Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer. Pt 1: Gulls, Cormorants, Ducks, Pennants, Skimmers, Meadowhawks, Baskettails, Clubtails, Skippers, Swallowtails and Admirals

Ok, so yes, I do have a lot to cover. It's been a while since my last post.
I've been working quite a bit lately, pretty much every weekend. That doesn't leave a lot of time for birding. Good thing the birding has been slow lately and most of the Dragonflies are found near the river.

Amazingly, the only really rare bird that has been found all summer is crazy rare, a first state record in fact. Back on the last week of Jun, a Neotropic Cormorant was found at Horicon Marsh.  Like most summer rarities in Wisconsin, it stuck around and has been present for over 3 weeks now.

Horicon is far enough from me that there is no way I can get there at the crack of dawn. Subsequently, I wasn't able to get the morning light on the tree it was sitting it, so I had to make do with the harsh, late morning light that provided lots of shadows:

Here's a slightly better photo that shows the diagnostic "V" at the base of the bill:

I went back a week later and had similar results with the light. This time however, the bird sat right next to a Double-crested Cormorant which gave an excellent chance for side-by-side comparison:

Since I've been working as a naturalist, I've been trying to learn as much as I can about almost every aspect of the Mississippi River. It's been a fun job so far and I've actually learned quite a bit. The best part is working outside, on the river and getting to see the wildlife on a regular basis. We actually see Bald Eagles on almost every cruise. It's nice to see how much of a comeback they've made since DDT was banned.  Since most of the young have fledged, we've been seeing a lot more 1st year birds sitting up, in the open for us to look at: 

On Jul 13th, I grabbed my little ten-year-old birding pal Cicero and we drove over to Sheboygan to look for a Little Gull that had been seen there the previous day.  When we arrived, we found the rocks at North Point occupied by about 300 Bonaparte's Gulls and around 100 Ring-billed Gulls.  While Cicero ran off to photograph the Bonaparte's Gulls (a lifer for him), I set up my scope and set about trying to find the Little Gull. Fortunately, the Little Gull was in 1st summer plumage and most of the Bonaparte's were still in breeding plumage. Even so, it still took about 15 minutes to find the Little Gull. Once I found it though, it became ridiculously easy to re-find, even if I completely lost it in the flock (isn't that the way it goes though?). 

The Bonaparte's Gulls were rather skittish, so I couldn't get very close, but at least the photo is identifiable. This was my 312th WI state bird: 

After watching the Little Gull for a while, I scanned the lake looking for the Franklin's Gull that had also been reported there. I found it floating with a flock of Bonaparte's about 150 yds off the point. I quickly pointed it out to Cicero who quickly picked it out; his 3rd lifer of the day.  
We then headed back to Horicon Marsh where Cicero picked up Black Tern, Forster's Tern and Ruddy Duck. 

All attempts to find the Black-necked Stilts however were foiled by the tall reeds and grass.  
We did however re-find the Neotropic Cormorant and managed to get pretty decent looks at it. 

The main ponds along Hwy 49 at Horicon Marsh were overrun with Pied-billed Grebes: 

While looking for Black-necked Stilts, we found something along those lines, but not quite what we were looking for: 

At least there are plenty of Cranes in the marsh. It's good to see that Sandhill Cranes have made such an excellent comeback as well. 

As you may have noticed with my last post, I have taken a nose-dive into Dragonflies this summer. My latest Dragonfly exploits will be recounted in my next post. 

Happy Birding/Oding/Lepping! :D 

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