us as we walked along the Boardwalk.
My friend Brian captured this great shot of a very unusual Henslow's Sparrow on the Crane Creek Estuary Trail.
Another big highlight for me was photographing a Blanding's Turtle as it was making its way across the causeway leading to the the marsh. This is an endangered species, and we were sure to help it across the road after taking some photos so that no one would hit it.

This Blanding's Turtle was a highlight of my weekend!
Just before I needed to start my drive back home, we noticed that raptors were beginning to migrate overhead as the temperatures rose, creating thermals for them to ride. I saw my first Broad-winged Hawks of the year migrating overhead as well as Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrels, Bald Eagles, and one Peregrine Falcon.

I'm looking forward to heading back to Ohio in 2 weeks and seeing how much farther along migration is at that point. We are only 23 days away from The Biggest Week now!  If you haven't registered yet, there's still time to join us at the biggest birding festival in the US.  Click here for more details:  http://www.biggestweekinamericanbirding.com

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Amos Butler Audubon and the Cerulean Warbler

Rob writes: As many of our long-time readers know, both Eric and I have been participating in the Amos Butler Audubon Society Birdathon for many years. This event is a major fundraiser for conservation projects both close to home in Indiana as well as all over the world. One of the main reasons I have always loved this birdathon is that a lot of the funds have been donated to the American Bird Conservancy's (ABC) project to help protect the Cerulean Warbler.

Eric banded this Cerulean Warbler while working on a banding project in Louisiana last spring.
Amos Butler's birdathon has been making donations to this project for many years, and ABC just put out a press release that details the success of the project to protect the Cerulean Warbler's winter habitat in Columbia. In addition to the creation of two reserves (both of which I would love to visit), ABC along with FundaciĆ³n ProAves (a leading conservation organization in Columbia) have created a 6-mile long by 1/2-mile wide conservation corridor connecting the two properties. They've planted 500,000 seedlings on nearly 3,000 acres of land to make this corridor happen!

ABC has provided this map to show where the work to save the Cerulean Warbler has occurred.
Learn more about all of the work they have done by reading their latest press release about the project here. You can support my team in this year's birdathon by following this link and donating to the the Wild Birds Unlimited Team.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tubac and the Santa Ritas

Greetings from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

After missing the Sinaloa Wren last weekend, I knew I would need to make a trip back, or try Fort Huachuca for a different Sinaloa Wren.  I decided to stay closer to Tucson and give the Tubac bird another shot.  This weekend was a much different story.  Within seconds of arriving, I heard the distinctive rattle call.  After a couple minutes, it gave a single burst of song before moving further from the trail.  I never got a visual of the bird, but the real treat with Sinaloa Wrens are their beautiful songs.

The first Hog-nosed Skunk that I've seen.  This one was close to the Sinaloa
Wren spot.
One of many Broad-billed Hummingbirds
After the Sinaloa Wren, I headed to a location that I had never birded, Chino Canyon.  The road in is quite rough and very slow going, but the end location is worth it.  There had been a couple recent reports of Five-striped Sparrow from this location so that was my main target.  I was only marginally successful; the Five-striped sang for a couple minutes but I was never able to locate it.  I guess it gives me a good reason to go back.  The biggest highlight was a pair of Black-capped Gnatcatchers that decided to forage just a few feet away.  A Crissal Thrasher was also a nice bird, since I don't see this species nearly enough.

The male Black-capped Gnatcatcher from Chino Canyon

A Gila Monster.  This guy was on the road as
I was leaving Chino.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Capped Birds in Florida Canyon

Greetings from Tucson, AZ

With a weekend off, and all of southeast Arizona at my finger tips, I figured I would make up for a couple birds that I have missed in past years.  So, with that in mind, I headed to the Santa Rita Mountains.  There were a few birds that I hadn't seen in the US, that were in the area; this included Rufous-capped Warber, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, and Sinaloa Wren.

I started out in Florida Canyon where I quickly came by a Black-capped Gnatcatcher but only got brief looks.  I was hoping for better, but figured I could put in more effort after searching for the Rufous-capped Warblers.  After about a mile of hiking up canyon, I heard a Rufous-capped Warbler singing from the hillside.  Eventually, I had decent looks, but again not great.  I decided to wait out the warblers, which worked to perfection.  A pair came down into the creekbed to forage and get a drink, all within about 20 feet of where I was waiting!

Rufous-capped Warbler in Florida Canyon
After this successful jaunt, I decided to go searching for a Sinaloa Wren along the De Anza Trail in Tubac.  While I didn't have any luck with the Sinaloa Wren, there were still many birds around, and I knew I would have more chances for Sinaloa Wren in the coming weeks.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Slate-throated Redstart in Arizona

Usually I think of my birding luck as being quite bad, but maybe things are turning around.  During my first week in Tucson, two great birds showed up.  The Heerman's Gull and this bird, a Slate-throated Redstart.  As far as I know, this was the first Pima County record of this species.  The few other records from the US, most of which have come in the past five years, have been confined to the Huachuca and Chiricahua Mountains.  

The beautiful Slate-throated Redstart that was found in the Santa Catalina Mountains just outside of Tucson, AZ.
Another shot of the Slate-throated Redstart.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Wonderful Day at Goose Pond FWA

This past Saturday, I traveled south for 2 hours to the incredible Goose Pond FWA in Greene County, Indiana. I had been asked by a small group to lead them around the property for a few hours so they could see all of the fantastic birds in the area.

Although I wasn't meeting my group until 10, I arrived early so I could see what was around in order to decide when to take my group. It didn't take long to see that we were going to have a great day at Goose Pond. I hadn't quite made it to the property when a Red-headed Woodpecker flew across the road and perched close enough for me to click off a couple quick shots. I scouted a few more areas and then headed to meet up with my group. Although they were all new birders, they were excited to get out and see new birds!

It's always a highlight to see Red-headed Woodpeckers.
For me, the best part of the day was the amazing number of waterfowl covering the area. Pretty much everywhere that we stopped, there were tons of ducks to check out!

There were many Green-winged Teal around and the species was one of the favorites my group got to see!

There weren't very many American Wigeon found during our trip.

We had great views of many Northern Pintail including some males in beautiful breeding plumage!
The 300+ American White Pelicans that are currently migrating through the area were all congregated in one unit which was quite a sight to see!

One of my favorite parts of the early spring at Goose Pond is the huge number of American White Pelicans that migrate through the area.
Our final stop was to check for shorebirds in Field C on the south end of Goose Pond. Although the birds weren't as close as when I checked the spot earlier in the day, there were still plenty of shorebirds to be seen. In addition to the usual early arrivals, I was happy to see that the two Long-billed Dowitchers that other birders had found earlier in the day were still there!

It was a wonderful day to be in the field with sunny skies, warm temperatures, and lots of birds!