Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Weekend birding

What a crazy weekend!   On Friday, we had a huge heat wave that pushed temps into the 80s! Had a decent migration too. Our first real wave of migrants arrived with flocks of Yellow-rumps, White-throated Sparrows, Gnatcatchers, and more!   

The weather on Sat proved quite miserable for birders, but made for fantastic birding!   
Temps hovered in the upper 40s and at times, it rained sideways instead of down, but the birding was good. Pheasant Branch in Madison proved a little bit productive with my FOY Gray Catbird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Black & White warbler.  After running into Mike McDowell and finding out that he was headed to Stricker's pond after an excellent list for the morning by Marty Pfeiffer, we soon followed.  We quickly found Mike on the trail at Stricker's. He had just seen a Winter Wren and had found an Osprey sitting out in the open. After seeing the osprey, we continued on down the trail with Mike.  Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers put on a show for us and my FOY Palm Warbler soon followed.  We laughed as we watched a Sandhill Crane stalk into someone's back yard.  Several species of ducks and a Green Heron also put on an appearance.  On the other end of the pond, we found a Northern Waterthrush lurking in the bushes.  In all, a decent day despite the miserable weather.  

Sunday was not a whole lot better in terms of weather.  I birded through Columbia County but found only a flock of Bonaparte's Gulls.  Fisher Rd just north of Ashton Corners in Dane county proved a good spot, with Am Golden Plovers, 4 Black-crowned Nightherons and a Sora.  
I later found out that 2 American Avocets and a Willet had been found the next day. 

I birded all the way north to Buena Vista Marsh where I picked up my FOY Tennessee Warbler! Rather early for them I thought since they're a later migrant.   I spent the night in a small RV camp just outside of Bancroft, WI. Sleeping in one's car is not the most comfortable, but it's cheaper than a hotel.   I arose at 10 minutes til 4 on Monday morning (which is early. Even for a birder) and drove the 10 minutes down the road to the meeting site for the NRF field trip that took place that day.  We met at 4:15 and were out in the blinds by 4:30am, waiting for the Prairie Chickens to show up.  Right around 5am, a Greater Yellowlegs flew over and then about 15 minutes later, a lone Short-eared Owl winged it's way past!  This was only the second time I'd ever seen one.  As if on cue, at precisely 5:30am, 11 Greater Prairie Chickens flew in to the Lek and set about their business. Surprisingly, this was a new state bird for me.  
Cramped inside the tiny blinds, we watched and photographed the Prairie Chickens for the next hour and a half.  During that time, a pair of N Harriers flew in a scared up the chickens a couple times, but they always came back.  I also spotted a Rough-legged Hawk in the distance.  Right around 7am, an Upland Sandpiper called! Adding yet another bird to my year list.  

We left the blinds shortly thereafter. Too stiff and cramped to stay any longer. When we got back to the cars, our leader said he had one more thing to show us. After a short drive through the now well lit grasslands, he stopped, got out and pointed to a field. Standing in the field, were 3 beautiful Whooping Cranes!!  This was by far the closest I'd ever been to one. The ones I've seen at Necedah have always been at a distance.  After spending about half an hour watching them (safely of course, without spooking them) we drove back to the meeting place where the leaders had morning refreshments ready and answered all our questions.  

I then birded my way back home. Surprisingly, I found nothing unusual.  Actually, very little at all.  Best bird was a Spotted Sandpiper in a fluddle. 

All in all, it was a good weekend!  Til next time, happy birding! 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Photo Quiz 2--Answer (4/29)

To those to said Mountain Chickadee, Congrats. You're correct.  The first thing to note on this bird is the overall gray appearance.  Sparrows are mostly brown. This bird is not. The next thing to note is the buffy gray, unstreaked flank.  Because of the overall color appearance, a certain family comes to mind, Paridae. The Chickadees and Titmice.  If you note the Junco in the background, it is a typical "Oregon" type Junco. Typical of the western USA. The brown grass also suggests Western USA (even in winter, grass in the Eastern US tends to stay mostly green). 
The Black head stripes on this bird confirm it as a Mountain Chickadee.  
Pretty unmistakable bird usually, but when you have a look like this one, it can be a little tricky.  The above photos give you a little bit different look.   

