Thursday, February 28, 2013

Biggest Week Registration is OPEN!

Rob writes: We interrupt my Hawaii posts to make an exciting announcement! Registration for the Biggest Week in American Birding is open! You can check out all of the awesome trips and speakers and get registered for the event on the Biggest Week website!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Rest of My Journey into Waikamoi Preserve on Maui

(Part One of this story can be found on the Birding is Fun blog by clicking here.)

Rob writes: As we continued our descent of about 700 feet to the boardwalk at Waikamoi Preserve, I was still trying to wrap my head around what we had just encountered. To see a Kiwikiu (Maui Parrotbill) and to get photo was far beyond all of my expectations for the day. Chuck was excited that we had seen the parrotbill and was also relieved that we had found the rarest bird in the area - the pressure of finding birds for me was gone. I laughed and told him that I was just happy to have been able to bird the property!

On the way down to the boardwalk, Chuck filled me in on what was going on on the property. The Nature Conservancy has been working hard to improve that habitat on this preserve. One of the major improvements they have made is a fence that keeps out most of the introduced mammals. Feral pigs were one of the biggest threats to the preserve because they can clear large amounts of undergrowth in a very short time period. Once the fence was built, a team of hunters was hired to come in and eliminate all of the pigs that were in the fenced area. The plan worked perfectly, and on a recent survey by the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project, they found no evidence of any pigs on the preserve!

Just before we arrived at the boardwalk, Chuck suggested that we stop and wait for a few minutes to see if an 'Akohekohe (Crested Honeycreeper) would come in to a tree that was in bloom. After only about 3 minutes, two 'Akohekohe flew in and started foraging in the flowers. They flew off rather quickly but we decided to wait a few minutes to see if they would return. It didn't take long, and this time they stuck around long enough for me to get a couple of photos!

My first shot of 'Akohekohe. The lighting was very tough so it is not a great shot, but it's still a very awesome bird!

A slightly better shot of the 'Akohekohe. It is still blurry, but the lighting was much better.
After getting our fill of these two individuals, we started down the boardwalk. It is really amazing how lush the forest is along the boardwalk. There were 'Apapane singing everywhere, more 'I'iwi than I knew existed in one place, and plenty of 'Amakihi and 'Alauahio.

The Boardwalk
During our time on the boardwalk, we believe that we found at least 8 individual 'Akohekohe, but this is a conservative number and it's likely that there were even more!

One more 'Akohekohe shot.
Waikamoi was the birding highlight of my entire trip to Hawaii, and I really cannot express how amazing it is to have the chance to see birds like the Kiwikiu and 'Akohekohe that are among the rarest birds in the world. They are both listed as Critically Endangered on ICUN's Red List and face a serious threat of extinction. The most unfortunate fact is that this is not uncommon among Hawaiian birds. Would you believe that we have had bird species go extinct in the United States within the last 10 years? It's terrible but true. As one example, the Po'ouli was last seen in 2004, and it's almost certain that this species has been lost forever.

After I finish up my posts on my adventures in Hawaii, I will be writing a post about the conservation efforts that are going on in Hawaii and what you can do to help!


Monday, February 25, 2013

Answer to Bird Quiz #162 - Red-necked Phalarope

It has been several weeks since I have posted a bird quiz due to having limited internet while I was in Hawaii. Since it is the end of the month, we have decided to turn this quiz series into a series of just two quizzes. Almost everyone got the first quiz right so this quiz is a little harder!

Last Week's Quiz:

How to Identify:

The shape of the bird in our id quiz is more distinctive than most.  The duck-like shaped body, with a long neck, small head, and needle-like bill should land you safely in the phalaropes.  From here it gets a bit more difficult but it should still be quickly identifiable.  The black face mask rules out Wilson’s Phalarope and the needle-like bill with a dark base rules out Red Phalarope.  So, we are left with our only other phalarope, the Red-necked Phalarope.

Next Quiz:

The final quiz in our February quiz series is posted here:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pileated Woodpecker Foraging Behavior

While making a u-turn in a cemetery, to look for Lapland Longspurs I had just seen fly across the road, I observed this beautiful Pileated Woodpecker foraging a few feet off the road.  I have seen them foraging in the past and have found remnants of their foraging many times, but I had never been lucky enough to see it at such close range.  Their diet consists mainly of ants and other other insects but also occasionally fruits.  After the Pileated is fulfilled, there is usually at least one large oval hole with chunks of wood scattered on the ground below.  

