Falcated Duck – Yes!

Greetings from the Central Valley of California where it’s cold and rainy (for now). Highlights from birding yesterday include the Falcated Duck, a Eurasian form of Green-winged Teal, 8 Eurasian Wigeons, Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Prairie Falcon, Merlin, 3 Ferruginous Hawks (2 light phase & 1 beautiful dark phase), Yellow-billed Magpie. For this Ohio birder it was also pretty exciting to see some western regulars like Anna’s Hummingbird, Spotted & California Towhee, Western Scrub-Jay, Lesser Goldfinch, California Gull, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Golden-crowned Sparrow, and Cinnamon Teal.

So much for a rainy cold day in California! :-)

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Falcated Duck – digiscoped with Swarovski 80mm  photo: Bruce Webb

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Falcated Duc  photo: Mike Peters

An Update from New Mexico

Yessss!  Festival of the Cranes is a fun event!

Snow Goose Dawn Fly-Out Bosque del Apache NWR 2011-11-18 photo: Greg Miller

The mornings were chilly but not a deterrent for birders wanting to experience the energy of the dawn fly-out of 30,000 snow geese.  Seeing all these birds get up at once and being surrounded by the deafening sound of goose calls and flapping of wings…well…just so overwhelming there is no way to adequately describe it.  What a thrill!

But not all the white geese were Snow Geese…

Ross's Goose digiscoped from the Flight Deck at Bosque del Apache NWR 2011-11-17 photo: Greg Miller

But after all, this is The Festival of the Cranes.  Here’s few (of the 10,000) in the light of dawn.

A few of the 10000 Sandhill Cranes Bosque del Apache NWR 2011-11-18 photo: Greg Miller

And here’s a Sandhill Crane near the Flight Deck at Bosque del Apache NWR.

Sandhill Crane digiscoped near the Flight Deck at Bosque del Apache NWR 2011-11-17 photo: Greg Miller

Only 140 miles North of Socorro, NM lies the 10,500-foot peak–Sandia Crest.  It is near the southernmost part of the range where all 3 rosy-finches can be found.  And, some may argue it is the easiest place to see these erratic birds.  One can sit inside a warm room, order a meal, and sip on a cup of hot chocolate while viewing all 3 species of rosy-finches at the feeder outside the window!  Rosy-finches are voracious eaters and a flock will descend on a feeder and eat as if they were in some terrible hurry to go somewhere on a tight schedule.  And then they woosh away as fast and hurried as they came in.

The view from about a mile above Albuquerque in elevation is stunning.

The majestic view from atop Sandia Crest near Albuquerque NM 2011-11-18 photo: Greg Miller

The wait for the show of rosy-finches is helped by watching the other “common” species.

Mountain Chickadee Sandia Crest NM 2011-11-18 photo: Greg Miller

Dark-eyed (red-backed) Junco Sandia Crest NM 2011-11-18 photo: Greg Miller

Steller's Jay Sandia Crest NM 2011-11-18 photo: Greg Miller

And finally, the stars of the show, the rosy-finches.

Black Rosy-finches at the feeder at Sandia Crest NM 2011-11-18 photo: Greg Miller

Brown-capped Rosy-finch with 2 Black Rosy-finches Sandia Crest NM 2011-11-18 photo: Greg Miller

That’s all the photos for now.  Watch in the future for a blog on the Rosy-Finch Project at Sandia Crest and the interesting work that is happening with banding and studying rosy-finch movements.

Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival Was Great!

Great Kiskadee digiscoped at Anzalduas in the Rio Grande Valley TX 2011-11-13 photo: Greg Miller

What a terrific trip!  Too bad the Internet at the Super8 was not working in my room.  Well.  I might not have had time to update here anyway.  I was really busy with too much fun stuff!  I was on field trips every day:

Wednesday – Big Day Vans

Thursday – Brownsville West (University of Texas at Brownsville and Resaca de la Palma)

Friday – Santa Ana NWR

Saturday – Weslaco (Estero Llano Grande, Frontera, and Valley Nature Center)

Sunday – Chase Vans (Anzalduas)

We all got to see many of the Rio Grande Valley specialties.  I also met so many wonderful people and the programs were great, too!  It was a rich experience and a lot of fun.

It was a very different feel to the RGV this year as I saw a few odd, out-of-place birds including Green-tailed Towhee, Pine Siskin, American Robin, Hermit Thrush, and Eastern Bluebird.

This is a really short post.  I’m getting ready to go to work today, then speak at Canton Audubon Society this evening, and leave very early tomorrow morning to catch the first flight out to New Mexico for the Festival of the Cranes (where I’ll be the rest of the week).

Invisible Race of the Western Kingbird

Western Kingbird (invisible race) near Bellville OH 2011-06-26 photo: Greg Miller

I was very lucky to capture this elusive critter, the invisible race of the Western Kingbird.  Too bad I missed the normal-plumaged Western Kingbird that appeared in this very field the day before.  Sigh.  Such is birding.  But any day out birding is more fun than, say, sitting in a cubicle at work.

We stood at the same place for several hours.  Even though we didn’t get to see the real kingbird (you knew I was kidding, right?), Robert Hershberger, his son Michael, and I did have some consolation prizes.