Thanks for guessing! I'll have a new quiz up sometime soon. 

Ok, so the last quiz was kind of a joke.  This one is serious and a bit tricker. 

The only clue you get this time, is the time of year.  
Late Winter. 

Good luck!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Photo Quiz

It was mentioned recently that certain people wanted to see more of my "Cruddy" photos used as photo quizzes.  Therefore, I have posted one. 

Have fun with this one. :D 

Taken in Early Spring in the Eastern US. 

Good luck! 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Twitching the Golden-crowned Sparrow

Last Thurs, Anne Straight found an adult Golden-crowned Sparrow in the little town of Scioto Mills in far northern IL.  

Golden-crowned Sparrows normally live strictly on the west coast.  They are regular winter residents in California and their breeding range stretches from Oregon all the way north through the middle of Alaska.  The Latin name (Zonotrichia Atricapillus) means "The Banded Thrush with black hair on it's head."   A very appropriate name for this bird with it's double band of black surrounding a golden-yellow crown patch. 

Luke and I arrived shortly before 10:00 this morning and walked down the Jane Addams trail. We quickly found the location and checked for the bird. No go.  So we walked back to the road, and walked down the on the road side of the row of houses, above the trail. We had walked down just as far as before and were watching the back yard of the house when I noticed a largeish Zonotrichia type Sparrow out of the corner of my eye.  I raised my binocs and saw the black band on the head. My very first thought was "That's a really weird White-throated Sparrow."  Then it clicked.  This was the GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW!!!  Luke had seen it only a second later than I did and got on it right away. After watching it for a second, we both started clicking away like mad.  I managed to get a few decent photos: 

It's a typical Zonotrichia Sparrow. They like to hang out with others of the same genus if possible. This one was hanging out with a couple of White-throated Sparrows. 

This was my 529th life bird!!!  While not a nemesis bird, I've been wanting to see this bird for some time now. I'm really glad I finally saw one, after missing them several times out west. 

Who knows when my next "Twitch" will be. Next one I have planned is the Sinaloa Wren at Huachuca Canyon in Southern Arizona.  That won't be for a couple weeks though. 

Til then, Happy Birding! 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Snipe and more Stilt Photos

Wilson's Snipe

And the Black-necked Stilt again! 

Photos from Horicon Marsh yesterday.

Woohoo!! My state Black-necked Stilt! 

And then there were two. 

Come on people, which Scaup? ;)

Ruddy Duck! 

Blue-winged Teal 

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Black-necked Stilt!!

Talk about a week for Rarities!  Sage Thrasher, Sinaloa Wren, Golden-crowned Sparrow and now 2 Black-necked Stilts at Horicon Marsh!!  

One small difference with this report though. It's not coming to you second hand!  I have seen the Horicon Stilts myself! With my own two eyes.  I'll be posting photos later. 

Between Orchestra and my lesson today, I checked my messages and saw a 3rdhand report of 2 Black-necked Stilts along Hwy 49 at Horicon Marsh.  Fortunately, someone else found the birds so the report was 1st hand.  After my lesson, I ran up to Horicon. I ran into Peter Fissel on Hwy 49 and we searched for the birds for a while.  Then Peter thought that perhaps they were back at the old location they were seen at last year. So we ran down there. Old Dike Rd at Horicon Marsh.  We drove up and Jeff Bahls had the birds in his scope.  It was that easy!  

Awesome new state bird!  Also added several new year birds today as well. 

Ok, I know, the english on this post sucks. but it's late and i'm beat. i'll fix it later. 


Friday, April 17, 2009

Golden-crowned Sparrow near Freeport, IL!!!

