Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Northern Saw-whet Owl at Maumee Bay State Park

Over the weekend, I made a quick road trip up to Northwest Ohio and was able to sneak a little birding in  while I was there. I saw one lifer during my trip, a Hoary Redpoll! You can read about that sighting here on the Birds & Blooms Blog.

After seeing the redpoll, I headed to Maumee Bay State Park to look for a Northern Saw-whet Owl. My friend Brian met me over there and took us to the spot for the owl. As we walked up, there were already people looking at the owl which made it very easy to spot!

Although there were a few branches in the way, I snapped this shot of the owl.
Late in the day, we were able to do a little more birding atthe Bayshore Fishing Access right on Lake Erie. There were tons of ducks but the real highlight was the volume of gulls in the area! In addition to the huge numbers of Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, we saw a few of the more uncommon species including, Glaucous, Iceland, and Great and Lesser Black-backed. I ended up seeing 43 total species on the day!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

An Indiana Little Gull

Eric writes:

Rob needed a Little Gull for his state list, so we headed out to Turtle Creek Reservoir in western Indiana, where one has been present since November 2nd. Needless to say, this bird will probably spend the rest of the winter in this location.  We decided to stop by the Dugger Unit of Greene-Sullivan State Forest before heading over to Turtle Creek since I had birded the location a few days before with great results.

A first-year, light morph Rough-legged Hawk.  One of the many raptors we observed on the day.
It was amazing how much of a difference a few days made at Dugger; it was still great birding but the species mix was much different.  On Saturday, we had over 1500 Snow Geese but on this day we didn't come across a single "white" goose species.  However, we had a much greater diversity of ducks and a nice highlight, at least one Brewer's Blackbird.  We also had a nice diversity of raptors although we didn't end up with anything unusual.

Part of one of the Snow Geese flocks.  Can you spot any Ross's?
When we arrived at Turtle Creek, we got our fill of "white" geese, including 2 Ross's in a Snow Goose flock that flew directly overhead.  We ended up estimating a total of 2500 Snow Geese as well as much lower numbers of Greater White-fronted and Canada.  Once we reached the north end of the reservoir, where the Little Gull spends most of its time.  All of the gulls took flight after a couple minutes and we quickly located the Little but, it was only in view for about a minute before heading south.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Long-eared Owls

Eric writes:

As always, when you are in the Midwest during the winter there can be a relative lack of birds.  But during this time birders usually spend quite a bit of time looking for owls.  Recently, a single Long-eared Owl was found in Indiana so a few of us headed to the site.  When we arrived a couple birders were looking at the owl through the scope.  After a few minutes, we changed position, to get a better view.  Then it still took a few more minutes to realize there was more than one and eventually ended up counting four owls.

These owls can be extremely difficult to find but if you do find one, make sure to look for more as they usually roost communally during the winter.

Here are a couple pics to show how well this species can "hide".

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Quest for an Ivory Gull

On Thursday, Eric and I, along with our friends Landon and Steve, made the 5 hour drive to Quincy, Illinois to search for the Ivory Gull that had been reported there. When we were about an hour away, Landon received a call from another birder that wanted to let us know that the bird was at the marina where it likes to hang out. We all hoped that it would stay put until we could get there!

As we pulled in to the marina, we could see a big group of birders and saw the gull before we even got out of the car. It was a life bird for all of us and we were excited to spend some time studying the bird.

This was our first view of the bird from the car.
We spent the next hour watching the bird and we all were very excited when it flew around for a few minutes and caught a fish!

Another shot of the bird as it perched on top of some of the docks at the marina.
I was also able to capture some video of the Ivory Gull eating the fish that it caught while we were watching. Luckily, I had the video running while the bird put on a show!

After we had our fill of the Ivory Gull, we made a quick stop at the Quincy Lock and Dam to looks for another life bird for Landon and I, Eurasian Tree Sparrow. We found a mixed flock of birds that included about 20 Eurasian Tree Sparrows before we even got to the lock. It was very interesting to watch both Eurasian and American Tree Sparrows in the same flock.