Singing Grasshopper Sparrow near Bellville OH 2011-06-26 photo: Robert Hershberger

I had my digiscoping setup in place and let Robert focus using his sharp eyes and snap this timely photo of a grasshopper sparrow in the middle of throwing its head back and giving its insect-like call.  Nice shot Robert!

Savannah Sparrow near Bellville OH 2011-06-26 photo: Greg Miller

It was fun to see these grassland sparrows in good numbers.

Widow Skimmer near Bellville OH 2011-06-26 photo: Greg Miller

This is a digiscoped dragonfly.  When you spend a few hours in one spot waiting for your target species to show up–well–you end up doing interesting things to bide the time.  Practicing shots through the telescope is a good skill to develop.  I really like the close up of this dragonfly gripping the metal bar.  And this is a juvenile female Widow Skimmer (thanks to Cheryl Harner on the i.d.–I’m still a rank beginner in odonata)

Bobolink Event at Byers Woods

Halloween Pennant - Byers Woods - Ashland OH - 2011-06-25 photo: Greg Miller

Hey!  That’s not a bobolink!  But–it *is* a great looking creature, don’t you think?  This Halloween Pennant was hidden down in the long grass out of the winds at Byers Woods on Saturday, June 25, 2011.

The event was well-attended by more than 100 folks from all over the state (and even a few out-of-staters were present!).  There was plenty to see and do at Byers Woods, especially overlooking the wide grassland areas of reclaimed land where the stars of the day–bobolinks–nest.  My high count for the day was 5 male bobolinks at one time from my tent stake out. Continue reading

A Day On Kelley’s Island

Kelley’s Island is located in the Western Basin of Lake Erie.  It is a beautiful place and a wonderful place to relax.  I relaxed so hard today that all I have for a blog is some pictures.  Some of the day was spent watching Master Bird Bander Tom Bartlett on Long Point.  So until later (when I have unwound from all this relaxation), enjoy…

Nashville Warbler banding with Bartlett Kelleys Island 2011-05-19

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Biggest Week update

I’ve been here in Northwest Ohio for the Biggest Week In American Birding event since May 5.  Birding has been exciting and meeting so many wonderful birders has been quite amazing.  It has been a real pleasure meeting so many of you who’ve read the book and cheered me on. (I read the book and cheered me on hoping that I would win–it didn’t work.  Shucks)

It is late tonight and I have an early departure to Kelley’s Island tomorrow.  After six days of birding here I have seen 170 species (most days hovering around 100 species).  So here are some pictures from the start of this event through today.  Enjoy!

Blue-headed Vireo Pt Pelee 2011-05-05

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Got Garganey?

Haha!  No.  This is not the name of a new disease.  Well.  If you haven’t seen this bird yet you might start feeling sick.  How long will it stay?  No one knows.  Ohhhh the agony of having to wait for an opportunity to chase a rare bird!  I heard about this bird on Friday.  I watched reports on the Internet all day Saturday and through Sunday morning.  By the time some of us finished up our obligations at Flora-Quest in Scioto County it was already mid-afternoon.  Finally, all 5 of us (Greg & Leslie Cornett, Cheryl Harner, Jason Larson, and myself piled into the Cornett’s Honda Pilot and set the GPS for Fernald Preserve northwest of Cincinnati–nearly 2.5 hours away.  Traveling this distance to see a bird from Eurasia always seems to go in slow motion.

Two hours into our trip we got a call from another birder, Janet Creamer, saying that she was currently watching the bird from the platform at the first pond on the right side of the entrance road into the preserve.  And then…

Garganey - Fernald Preserve, Harrison, OH photo: Greg Miller

What a striking bird, don’t you think?  It’s about the same size as the Blue-winged Teals with which it associates.

Garganey & Blue-winged Teal - Fernald Preserve, Harrison, OH photo: Greg Miller

Ahhh.  Sweet success!

You Started A New Hobby??!!?

Whaaaat?  hahaha.  Well.  Not really new.  But new nonetheless.  I’ve ditched my old scopes and upgraded to just one new one.  And…<drumroll>…I got a DSLR camera and adapter to go with it.  So I am one happy camper.  And I’ve been reading.  What a complicated new world!  But, I am quite excited.  Unfortunately, I am going to have to give myself some real patience with this twist of my birding hobby.  The learning curve is pretty big.  And execution is kind of difficult.  (Especially for Captain Shaky Hands)  This will, of course, put a dent in my traditional listing.  But hey.  Now my digiscoping setup is going to have its own life list. :-)

Snowy Egret - Millersburg, OH - 2011-04-26 photo: Greg Miller

This is a pretty good bird for the Bobolink Area of Ohio.  For those of you who want to look, this bird is South of the Walmart on Rt 83 South of Millersburg, Ohio.  From the intersection of Rt 62 & Rt 83 South of town (where Rt 62 splits off toward Killbuck), go North (toward the Walmart) and park safely in the first wide dirt pulloff on the right side of the road.  Pull completely off the road.  Rt 83 has lots of trafffic.  The bird should be feeding in the swampy area across the road.

Unfortunately, it was windy and cloudy at the time and I was pretty far away.  So this pic is a bit grainy, but it sure looks a whole lot better than my zillions of old photos that qualify for the Gallery of C.R.A.P.  (Completely Ridiculous Awful Photographs). Continue reading