Must be a week for rare birds.  First the Thrasher in Minneapolis, then the Wren in Huachuca canyon and now this Sparrow in Freeport, IL.  

As usual, here's the report on IBET: 

A male GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW was spotted this morning at 10:30am. in 
Stephenson County. It was viewed by 5 of us on the 
Jane Addams Trail south 
of Scioto Mills Rd about 200 or so yards down the trail. This area is north 
Freeport and a little west. There is a fenced in garden on the left (up 
on a banked area) and the bird was in some brushy area on the right. When 
the rest of the group went there about an hour later we did not relocate. 
One person did take a photo if it needs doumentation. This is west of Rt. 26 
and north of Rt. 20. Delorme page 16. North of Duck's Misery.

Anne Straight
Forreston, IL (Ogle County)

The approximate location is here. 
Just a little ways farther south on the trail mentioned above.  

Good luck if you go after it.  If it shows up again, I'm chasing it. 

Happy Birding! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sinaloa Wren again.

Here's the latest followup post on the AZ-NM listserve. This came in less than 2 mintues ago: 

Follow-up on my call to the Tucson RBA on the Sinaloa Wren in lower Huachuca
Canyon. Dieter and Alicia Kamm and I arrived at 7:30 a.m., unaware that Rick
and Ricki Thompson had already re-found and video-taped the bird just an
hour before.

We waited nearly an hour before we heard a short burst of song from the
Sinaloa Wren on the south side of the main creek, just east of the cement
bridge/culvert at Camp Maricopa. After about 5 minutes the bird gave a much
longer bout of singing from the same area, and we moved to the bridge,
hoping to see the bird.

We located the Sinaloa Wren foraging in the vines at the base of a big
sycamore on the northeast corner of the bridge. It quickly moved into an
adjacent juniper, still foraging, then moved back into the foliage out of
view. It sang again--loud, rich, jumbled notes.

We waited another half an hour before hearing the wren for the fourth
time--only a brief burst of notes at 9 a.m. Five minutes later two school
buses of elementary students showed up to spend the morning there, so we left.

This wren, as can be seen on the video, is in fresh plumage. The black and
white streaking on its cheek patch was quite noticeable, as were its rich
rufous wings with black barring. We also noted its dark cap and broad white
eye brow stripe, very pale gray to off white breast, and dark rufous tail,
both above and below. I did not get a good look at its flanks as it moved
into the vegetation.

There is a thick understory of poison ivy all along the creek here, which
should discourage people from leaving the roads and paths in the area.
Diane's posting of Camp Coconino to Camp Santa Cruz is exactly right, and
contains lots of good habitat for this visitor. Thanks to Diane for
reporting her find promptly.

Cheers, Erika Wilson (Sierra Vista, AZ)

Again, good luck if you look for it! 

Happy Birding! 


photo credit: 29 August 2008, photos by Chris Benesh 
this photo is of the first Sinaloa Wren found last year at Patagonia.

Found yesterday and confirmed today, a SECOND Sinaloa Wren has been found in Lower Huachuca Canyon!  If accepted, this would be only the 2nd ABA area record!!  The first ABA area record was found at Patagonia, AZ about 8 months ago and is still being seen. This is definitely a different bird! 

Here's the initial post on the AZ-NM listserve: 

4/14/09 Lower Huachuca Canyon. Upstream from Camp Santa Cruz, just downstream from Camp Coconino complex; along creek in muddy area w/willows. Loud singing 11:45 a.m.  Probable SINALOA WREN, seen well, feeding at the base of an oak tree.  Striped face, gray sides, paler throat, short relatively broad reddish-brown barred tail, brownish-gray back.
--Diane Touret, Tucson

Here's a followup post: 