On our way home, we attempted to find a Prairie Falcon that had been seen earlier in the day but we couldn't find it even after an hour of searching. The wind was whipping by this point and the temperature had dropped to the single digits so we decided to call it a day and head home.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Whitefish Point: Long-tailed Duck Migration

Eric writes:

One of the main reasons I wanted to count waterbirds at Whitefish Point was the large numbers of Long-tailed Ducks that migrate through the area.  This fall did not disappoint; a total of over 27,000 migrated by the point, most of which were recorded in October.  More than 8,300 flew by on a single day in October.  This flight consisted of a handful of flocks numbering between 400-500 birds; seeing flocks of this size is extremely impressive.

Take a look at the photo below.  How many Long-tailed Ducks, without individually counting, do you think are in this flock alone? (all birds in the photo are LTDUs)

A portion of one of the "big" Long-tailed Duck flocks.

Long-tailed Duck flocks continually shift from water-level to well above the water while they are flying.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Successful Honduras Birding Tour

Rob writes: I returned from Honduras last weekend and am already missing the warm temperatures as I sit here in Indiana looking at a bit of snow out my window.

After arriving a day early and spending the night in San Pedro Sula, I picked up my participants up and headed for our first stop in the beautiful Lake Yojoa area. The birding was fantastic around our hotel, Finca Las Glorias, as well as in Santa Barbara National Park and at Panacam Lodge! After only 3 days of birding, we left this part of Honduras with just over 150 species!

Turquoise-browed Motmots are very common around Lake Yajoa.

Our first Violet Sabrewing of the trip was found eating from the feeders at Panacam Lodge.

Rufous-naped Wrens were commonly heard singing near our rooms at Finca Las Glorias.

Although it's not a great photo, it was fun to watch these White-fronted Parrots feeding.
The rest of our trip was spent at The Lodge at Pico Bonito which is one of the most beautiful and comfortable hotels that I have ever visited in the tropics. Oh and the birding in the area isn't bad either! In addition to birding on the grounds of the lodge, we visited 4 other incredible birding spots along the North Shore of Honduras.

This Boat-billed Heron was pretty cooperative at Cuero y Salado Wildlife Refuge.

We were all very excited to find a Hook-billed Kite near the Honduran Emerald Reserve in the Aguan Valley.

Finding a Lesser Roadrunner was one of the highlights of the whole trip!

I'm always happy to find kingfishers such as this Ringed Kingfisher at Cuero y Salado.
We ended the trip with 241 species in 9 full days of birding including one day that was almost completely rained out. I saw 13 life birds and my participants all got 35 or more lifers! If you'd like to visit Honduras with me, be sure to keep an eye out for our announcement about our next tour to this beautiful county which will be coming soon or contact me for additional details.

Here are a few more photos from our recent trip.

Our whole group on our way to The Lodge at Pico Bonito.
Everyone enjoyed spending time with Leonel and his family near Santa Barbara National Park. Leonel is working to protect the park from deforestation and to promote tourism in the area.
We made a quick stop for some snacks at this local fruit stand. The bananas and pineapple were incredible!

Most places that we visited in Honduras were all decorated
for Christmas including the Lodge at Pico Bonito.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Whitefish Point: A Sabine's Gull Story

Eric writes:

It's been a month since the fall waterbird count at Whitefish Point ended.  After, finally, going through the photos, I realized there were many memorable experiences that I hadn't posted about.  So, here is one with a Sabine's Gull as the star!

The Sabine's Gull as it was approaching the point.

It had been a good day out at the point, almost 3000 waterbirds had passed, when suddenly a Sabine's Gull appeared, flying lazily down the shore.  This was only the second "Sab" of the season so I was excited to watch and photograph it at close range (at least for a Sabine's Gull).  As it approached the point, the action started, a Peregrine Falcon had taken notice of this small gull.  The chase was on!  Sabs are agile flyers but Peregrines are one of the most skilled flyers in the world.  However, the Sab knew what it was doing and stayed higher than the Peregrine throughout much of the chase; it's much harder to hunt from below your prey.  After 5-6 unsuccessful stoops the Peregrine gave it up and the Sabine's continued on it's migration.

Here are a few photos from when the attack was on:

The juvenile Sabine's Gull while it was avoiding the Peregrine.

The sab when it was directly above the shack.

The hungry Peregrine on the chase.