Thursday, January 29, 2015

Northern Shrikes

Eric writes:

Each fall, Northern Shrikes migrate south from their breeding grounds, to fairly open habitats across the northern United States.  Most Northern Shrikes that migrate to the southern edge of their range are first winter birds.  Over time, due to feather wear, the barring on first year Northern Shrikes wears off.  When you see these birds early in the fall they can look quite different than what you will see in the spring!

Here are a couple photos (taken Oct. 22) of a fairly "fresh" individual. 

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.