Some further information about my sighting in lower Huachuca Canyon of a possible (probable?) Sinaloa Wren. I was idly birding around 11:30AM in the area downstream from the Camp Coconino complex (the first bathroom area) when I heard a loud, rich, ringing song from the streamside. I walked toward the stream into a muddy area where the creek comes out from the willows. I couldn't locate the singing bird but caught sight of something dropping to the ground from the oak in front of me. When I focused on the bird foraging on the ground at the base of the oak, I saw that it was a wren with what looked like a white eye-line and a striped cheek. The wren foraged slowly and I saw gray sides, a slightly decurved bill, a barred red-brown tail slightly tilted up (shorter and broader than a House Wren's tail, but not as short as a Winter Wren's tail) and a brownish-gray back. I was so astonished at this unexpected find that I didn't recognize the song until I saw the bird! The song also sounded much richer and more complex than the bits of song I've heard from the Sinaloa Wren in Patagonia. The bird didn't call. I certainly hope that this bird hangs around to be confirmed by a photo or sound recording, so I know that I wasn't imagining things!    Since I don't have a camera, I wasn't able to get a picture and since I also don't have a cell phone, I had to rely on the kindness and generosity of Mary Jo Ballator to post my sighting, since I was 2 hours away from my computer.   While at Mary Jo's I was able to get several wonderful views of her male Lucifer Hummingbird. That, plus the windy, but profitable walk (2 male Elegant Trogons and several flycatchers - Hammond's, Dusky, Buff-breasted, Dusky-capped, and a calling Pacific-slope) along the jeep trail in Huachuca Canyon certainly made for one of those memorable days that make birding so exciting!      Diane Touret  (Tucson,AZ) 

Here's the confirming post from today, including a video of the bird: 

Ricki and I refound the bird seen and reported yesterday by Diane Touret
and by Mary Jo of the Ash Canyon B&B.  We were in the same area described
in their posting from 0600 to 0700 this morning, April 15 (tax day, but
not a taxing experience!!!!).  Both types of calls are demonstrated in the
video.  Please read the description that accompanies the YouTube link for
more information.  I've set the video up in the normal way one contacts
this bird-calling first, then sighting.  THANK YOU DIANE AND MARY JO!!!

Rick and Ricki Thompson
Sierra Vista

Here's the confirming post: 

To add to Rick's post:

From the Tucson Audubon Society's RBA voice mail at 520-798-1005 X 1

Erika Wilson reports re-finding the singing SINALOA WREN this AM near the bathroom at the "Camp Coconino" picnic area in lower Huachuca Canyon at 0830 today. They heard it sing multiple times but only got one look at it.

Thanks to Erika for the real time update on this great bird that Diane Touret found yesterday.

Directions to Huachuca Canyon are in "Finding Birds in SE AZ" and also (I think) shown on the map in the ABA/Lane guide.

Mark Stevenson
Tucson, AZ

Good luck if you chase this bird.  If this is anything like the one currently being seen at Patagonia, this bird should hang around for a while. 

I'll be down there most likely by the end of the first week in May. Sinaloa Wren here I come! 

Happy Birding! 

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

While on the subject of April Fools day........

Here are some links for some interesting reading:

First we have a couple articles from Nat Geo about the day and some of the hoaxes:

Wikipedia's take on Apr 1st:'_Day

Some notes on the origin of the Apr 1st: 
And lastly, a list of the top 100 hoaxes of all time:

Happy April Fools Day!!!   If you believed my last post, then you got "April Fooled!!!"  lol

Happy Birding! 

Sungrebe!! Another one?

---------- Forwarded message ----------
A post from the SD bird list today. This would be the second ABA area record ever!

From: Peter Hill
Date: Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 9:00 AM
Subject: [sd-birds] SUNGREBE - Shannon County

A Sungrebe (Heliornis foolica) was reported at Ognayewaste Lake near Pine Ridge.

The Sungrebe was reported by Josh & April Fools Crow, a local pair of birders, and was described unmistakeably.

If confirmed, this would be the northernmost recorded Sungrebe on record.

Anyone wanting more details on this sighting should email me.

Peter Hill
Shannon Co.

Good luck chasing it.
Happy Birding!