Monday, August 31, 2009

Birding Eagle Creek Park: Watery Wednesday

It is always nice to spend a morning at Eagle Creek Park in central Indiana during migration as I am not usually home during May or September. Rob and I arrived early to pretty clear skies but very quickly the clouds rolled in blanketing the sky. Warblers and other migrant passerines are usually more concentrated at sunrise when they feed in the areas warmed by the sun. The bugs start moving around earlier in the sun so the birds take advantage of the easier prey. Unfortunately when it is cloudy you can't take advantage of this behavior.

The clouds about to cover the sun.

Our first bird was a Snowy Egret which is a pretty unusual bird for Eagle Creek. I had found this bird about a week ago so knew it was around. We then headed to the marina for the expected warbler show. It took a while to find anything at all. Our first flock contained only three species of warblers. As we were driving out of the marina area we noticed a few other Eagle Creek birders had found a flock. This flock was much better and we had Blackburnian and Cape May in the mix.


Do you see the Geese?

We decided to go check the north end mudflats for shorebirds at this point. We, along with a couple other birders, hiked to the north end and found many shorebirds but little diversity. We were able to study many at somewhat close range including two cooperative Stilt Sandpipers. A Bald Eagle and two Black Terns were also fun to watch.


If you are ever in the central Indiana area during migration be sure to stop by Eagle Creek Park. It is excellent for warbler migration in May and September and sometimes has lots of waterfowl and shorebirds.

Check out more great Watery Wednesday posts here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lake Superior Sunset: SkyWatch Friday

Just a couple more sunset shots from the UP of Michigan:

I liked the pastel colors in the sunset on this evening.

On the shore of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The rocky shore
is lots of fun to explore. Hopefully I can make it back soon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Peep ID Article Preview

Eric has recently finished writing an article about peep identification. Peeps are a group of 5 small sandpipers and the group includes Baird's, Least, Semipalmated, Western, and White-rumped. This is a very difficult group to deistinguish between in the field and this article aims to give you great identification points to look for when you see these species. The full article can be found on our Nutty Birder website or by following this link http://nuttybirder.com/Articles/peepidentification.html.

Below is a short excerpt from the article:

Distinguishing Small Peeps from Large Peeps:
Without much experience, distinguishing sizes of peeps in the field can be difficult. The best way to get a grasp on the different sizes is to bird in a location where there are many shorebirds. After a few experiences with these species, it shouldn’t be too difficult to understand the size difference. One of the biggest differences in shape between small and large peeps is wing length. While in a resting position the wings of a large peep extend beyond the tail feathers while the wings of a small peep do not extend beyond the tail feathers. Because of this, large peeps have a more elegant, thin look than the small peeps. Small peeps look stout and much less elegant.


Junvenile Least Sandpiper

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Little Beaver Lake and Miner's Beach: SkyWatch Friday

Both of the photos below were taken on a trip to the UP of Michigan. The first was taken at Little Beaver Lake right near our campsite. The second shot is from the southeast corner of Miner's Beach.

Little Beaver Lake Sunset

Little Beaver Lake

Miner's Beach - Southeast End



Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Seney NWR: Watery Wednesday

While in the UP of Michigan, Eric and I made a short trip to Seney National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge is best known as a great area to see Trumpeter Swans. While there, we not only got to see Trumpeter Swans with their cygnets, we also saw a Common Loon with its young. Below are a few of the pictures that we took while at the refuge.

Seney NWR Ponds

Trumpeter Swan

Common Loon stretching its wings


Check out more great Watery Wednesday posts here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Behavior: Bird Photography Weekly

After going to Florida in March my computer crashed and I had yet to back up some of the photographs that I had taken during the early part of 2009. I finally got it all recovered this week and remembered seeing a very interesting Sapsucker/Red-bellied Woodpecker behavior. Down in Florida the Sapsuckers commonly drill their wells in palm trees. While watching one work its way from well to well I noticed a Red-bellied Woodpecker doing the same. I had never seen a Red-bellied Woodpecker use a Sapsucker's well before.

Here is a shot of this behavior:

You can see the Red-bellied Woodpecker on the tree in the background.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Arches National Park - Skywatch Friday

Beautiful arches and hot sun. Where are we? Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. The park claims hundreds of arches but many are very small and barely noticable. There are quite a few though that can take your breath away if you still have it after hiking in the hot desert. The best way to take in the park is to arrive very early or in the early evening or better yet do both.

Here are a couple shots that are from the same morning. It was quite a sky to witness.



Taken through Pine Tree Arch while watching bats fly overhead and land in rock crevices.




This was taken just down the trail from the last shot. The entire area has very interesting rock formations.

Check out more great SkyWatch Friday here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Harbor Seal Yawn: Watery Wednesday

The California coast is not just for the birds. With a little exploration of the coastal rock formations and tidepools, the amount of life is quickly apparent. The beautiful colors of the starfish and crabs keep your attention until you see a group of seals or other aquatic mammals in the water or lounging on the rocks.

