Tuesday, June 17, 2014

WY - do large falcons hover?

Traveling south at 55 mph, our party spotted a falcon hovering in classic 'kestrel-like' manner on a ridge above Rt 191, Flaming Gorge NRA, south of Rock Springs, Wyoming. It was certainly easy to gloss over it as another American Kestrel, a species seen almost daily on our trip. However, naked-eye views suggested something wasn't right from about this bird, though we could clearly see that it wasn't a buteo either. A sharp U-turn brought us back to the bird which was still hovering in the same area. Needless to say we were surprised and delighted to find that it was a Prairie Falcon, a much wanted species for our tour. Though I've seen Peregrines 'hanging' on the wind before, I don't recall seeing any large falcon hover in such an obvious 'kestrel-like' manner as this Prairie Falcon - this despite logging a good number of field hours in the American West each year. Any thoughts/comments would be welcome.

 Prairie Falcon - hovering, Flaming Gorge NRA, south of Rock Springs, WY. June 10th, 2014.

 Prairie Falcon - in direct flight, Flaming Gorge NRA, south of Rock Springs, WY. June 10th, 2014.

Ridge above Flaming Gorge NRA, Wyoming - the Prairie Falcon was hovering over this ridge.

Monday, June 16, 2014

CO - Black Swifts and another ptarmigan! 06/12

The final days of our grand tour of Colorado and Wyoming produced two very special moments, the first being at Box Canyon Falls, Ouray when we waited most of the afternoon into early evening for Black Swifts. We were on the verge of leaving when one, two and then eventually nine Black Swifts appeared overhead just as the local White-throated Swifts had been doing all afternoon. There's nothing easy about swift identification in poor, fading light but eventually all of our group came away feeling totally satisfied with thier views. I was equally delighted to capture a few diagnostic images of these exceptionally fast-moving birds.

Black Swifts - Ouray, Colorado, June 11th, 2014.

Much of our last day was dedicated to driving towards Denver but we did squeeze in an afternoon visit to Mount Evans where sharp-eyed tour participant Jim Hamilton spotted this ptarmigan from our moving vehicle, a bird found only just above the tree line.

White-tailed Ptarmigan - Mount Evans, Colorado. June 12th, 2014.

Monday, June 9, 2014

WY - badger and marten 06/09

We are currently on our way south heading towards Colorado after five spectacular days based in Jackson, Wyoming. Naturally, we spent a good deal of that time in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Overall it's been excellent, but dare I say that the mammals positively upstaged the birding on this particular visit?

Personal highlights included a close American Badger at the roadside just north of Pinedale, and an inquisitive American Marten right next to a popular hiking trail at String Lake in Grand Teton National Park.

American Badger - by Rt 191, north of Pinedale, Wyoming. June 9th, 2014.
We're having a spectacular trip for this species with three sightings involving four animals thus far.

American Marten - String Lake Trail, Grand Teton NP, Wyoming. June 9th, 2014.

 Ruffed Grouse - male, Bridger Teton NF,  Wyoming. June 9th, 2014.

 Ruffed Grouse - male displaying, Bridger Teton NF,  Wyoming. June 8th, 2014.
This was the first of three displaying males in just one afternoon in the National Forest.

 Magillivray's Warbler - male, Bridger Teton NF, Wyoming. June 9th, 2014. 

 Magillivray's Warbler - male, Grand Teton NP,  Wyoming. June 8th, 2014. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

WY - Mountain Plover 06/03

We had a fantastic day of birding around Laramie beginning north of town with a much desired Mountain Plover. Later in the day we were treated to an American Bittern calling completely in the open near Hattie Lake.

Mountain Plover (and White-tailed Prairie Dog) - near Laramie, SE Wyoming. June 3rd, 2014.

 American Bittern - near Laramie, SE Wyoming. June 3rd, 2014.

 Swainson's Hawks - near Laramie, SE Wyoming. June 3rd, 2014.

Monday, June 2, 2014

CO - White-tailed Ptarmigan 06/01

Our tour of Colorado and Wyoming gets off to a terriffic start with a pair of White-tailed Ptarmigan in the Rocky Mountains, a huge nemesis for many in our group.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

MA - Gill Canada Warbler 05/29

A Northern Waterthrush singing in the yard was a really nice way to start the day, this species being the scarcer of the two in our corner of Gill. Our resident breeding Louisiana Waterthrushes called from the river a few times but didn't interfere with the Northern's singing. By 8am the Northern had moved on. A little later I checked Barton Cove and was pleased to hear and later see, a very smart male Canada Warbler singing from the Oaks, Alders and Hemlocks close to the water's edge. After a couple of 'heard-only' Canada Warblers in Gill last weekend, this encounter was much more satisfactory. What's more, it really looked and behaved like a bird holding a territory so I'll make periodic checks on this one during the breeding season.

Canada Warbler - male, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 29th, 2014. 
Shy and furtive, and surprisingly difficult to spot within the sun-dappled branches. 

Also worthy of mention, two day ago, a close, naked eye encounter with a Bobcat at the side of Main Road in Gill. No pics unfortunately as I was running, but a nice observation all the same and at least my fourth in Gill.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

MI - Golden-winged Warbler and so much more at Tawas Point

Given the hustle and bustle of "The Biggest Week", the excitement of the twitter feed and all the crowds at Magee Marsh, it was rather nice to have an easier, relaxed morning at Tawas Point State Park on the shores of Lake Huron, SE Michigan. This relatively small peninsula has all the hallmarks of a 'classic' migrant trap and proved to be above and beyond expectation during an all-too-short visit on May 17th. This extremely crisp male Golden-winged Warbler was just one of many highlights during our morning there.

Golden-winged Warbler - male, Tawas Point SP, SE Michigan, May 17th, 2014.

 Blackburnian Warbler - male, Tawas Point SP, SE Michigan, May 17th, 2014.

Orange-crowned Warbler - Tawas Point SP, SE Michigan, May 17th, 2014.

Scarlet Tanager - male, Tawas Point SP, SE Michigan, May 17th, 2014.

Northern Parula - male, Tawas Point SP, SE Michigan, May 17th, 2014.

MA - Grasshopper Sparrows 05/28

This morning saw another rain bearing front pass through Franklin County. Hopeful that some late migrants might have dropped into Barton Cove, I tried a few of the vantage points (Riverview Drive, public boat ramp etc) with little success other than hundreds of hirundines hawking over the waters including good numbers of Bank Swallows. The Turner's Falls Rod and Gun Club had some nice Spotted Sandpipers and a breeding plumage Common Loon but little else. As I drove by the Turner's Falls airfield I started hearing Grasshopper Sparrows singing through the gloom and soon notched up three to five (heard-only) singing birds. Getting a visual proved a lot more difficult but eventually I found a singing bird close to the road giving really nice views.

 Grasshopper Sparrow - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. May 28th, 2014. 

Spotted Sandpiper - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. May 28th, 2014. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

OH - BBCuckoo

Black-billed Cuckoo - West Beach, Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, NW Ohio. May 12th, 2014. 
One of three seen on the first full day of our Birdfinders tour getting the trip off to a cracking start!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

OH - Henslow's - up close

Perhaps the biggest surprise from "The Biggest Week in American Birding", this Henslow's Sparrow from the boardwalk at Magee Marsh. I don't have much experience with this grassland breeder but the presence of this migrant in damp woodland threw me off balance completely. Remarkably tolderant, it fed just feet off the boardwalk in front of hordes of admirers. Kudos to the finder whoever he/she was!

Henslow's Sparrow - Magee Marsh Wildlife area, NW Ohio. May 13th, 2014.