The Pileated making contact!
You've really got to twist your head to find the best
The Pileated with a small morsel.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Green-tailed Towhee in Indiana

Eric writes:

This morning, I headed up to Logansport to pick up Landon Neumann to look for a Green-tailed Towhee that was being seen at feeders in Huntington, IN.  When we arrived, we were a bit surprised by the location.  There isn't a whole lot of habitat around for a towhee, but after about 35 minutes the Green-tailed Towhee appeared under the feeder.

The Green-tailed Towhee next to one of the many House Sparrows
visiting the feeders.
Spectacular Green-tailed Towhee habitat.  All it takes is some feeders
and almost anything is possible.
After watching the Green-tailed Towhee for a while we went to check a couple of reservoirs in the area.  It was the first time I had birded around Salamonie Reservoir.  We didn't see too much but studying some chickadees in their hybrid zone and a few Red-headed Woodpeckers at the Salamonie Interpretive Center provided some entertainment.  After Salamonie, we headed over to Mississinewa Reservoir.  A good number of Common Mergansers, some Redheads, and a few Hooded Mergansers were on the lake but the real highlight was a Ross's Goose.  

The Ross's Goose at Mississinewa

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Roosting Barred Owl

Eric writes:

Just another owl photo . . . this time, one of the Barred Owls at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary-Evening Grosbeaks

Eric writes:

The main platform feeder-the Evening Grosbeaks never stopped by this feeder

This morning Chad and Ceth Williams, Aiden Rominger, and I took a trip out to Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary to look for the continuing Evening Grosbeaks.  Within seconds of getting to the feeders we heard the distinctive call note of an Evening Grosbeak.  Within a few seconds we saw our first, a female.  For our stay of a couple hours both male and female Evening Grosbeaks came to the feeder frequently.  The hundreds of American Goldfinches and House Finches as well as a few Red-breasted Nuthatches and Purple Finches made the time fly by.  After birding the sanctuary and seeing a Black Vulture, a few Golden-crowned Kinglets, and some Eastern Bluebirds we birded some backroads back to the highway.  Our highlights on the backroads were an early Chipping Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, and a few Horned Larks.

One of the beautiful, male, Evening Grosbeaks

Another of the beautiful, male, Evening Grosbeaks

One of the female-type Purple Finches visiting the feeders.

Red-breasted Nuthatch-one of 3 or so coming to the feeders.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Birding Sax-Zim Bog

Eric writes:

While in Duluth we were able to spend half of a day birding the Sax-Zim Bog.  After the snowstorm that had passed the day before we were ready to get out there and see some birds.  When we arrived, many of the roads through the bog had lots of snow but all were passable with some clearance and 4WD.  As with most places as far north as the bog there aren't many birds but almost every bird is exciting; from redpolls to grosbeaks, you never know what you'll see next.  

Blue Spruce Road Feeders-the flock of grosbeaks coming to these feeders were a blast to watch!

Common Redpolls are always a blast to watch.  As we were watching the
Admiral Road feeders a flock of 50 or so redpolls dropped in.

Just another Common Redpoll.

A female Hoary Redpoll-the few of these mixed in would just not sit still.

Pine Grosbeak-a male that was waiting to come down to the feeders.

One male and three female Pine Grosbeaks.

Pine and Evening Grosbeaks.

Three male Evening Grosbeaks.

A Boreal Chickadee.

The most common bird throughout, a Black-capped Chickadee.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Duluth Owls-Boreal and Northern Saw-whet

Eric writes:

It was a success!  With only two days in the Duluth area, we didn't have time for a snowstorm with whiteout conditions; unfortunately we had to deal with it anyway.  As you can imagine, we didn't see any birds during the snow as we could barely see the road.  We had an entire morning before the snow started but we just couldn't pull out a Boreal Owl.  After battling the snowstorm in the afternoon we decided to just call it a day and hope the next would be better.  We started the next day at the famed, Sax-Zim Bog (there will be a post later about birding here) where we had some great birds but since we were really after Boreal Owls we left in the early afternoon to continue our search along the north shore of Lake Superior.  We arrived at Alseth Road in the middle of the afternoon to find a group of birders along Scenic Route 61.  They said that the Boreal had just flown across the road.  One of the guys pointed out a Northern Saw-whet Owl, when another birder said "Isn't that the Boreal"; turns out we were looking at different owls, the Saw-whet and the Boreal were within 30 feet of each other!

Boreal Owl Staredown-this picture was taken while standing on Scenic
Highway 61

The snoozing Northern Saw-whet Owl-this owl never moved at all while I was watching

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary

Rob writes: Yesterday, my wife and I landed in Maui around 4:30 in the afternoon. We had to wait for my sister-in-law to arrive so we headed off to do a little birding at Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary near the airport to pass the time.