This is a series of a Harbor Seal yawning:

Mid-yawn

It looks like he is smiling for the camera, doesn't it?

Again in mid-yawn.

In addition to the Nutty Birder Blog, I now have a new photoblog that provides an explanation of how I took many of my photos. Visit that blog at: http://ripmaphotography.blogspot.com/

Eric

Check out more great Watery Wednesday posts here.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Piping Plovers in the UP: Bird Photography Weekly

On the first night of my trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Eric and I were hiking along the beach at Whitefish Point looking for a great place to photograph the sunset from. As we walked along the beach, we noticed a small shorebird up ahead. As we got our binoculars on the bird, we both realized that it was a Piping Plover and that it was walking down the beach right towards us. We quickly switched to our larger lenses and got down low to the ground to get a good angle on the approaching plover.

It continued to approach us closer and closer as we began to take some photographs. It came as close as 15 feet and we were able to get some amazing shots. Below are a two of my favorites.

Piping Plover

Piping Plover

Friday, August 7, 2009

Piping Plover Video

It only took six months for me to get my florida bird videos off of the video camera and onto my computer. I will start editing some of them when I learn how to but for now I thought I would share one of the many videos.

Piping Plover

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Grand Sable Dunes of Michigan: SkyWatch Friday

Towering 300 feet over the Lake Superior coast lies some of the most impressive sand dunes in the Great Lakes region. To hike or roll down the dunes, the total height comes to 500 feet - to struggle back up could take up to an hour. I decided to hike along the side of the dunes at about 270 feet to get into a good position to photograph the dunes as the sun set. Unfortunately, it didn't quite happen as planned. I never actually fell down the dune, but a storm came in over the dunes without much warning and got me pretty good before I could get back to the car. I gave up on the dunes even though the sun wasn't due to set for another hour and a half and headed off to a beach to see if the storm would move past. It ended up moving quickly by and provided the best sunset of the five days we spent in the UP.



The Grand Sable Dunes as a storm comes rolling in.

About an hour and a half after the storm rolled through on a beach close to Grand Marais.
Take a look at my new photoblog at: http://ripmaphotography.blogspot.com/.
The new blog will discuss how I took some of my photos and the equipment involved as well as positive and negative aspects of each image.

Check out more great SkyWatch Friday posts here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Life Birds 456 and 457: Summer in the UP of Michigan

As my brother and I headed for the UP, we had high hopes of getting three lifers each. We knew it would be difficult since the summer is not the best time to visit northern Michigan, but we still believed that we could find our target species. We set out in search of Spruce Grouse, Boreal Chickadee, and Evening Grosbeak but didn’t realize how difficult these species really are during the summer months.

After the first five days of the trip, neither of us had seen a lifer yet - but that was about to change. On our final night in the UP, we went to Whitefish Point to look for birds and to photograph the sunset. While the sunset did not allow for great photographs, one bird completely made up for it. As we entered the wooded area behind the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, we heard a rustling noise to our left. As we turned to find the cause of the commotion, a juvenile Northern Goshawk took flight and flew past us at a distance of only 30 feet or so.

This was a lifer for me and quite an exciting bird to see even if it was only for 10 seconds! The Goshawk flew over the trees and out of sight never to be seen again. We continued to bird the area, but it appeared that the Goshawk must have scared everything away. We saw no other lifers that day but were very happy to see such an awesome bird of prey!

The next morning we were able to do a little birding at Tahquamenon Falls State Park before we had to head out of the UP and back home. We got to the park very early and were the only people there when we arrived. While hiking to the Upper Falls, we came upon a male Blackburnian Warbler feeding a fledgling at eye level. It was an amazing experience to be able to watch this beautiful bird so closely!

Tahquamenon Falls

Upper Tahquamenon Falls

When we got back to the parking lot, Eric thought he heard the call of an Evening Grosbeak so we set off in search of it. As we headed toward the sound, it seemed to move farther and farther away. After hiking around for a few minutes, we heard the call and again but this time it seemed to be right above us. We were able to quickly spot a single young male Evening Grosbeak singing incessantly in the tree. After a few minutes, it flew to another tree and perched out in the open this time. This was extremely exciting as it was a lifer for both of us.

While we only got one of our three target species, it was still a great trip. The scenery is beautiful, and I got to see a moose for the first time ever. I suggest that everyone make a trip to the UP.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Waterfalls of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan: Watery Wednesday

After spending five days in the UP of Michigan, we only scratched the surface of the waterfall possibilities. We visited about 10 waterfalls but missed many more in the general vicinity. We explored some of the Lake Superior coast and saw the huge dunes and cliffs in the region. The last night of our trip we found a juvenile plumaged Northern Goshawk and the following morning we spotted an Evening Grosbeak, both of which were target birds for us. We also saw many species of breeding warblers including Mourning, Canada, and a Blackburnian feeding a fledging at eye level.

Here are a couple pics of some of the impressive waterfalls in the UP.

Chapel Falls


Sable Falls

Miners Falls

Check out more great Watery Wednesday posts here.