As soon as I opened the door, I could here Ae'o (Black-necked Stilt)! On the short walk out to the shelter, we saw many more Ae'o, 'Auku'u (Black-crowned Night-Heron), and ʻalae keʻokeʻo (Hawaiian Coot).

We found a couple of Black Noddies sitting on some poles in the middle of the marsh and then I spotted some shorebirds that were a little too far away without my scope so I ran back to the jeep to get it. When I got back and set the scope up, I saw more Pacific Golden-Plovers than I have ever seen before!

We ended up getting 12 species in a little over an hour. This morning, we took a walk along the beach by our hotel and enjoyed watching a ton of whales not too far offshore!


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Wisconsin Northern Hawk Owl

Eric writes:  On our way up to Duluth, we were lucky enough to pass this beautiful owl right along the highway.  We decided to cut over on some backroads from Highway 53 to WI-35.  We didn't see much on the backroads but within a couple miles of turning onto 35 we spotted this Hawk Owl, high on a snag, right next to the road.  This bird was located in the field just south of E Fall Road, about 25 miles south of Superior, on the east side of 35.

A terrible picture of the Northern Hawk Owl

Friday, February 8, 2013

Heading to Duluth for Winter Birding

Eric writes:  Tomorrow my Mom and I will be heading up to Duluth, MN to, hopefully, see as many Boreal Owls as we can.  Over the past couple weeks, birders on the north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota have been enjoying a great Boreal Owl invasion; the first major invasion since 2004-2005.  As many as seven have been seen by one observer in a single day.  Many of the individuals found have been seen actively hunting and quite easy to locate.  Other birds we will be trying to locate include Great Gray, Northern Hawk, and Snowy Owl, Pine and Evening Grosbeaks, Common and Hoary Redpolls, Black-backed Woodpecker, Bohemian Waxwing, Black-billed Magpie, and a selection of gull species.  

All of these photos are from a trip a few years ago to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan . . . we will be searching for many of the same species.

Northern Hawk Owl-one of the norther owls we should see in Minnesota

Snowy Owl-another of the expected owls in Minnesota

Evening Grosbeak-one of my favorite birds, these and Pine Grosbeaks
should be fairly common

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Backyard Birding

Eric writes:  We've had some exciting bird experiences at the feeders over the past couple weeks with our accipiters clearing out the European Starling, a visit by a Brown Creeper, and a one-day-wonder Red-breasted Nuthatch which we hadn't seen at the feeders for about two months.  Our everyday birds have included Fox, White-crowned and throated, American Tree, and Song Sparrows along with all the common feeder birds such as Carolina Chickadee, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and White-breasted Nuthatch.

Here are a few pics from the backyard . . .

White-breasted Nuthatch-these guys have become very tame and come
down to the suet when I'm out there filling up the feeders.

White-crowned Sparrow-a couple adults and first winter birds are daily
visitors.  What a head pattern!
Carolina Chickadee-a good view of the wings that illustrates the difference
in wing pattern between the Black-capped and Carolina
Carolina Wren-one of the pair that hangs around the feeders most days.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

European Starling Teamwork

Eric writes:  A couple days ago a Cooper's Hawk swooped through our bird feeding station and caught a European Starling.  Upon closer inspection there were actually two European Starlings; one was in the talons of the Cooper's and the other was holding onto the foot of the other starling.  The only conclusion I could come to, was the one starling was trying to help the other escape the grasp of the Cooper's. After about a minute the Cooper's flew off with the one starling and the other starling flew off in the other direction.  Have you ever seen or heard about this kind of behavior?

Sharp-shinned Hawk-this sharpie was photographed a few weeks ago;
not the same bird as mentioned above.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Answer to Bird Quiz #161 - Pine Warbler

This quiz was our last quiz in our January series and it turned out to be a tough one. There were only nine answers submitted with five of them being correct. Although there were two people that got all of the quizzes correct, they both have received t-shirts already. A random drawing of the second place participants picked Ethan Rising as the winner for January!

Last Week's Quiz:

How to Identify:

Taking into consideration all of the obvious field marks available such as small size, yellow chest, white
wingbars, and yellow spectacles we can quickly limit our options on this bird. The only two species that
show all of these field marks are Yellow-throated Vireo and Pine Warbler. These two species can be
surprisingly similar. The easiest way to differentiate these two species is the blurry streaking on the
upper chest and sides. With our angle on this bird, another feature that can help us differentiate these
two species is the white tail pattern of the Pine Warbler compared to the completely brown tail pattern
of the Yellow-throated Vireo. Due to these two field marks this bird is a Pine Warbler.

Next Quiz:

Our next quiz is our first quiz in our February quiz series. It can be found here: