May Species Seen
Journal - May, 2012
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This log is in chronological order and the most recent entries
are at the bottom of the page.
The last update was on Thursday, May 31, 2012
Friday, May 4, 2012
published 05/04/2012 7:15pm
Out today with Ed Patten from Gaithersburg, MD. We birded in Garden, Huachuca and Sawmill Canyons on Fort Huachuca and briefly near the San Pedro House. Birding was fairly slow but we managed to find a few target species. There was a nice chill to the air in Sawmill Canyon early this morning but the day eventually warmed to around 90 degrees and became quite windy.
Highlights in Sawmill Canyon were a couple of calling ELEGANT TROGONS (one seen) and a few BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS (not particularly vocal or conspicuous). Our warbler results were less than spectacular with only GRACE'S WARBLER and PAINTED REDSTART heard and seen. Among the other species in the canyon were a group of WILD TURKEYS, a briefly calling NORTHERN (MOUNTAIN) PYGMY-OWL, several ARIZONA WOODPECKERS, DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER, many PLUMBEOUS VIREOS, YELLOW-EYED JUNCO (some singing); HEPATIC TANAGER and BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK.
Huachuca Canyon was pretty quiet late during a late morning visit but we did find our only migrant warblers of the morning -- WILSON'S & TOWNSEND'S WARBLERS. Also present were a couple of ELEGANT TROGONS (one seen, one heard), all three regular Myiarchus species, 4-5 singing BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS, SUMMER & WESTERN TANAGERS and a a singing SCOTT'S ORIOLE.
Among the species in Garden Canyon was a perched GRAY HAWK near the middle picnic area (now established as a nesting species along the creek).
We finished up near the San Pedro House in early afternoon. It was pretty warm working the mesquite habitat for LUCY'S WARBLER. The feeders near the house had plenty of customers including GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, 4 LAZULI BUNTINGS and 12 WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS (with some juveniles molting into adult plumage).67 species recorded:
Saturday, May 5, 2012
published 05/06/2012 11:15am
Out today with Connie and Steve Vorenkamp from northern Michigan. We spent the morning in the Patagonia area visiting Patagonia Lake State Park, the Roadside Rest Area and Paton's Yard. As yesterday, the day warmed quickly and it was quite windy at times.
Slow and steady birding at Patagonia Lake produced 60 species in a little under four hours. We started looking for sparrows and it didn't take long to see 3 very cooperative BOTTERI'S SPARROWS along the entrance road. RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROWS were also easy to see. Highlight for me was a continuing TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE, one of at least two birds that wintered at the lake. It's getting on the late side for this species to still be in the lowlands of southeast Arizona. However, I have several later records in multiple years.
A male BLUE-WINGED TEAL and WESTERN GREBE (both rare to uncommon at the lake in spring) were the pick of what we saw on the water. Other species present on/near the water included CINNAMON TEAL, a lone EARED GREBE, NEOTROPIC and DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS, SNOWY EGRET (sporadic at the lake), SORA (out in the open providing prolonged views) and a few SPOTTED SANDPIPERS.
Among the species seen on the trails were BLACK VULTURE, GRAY HAWK, COMMON GROUND-DOVE, GREATER ROADRUNNER, GREAT HORNED OWL, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER, WESTERN TANAGER and HOODED & BULLOCK'S ORIOLES. Migrant flycatchers went undetected and the only migrant warbler seen was WILSON'S WARBLER.
At the Roadside Rest Area we turned up my first of year THICK-BILLED KINGBIRD. The bird was in the sycamore next to the picnic table, a location where they have nested for the past couple of years.
A beautiful male INDIGO BUNTING was the highlight of a productive visit to the Paton's Yard (we noted 30 species in a couple of hours). Indigo Bunting is an uncommon and local breeding species in southeast Arizona. I have a handful of records from the Paton's Yard, all in May. LAZULI BUNTING'S were quite numerous and in view for much of our stay. Crowd pleasing VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRDS made regular but infrequent feeder visits and could be seen perched in nearby trees. YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT out in the open at the orange-halves was a treat. WESTERN TANAGER and numerous BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS provided additional color. Others present included GAMBEL'S QUAIL, a fly-by flock of a dozen or so CEDAR WAXWINGS, ABERT'S TOWHEE, SUMMER TANAGER and soon to be departing GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE and WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW.78 species recorded:
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
published 05/08/2012 5:15pm
First of two days with Anne and Blayne Olsen from Monroe, NC (our next outing will be on Sunday). Spotted Owl and Red-faced Warbler were the primary targets for the day. I'd initially planned to go to Scheelite Canyon then changed my mind yesterday and decided to try Miller Canyon. Spotted Owls have been reported regularly over the past month or so and Miller is the best canyon in the Huachucas for Red-faced Warbler. A twofer and a no-brainer right? Sadly, not as things turned out and, in retrospect, I wish I had stuck with Scheelite where I've had excellent success with Spotted Owl over the years. You dumb shit, Healy.
Although the Miller Canyon trail offers the best mountain birding on the east side of the Huachucas, it's very underbirded (certainly by me) because it's also the steepest canyon. We dipped on Spotted Owl despite a careful and methodical (but not exhaustive) search to roughly 300-400 yards above the second stream crossing. This is a little over 2 miles (one way) from the trailhead and the second mile is quite steep and very rough underfoot. Good footwear is a must.
Despite missing the owl we had a productive and enjoyable 6 hours in the canyon. The initial part of the trail that loops around the Beatty property is extensively burned and is attracting plenty of species. Among those that we noted were BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD, LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER, DUSKY-CAPPED and ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS, several CASSIN'S & WESTERN KINGBIRDS (Western would not normally be expected here); lots of LARK SPARROWS, LAZULI BUNTING, HOUSE FINCH & LESSER GOLDFINCH.
Fire damage on the straight stretch from just above Beatty's to the first stream crossing is not as extensive but still badly burned on one or both sides of the trail. Along this stretch we heard two NORTHERN (MOUNTAIN) PYGMY-OWLS calling on opposite sides of the canyon. One was pretty close but Anne did not want to pursue on difficult terrain (probably a wise decision). Others included HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER, WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE, BLACK-THROATED GRAY & TOWNSEND'S WARBLERS and BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK.
Fir trees predominate above the second stream crossing and fire damage is not as severe, although still very obvious. Nevertheless, there's still plenty of greenery and birds. RED-FACED WARBLERS were common in the second mile and we also saw GRACE'S WARBLER, PAINTED REDSTART and more TOWNSEND'S. Flycatchers were represented by GREATER PEWEE, CORDILLERAN and BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS (all singing). PLUMBEOUS VIREOS were very numerous and vocal; HUTTON'S & WARBLING VIREOS less so. WESTERN & HEPATIC TANAGERS were present in low numbers and a hybrid FLAME-COLORED x WESTERN was singing loudly from time to time. Additional species included BLUE-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD, several ARIZONA WOODPECKERS, BROWN CREEPER, plenty of HOUSE WRENS, HERMIT THRUSH and SPOTTED TOWHEE.
53 species recorded (46 on the Miller Canyon trail):
Turkey Vulture, Rock Pigeon, White-winged & Mourning Doves; N. Pygmy-Owl, Blue-throated, Black-chinned & Broad-tailed Hummingbirds; Ladder-backed & Arizona Woodpeckers; Greater Pewee, Western Wood-Pewee, Hammond's, Cordilleran, Buff-breasted, Dusky-capped & Ash-throated Flycatchers; Cassin's & Western Kingbirds; Plumbeous, Hutton's & Warbling Vireos; Steller's & Mexican Jays; Chihuahuan & Common Ravens; Bridled Titmouse, Bushtit, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Cactus, Canyon, Bewick's & House Wrens; Hermit Thrush, N. Mockingbird, Curve-billed Thrasher, Black-throated Gray, Townsend's, Grace's & Red-faced Warblers; Painted Redstart, Spotted Towhee, Lark Sparrow, Hepatic & Western Tanagers; Black-headed Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, Great-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch and House Sparrow.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
published 05/09/2012 8:30pm
First of three days with Paul Pinsky from Palo Alto, CA. Today was was a rare day for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Paul likes to photograph birds but is not a birder. This is the first time that I have encountered this situation in my guiding career and I found it quite challenging. Secondly, the weather was very unseasonable -- cool and cloudy and eventually a thunderstorm, rain and some serious hail. Not unprecedented for May but certainly not to be expected. Reports for the next three days will be brief since I won't be doing much birding.
Paul shoots with a heavy 600mm f/4 lens so I selected locations with minimal walking. We spent some time at several sites in Patagonia Lake State Park; in the Paton's Yard and at the San Pedro House. Overall we didn't fare very well finding photo opportunities.
Less common species at the lake were a continuing SNOWY EGRET and a pair of REDHEADS. Also present among 60 species noted were WESTERN GREBE, GREAT EGRET, a very obliging SORA and several less than obliging VERMILION FLYCATCHERS. Of interest to me was the first Vermilion Flycatcher nest that I have found in a Mesquite tree (Cottonwoods and Willows are typically used).
Paton's Yard was fairly productive (30 species) with most of the usual suspects present and nothing unusual seen save for a PINE SISKIN (getting late for a bird in the lowlands). VIOLET-CROWNED HUMMINGBIRDS were sporadic.77 species recorded:
Thursday, May 10, 2012
published 05/11/2012 5:30am
In Huachuca Canyon we had good views of NORTHERN (MOUNTAIN) PYGMY-OWL and witnessed a nest exchange between male and female ELEGANT TROGONS, Unfortunately, Paul didn't manage any "keepers". Most of my clients would be thrilled to see these species. However, as I mentioned yesterday, since Paul isn't a birder, no bird has value if he can't get a good image. I found this to be more than a little soul destroying.
Other species in Huachuca Canyon included a displaying WILD TURKEY, calling MONTEZUMA QUAIL that we didn't pursue; a pair of GRAY HAWKS in what has become a regular territory away from typical habitat; ARIZONA WOODPECKER making physical contact with the owl several times; CASSIN'S VIREO, a pair of HEPATIC TANAGERS building a nest; and a singing BOTTERI'S SPARROW in less than ideal habitat (but the bird obviously knows best). 44 species in all.
Garden Canyon was less productive. We focused our efforts on ARIZONA WOODPECKER, BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHER and BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER in the vicinity of the upper picnic area. A singing PAINTED REDSTART taunted us but never put in an appearance.63 species recorded:
Friday, May 11, 2012
published 05/11/2012 7:30pm
Third and final day with Paul Pinsky looking for more photo opportunities. We made an early morning visit to Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area then returned to Huachuca Canyon for another attempt at photographing Elegant Trogon.
I wasn't sure what to expect at Whitewater Draw after the recent pump
problems and lack of water. As things turned out I was very pleasantly
surprised. Water is being pumped full bore and there is more water present in
the three closest ponds than at any time during the past 6 months. Overall, the
habitat is excellent. Unfortunately, it comes a little bit too late for most
The only waterfowl noted were MALLARD and BLUE-WINGED & CINNAMON TEAL. Shorebirds/waders included WHITE-FACED IBIS, LESSER YELLOWLEGS, SPOTTED SANDPIPER and LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER. A few BANK SWALLOWS were working over the ponds. A fly-by male BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD was a bit of a surprise in the lowlands in mid May. Interestingly though, I've seen them on the San Pedro at this time of year.
I was pleased to see a couple of continuing winter species -- several small
flocks of LARK BUNTINGS with males looking very sharp in their black breeding
attire; and plentiful YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS (mostly females). Lots of
WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS still around, too.
Paul managed some decent photos of a male VERMILION FLYCATCHER and a very cooperative BLACK-THROATED SPARROW at the wildlife area proper; plus SCALED QUAIL and GREATER ROADRUNNER on Coffman Road.
In Huachuca Canyon, we just missed an ELEGANT TROGON nest exchange at 9:40am (birds were calling as we scurried up the canyon) and we had to wait until 12:55pm for another. Thankfully, the long wait was well rewarded with excellent views (and, hopefully, decent images) of the male perched near the nest cavity.
My first of season SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHER was calling in the 1.7 mile parking lot at noon.
Saturday, May 12, 2012
published 05/12/2012 9:45pm
First of two days with Steve Dexter from Redondo Beach, CA, who I've birded with on one previous occasion. We visited Florida Canyon, Kino Springs, Patagonia Roadside Rest area and Carr Canyon.
Rufous-capped Warbler was the only target species and our efforts in Florida Canyon proved fruitless. I suspect that the warblers are currently nesting and this is always a tough time to look for them. Fledging could occur any day, after which the chances of finding the birds should improve significantly. Ground vegetation in the canyon is very lush and dense at the moment making it extremely difficult to spot this ground dwelling species when not vocalizing. We started birding in the canyon at 6:00am when activity was extremely high. When the sun hit the bottom of the canyon at 7:30am activity dropped drastically and by the time we departed at 9:30am very little was stirring. My strategy was to spend 30+ minutes in several different locations with good vantage points for sight and sound. We worked from the dam to above the sharp east-west bend in the stream bed.
Warbler aside, our time in the canyon was very productive and enjoyable, especially the cool and active period between 6:00am and 7:30am. I recorded a very respectable 46 species during the warbler search. Best birds were a constantly singing INDIGO BUNTING, apparently trolling for a mate; a migrant SWAINSON'S THRUSH (possibly two); and a fly-over adult GOLDEN EAGLE. It was a colorful morning with many WESTERN TANAGERS, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAKS and HOODED & SCOTT'S ORIOLES.
Other species included MAGNIFICENT HUMMINGBIRD, HAMMOND'S FLYCATCHER, all three regular myiarchus species, a silent "WESTERN" FLYCATCHER, most likely Cordilleran; WARBLING VIREO, CANYON & ROCK WRENS, a couple of TOWNSEND'S and many WILSON'S WARBLERS; RUFOUS-CROWNED & LINCOLN'S SPARROWS, HEPATIC & SUMMER TANAGERS and LAZULI BUNTING. The canyon approach road yielded GREATER ROADRUNNER.
A brief stop at Kino Springs was largely unproductive in late morning. Apart from at the sewage pond, water is all but gone. Best birds were multiple GRAY HAWKS, COOPER'S HAWK at a nest, multiple pairs of VERMILION FLYCATCHERS and a lingering YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD (a scarce bird at Kino).
At Patagonia Roadside Rest Area, there was no sign of THICK-BILLED KINGBIRDS near the picnic table. However, a walk along the creek produced two of them perched atop the easternmost sycamore.
An evening outing to Carr Canyon was pleasantly cool after a day in the 90s. Bird-wise, not so good. WHIP-POOR-WILL was our only target and we heard just the briefest of calls. We'll try again on Monday. COMMON POORWILL and ELF OWL also called briefly.79 species recorded:
Sunday, May 13, 2012
published 05/13/2012 6:00pm
Second day with Anne and Blayne Olsen from Monroe, NC. After missing Spotted Owl on Tuesday, I'm happy to report that Anne and Blayne were able return to Miller Canyon and see an owl. Today we birded at Patagonia Lake in search of a handful of targets with fair success and a total of 60 species.
We started in the grassland along the main road down to the lake. BOTTERI'S SPARROW was fairly easy to find and we enjoyed good views of a very obliging individual. Somewhat surprisingly, RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW was more difficult to find but we eventually prevailed and saw the bird well. Also out in the grassland were HOODED ORIOLE and LILIAN'S MEADOWLARK.
Closer to the lake in mesquite habitat we had great views of RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROW but I couldn't come up with my season first Varied Bunting. Consolation came in the form of a male MACGILLIVRAY'S WARBLER, skulking in typical fashion. In contrast, WILSON'S & LUCY'S WARBLERS were easy to spot. Fly-by CEDAR WAXWINGS were unexpected.
On the main birding trail we came across three nests -- BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD, BELL'S VIREO and VERMILION FLYCATCHER (the nest that I found in a mesquite recently, now with 2 out-of-the-nest youngsters that still couldn't fly).
The park was packed with people and plenty of boats were out on the lake. Nevertheless, we found a few species on and around the water including WESTERN GREBE, side by side NEOTROPIC and DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS, GREEN HERON, GREAT & SNOWY EGRETS, a very cooperative SORA and 4 SPOTTED SANDPIPERS. A female LAZULI BUNTING foraging in the mud looked a little out of place.
After leaving the lake we made a quick run down to Kino Springs for GRAY HAWK and immediately found a bird perched atop a pine next to the restaurant.
Our luck didn't hold at Patagonia Roadside Rest area where we missed Thick-billed Kingbird. We checked near the picnic table and along the creek without success.69 species recorded:
Monday, May 14, 2012
published 05/15/2012 7:15am
Day 2 with Steve Dexter from Redondo Beach, CA. Today we looked for Montezuma Quail in the morning and Whip-poor-will in the evening. Sadly, we failed to see both of them. It was the warmest day of the year so far; already uncomfortable by 9:30am.
As on Saturday, we left Sierra Vista early (4:30am) this time traveling west of Nogales on Ruby Road, perhaps the best place to look for Montezuma Quail. We cruised along Ruby Road searching for quail then focused on the area around Sycamore Canyon. Apart from one possible and brief call, we came up empty.The habitat on one side of the road near Sycamore Canyon is badly burned and I don't know if it can support quail.
We also walked a mile down the canyon for general birding. As always, the dramatic, rocky scenery was impressive. I was surprised by the lack of migrants and only WARBLING VIREO, SWAINSON'S THRUSH and TOWNSEND'S WARBLER fell into that category. Also present were WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS screaming over the peaks high above us, several calling ARIZONA WOODPECKERS, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, all three myiarchus species, EASTERN BLUEBIRD, PAINTED REDSTART, HEPATIC, SUMMER & WESTERN TANAGERS, BLACK-HEADED & BLUE GROSBEAKS and HOODED ORIOLE.
On Saturday we tried for Whip-poor-will in a regular location in lower Carr Canyon without success. This evening we went up as far as Reef Campground where the birds are normally more common. Not tonight though. We heard nothing from night birds save for GREAT HORNED OWL. Very disappointing. This was my first visit to the upper canyon since the road reopened last month following the fire last year. Habitat damage is significant with much of the understory gone and many pines burned beyond recovery. However, the pines in the campground are mostly intact. Birds active just before dusk included GREATER PEWEE and BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHER.53 species recorded:
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
This morning I spent a few hours testing a new-to-me camera and lens; two hours at the lower picnic area in Huachuca Canyon and an hour at the upper picnic area in Garden Canyon. I've been saving my pennies for a while now and I recently acquired a used Canon 500mm f/4 IS lens for my retirement years. I also purchased a used Canon 7D camera body. Disappointingly, I found very few photo opportunities and my patience got far more of a workout than the equipment.
The only bird of note was a SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHER in Garden Canyon, my first in that location this season (my FOS came last Friday in Huachuca Canyon). Otherwise, it was pretty standard breeding fare including GRAY HAWK, BUFF-BREASTED, DUSKY-CAPPED & BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHERS, LUCY'S & BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLERS; PAINTED REDSTART, BOTTERI'S SPARROW, HEPATIC, SUMMER & WESTERN TANAGERS; BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK and BULLOCK'S & SCOTT'S ORIOLES. Migrants were not much in evidence and WILSON'S WARBLER was the only representative.47 species recorded:
Thursday, May 17, 2012
published 05/17/2012 8:00pm
A client day didn't work out today so I took advantage of the free time to do some more photo equipment testing. I spent a couple of early morning hours at the San Pedro House. I mentioned yesterday that I had purchased a 7D camera and 500mm lens. I also had to purchase a Photoshop upgrade because the "Camera Raw" feature of my previous version (CS3) didn't support the 7D. Consequently, I'm working on learning how to use the new equipment as well as the new version of Photoshop (CS5). Bear with me. Incidentally, so far I don't like CS5 in general but it does have a feature that I like. The metadata listing now shows the distance to the subject, something that is obviously known by the camera but was not available in Photoshop, at least through CS3.
I long ago learned that no matter how good your equipment, the hardest part of bird photography is finding photo opportunities. I also know from renting a 500mm lens several times that it's much more difficult to find opportunities with a large lens on a tripod (unless you're on a beach or at a migrant trap, etc.). Of course, the quality is better (or should be!) when good opportunities arise.
There was plenty of activity around the San Pedro House feeders - all common stuff, of course. While getting used to the equipment I was able to photograph HOUSE FINCH (12.1), STARLING (17.5), BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (17.5) and LESSER GOLDFINCH (10.1). Numbers are distances from the bird in meters to give some perspective. A 500mm lens with a 1.4X teleconverter has good reach. As an aside, I went back and looked at the metadata for the rather poor image of the Hudsonian Godwit that I took on April 29 and found that the distance was over 35 meters.
Normally I don't give Starlings much of a look but they are actually quite beautiful. Pity they have such a bad reputation. Other stuff in the vicinity of the San Pedro House included INCA DOVE, COMMON GROUND-DOVE, LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKERS feeding young; VERMILION & ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS, CASSIN'S KINGBIRD, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, ABERT'S TOWHEE, continuing WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS, BLACK-HEADED & BLUE GROSBEAKS, at least 10 LAZULI BUNTINGS and BULLOCK'S ORIOLE.
Recent Texas trip note: I haven't had chance to put together a summary of the trip yet but I have published the trip photos. You can view them via "Recent Photos" or "Texas Trip Photos".38 species recorded:
Friday, May 18, 2012
published 05/18/2012 6:15pm
I surveyed the ponds at Willcox this morning from 5:30-7:30am (yes, I got up early). Scads of LESSER NIGHTHAWKS working the lights at the Hwy 90 Border Patrol Checkpoint north of Sierra Vista were a bonus of my early start.
Conditions at Willcox were fairly pleasant and it didn't warm up significantly until I was getting ready to leave. The water level on the main pond, a.k.a. the rather grandiosely named "Cochise Lake", is pretty much ideal at the moment -- well balanced between deep and shallow water. There are some fairly extensive dry mud flats and smaller mud flats that are wet. Something for everybody - ducks, long-legged waders and peeps.
Best bird for me from 44 species that I recorded was an unexpected PRAIRIE
FALCON along the entrance road. While regular in fall and winter at this
location, this is the first time that I have seen one here in May.
A second pass around the main pond at 6:45am produced the 2 continuing WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS (I missed them on the first pass shortly after I arrived). I noted the birds on the south shore while viewing from the north shore. However, I was unable to locate them again after I drove to the south shore to attempt a photo. White-rumped Sandpiper is only a casual migrant in southeast Arizona (usually in late spring) with probably less than 10 records. This was my fourth personal sighting in AZ (3 at Willcox and 1 at Sierra Vista EOP).
At the golf course pond I heard a singing NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH but didn't attempt to locate the bird (it was on the north edge of the pond well west of the willows at the east end). Northern Waterthrush is a rare transient through southeast Arizona but this spring there seem to have been more sightings than normal.
Additional species noted included several SCALED QUAIL, 2 BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS, 40 WHITE-FACED IBIS, 1 SWAINSON'S HAWK, 30 SPOTTED SANDPIPERS, 1 LONG-BILLED CURLEW, 11 LONG-BILLED DOWITCHERS, 55 WILSON'S PHALAROPES, 1 BANK SWALLOW working over the golf course pond, 25 female LARK BUNTINGS on the golf course grass, a singing PYRRHULOXIA and several BULLOCK'S ORIOLES chattering and flying around the willows.
Also present were a few duck species -- a pair of GADWALLS, lots of MALLARDS, 2 pairs of CINNAMON TEAL, 2 drake GREEN-WINGED TEAL, a few SHOVELERS and numerous RUDDY DUCKS; many AMERICAN AVOCETS and BLACK-NECKED STILTS; CASSIN'S & WESTERN KINGBIRDS and lots of HORNED LARKS.
On the way home I stopped at St, David Monastery and noted two pairs of TROPICAL KINGBIRDS as reported by Arlene Ripley earlier in the week. They have nested at the Monastery for several years now.
In addition to checking on the kingbirds I also looked for Mississippi Kite
(not found). I didn't spend much time trying to dig out additional species (it
was already too warm for my liking) and noted 32 species at the Monastery proper
including GRAY HAWK, WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE, VERMILION & ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHERS,
BELL'S VIREO, 3 CLIFF SWALLOWS (I was very surprised to see them at this
location in May, perhaps just foraging over the ponds); PHAINOPEPLA, LUCY'S
WARBLER, several chatting YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS, ABERT'S TOWHEE, SUMMER &
WESTERN TANAGERS and BULLOCK'S ORIOLE.
The main pond has been dry for well over a year but now has water again. Unfortunately, it's devoid of any vegetation and it will probably be some time before it returns to its former glory. No birds on the pond today. There's a wide area of dirt around the pond (wide enough for a large vehicle) and the trees that bordered the trail on the west side of the pond are gone. The west side hackberry strip (home to wintering Rufous-backed Robin in multiple years) remains intact.
Sunday, May 20, 2012
published 05/20/2012 6:45pm
This morning I visited Sierra Vista EOP for the first time in four months. Although late May is hardly the best time at this location, four locals enjoyed a good morning. Birding at the main impoundments was fairly dull; the east side ponds and mesquite areas accessed from Moson Road were much more interesting and productive.
Perhaps the most interesting bird at the main ponds was a puzzling TREE SWALLOW with a deformed bill. The bird appeared to be a juvenile (which shouldn't be around at this time) so it was a bird that had not molted yet. It was also my latest spring sighting at the EOP by 10 days. It was a good swallow morning with a few BANK SWALLOWS (at the end of the migration through southeast Arizona) and more expected BARN and NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS.
Also at the main ponds we enjoyed a scope view of SCALED QUAIL and a close up view of LESSER NIGHTHAWK flying low over a marshy pond where female YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS continue.
Moson Road sightings included lingering GADWALL and AMERICAN WIGEON. Among the migrants were 5 WHITE-FACED IBIS, a handful of SPOTTED SANDPIPERS, WESTERN WOOD-PEWEE, WESTERN TANAGER, BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK and LAZULI BUNTING. Breeding birds noted were BELL'S VIREO, LUCY'S WARBLER, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, PYRRHULOXIA, BLACK-THROATED SPARROW and BLUE GROSBEAK.
The group total was 55 species which is pretty good for the date (I missed a few).
52 species recorded at Sierra Vista EOP (6:30-9:20am; sunny and calm; 71-82
Gadwall, Am. Wigeon, Mallard, Cinnamon & Green-winged Teal; Ruddy Duck, Scaled Quail, Great Blue Heron, White-faced Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Swainson's Hawk, Am. Coot, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, White-winged & Mourning Doves; Common Ground-Dove, Lesser Nighthawk, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Western Wood-Pewee, Say's Phoebe, Cassin's & Western Kingbirds; Loggerhead Shrike, Bell's Vireo, Chihuahuan Raven, Horned Lark, N. Rough-winged, Tree, Bank & Barn Swallows; Verdin, N. Mockingbird, Lucy's & Yellow Warblers; Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, Lark, Black-throated & Song Sparrows; Western Tanager, Pyrrhuloxia, Black-headed & Blue Grosbeaks; Lazuli Bunting, Red-winged & Yellow-headed Blackbirds; Great-tailed Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch and House Sparrow.
Monday, May 21, 2012
published 05/21/2012 6:30pm
First of two days with Grace Suttle from Richmond, VA and Ann Esmas from Peoria, AZ. We birded at Patagonia Lake State Park, Patagonia Roadside Rest Area and in the Paton's Yard. Temperatures in SE AZ are much higher than normal at the moment and several fires are already burning. It was already up to 99 degrees when we returned to Sierra Vista at 1:30pm. Not much fun birding when it's so hot, especially so early in the season. It's still a long time before the monsoon brings relief. I'm glad that it's almost time for me to be elsewhere. A short report today.
We didn't really have an agenda but I focused on a few key species at the state park while it was still cool. We had good looks at BOTTERI'S and RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROWS and my first of season VARIED BUNTING (another was singing at the Roadside Rest Area). Most passerine migrants have passed through now and today I noted only 2 SNOWY EGRETS, 2 SPOTTED SANDPIPERS, SWAINSON'S THRUSH and WILSON'S WARBLER. Other species included GREEN HERON, many VERMILION FLYCATCHERS, BROWN-CRESTED & DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHERS; BELL'S VIREO at a nest; scads of LUCY'S WARBLERS, SUMMER TANAGER and HOODED & BULLOCKS ORIOLES.
No Thick-billed Kingbirds detected at the Roadside Rest but we had great views of GRAY HAWK. Migrants noted were SWAINSON'S THRUSH and WESTERN TANAGER.
No Violet-crowned Hummer at the Paton's from 11:30am-12:30pm. Very hot in the yard. At least one WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW and a female LAZULI BUNTING continue.74 species recorded:
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
published 05/23/2012 5:00am
Out again today with Grace and Ann. We spent all of our time on Fort Huachuca visiting Garden, Sawmill and Huachuca Canyons. Early morning birding in Garden Canyon was pretty good with a chill in the air but took a nose dive quickly as the temperature climbed above 90 degrees even in the mountains. Sawmill Canyon was fairly productive but not much was happening in Huachuca Canyon in the early afternoon.
I had planned to drive directly to Sawmill Canyon but we ended up dawdling through Garden Canyon with several stops along the way. My first EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE for the canyon was on a pole near the Range Control building. BOTTERI'S SPARROWS were singing in the lower grassland and quite visible from obvious perches. For a while it looked like we might see a calling NORTHERN PYGMY-OWL near the pictograph site but the bird moved on without coming close enough. VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOWS and WHITE-THROATED SWIFTS soared above the cliffs near the pictograph site as a CANYON WREN sang and bounced around. SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS have gone from a few individuals to common in the last week. Today they were vocal and conspicuous throughout the canyon and pretty easy to track down.
Additional species in Garden Canyon included calling WILD TURKEY, COOPER'S HAWK, ARIZONA WOODPECKER, VIRGINIA'S WARBLER (seen only be me, unfortunately), WILSON'S WARBLER, PAINTED REDSTART, great views of a singing SPOTTED TOWHEE, RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW, HEPATIC & WESTERN TANAGERS and several roadside male and female LAZULI BUNTINGS near the lower picnic area.
BUFF-BREASTED FLYCATCHERS were fairly easy to find In Sawmill Canyon but we had to invest considerable time and effort to see GRACE'S WARBLER. A calling ELEGANT TROGON came fairly close then moved upslope out of our reach. I got the impression that the bird was trolling for a mate. SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS were seen in a couple of locations. Sawmill is not a breeding canyon for them (not enough sycamores) and this was my first sighting for the canyon in May. Among the more regular species were MAGNIFICENT & BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRDS, CASSIN'S KINGBIRD, PLUMBEOUS & HUTTON'S VIREOS; BROWN CREEPER, HEPATIC TANAGER and a singing YELLOW-EYED JUNCO.
In Huachuca Canyon, an hour's vigil at a Trogon nest cavity didn't result in a sighting. Not the finish that I was hoping for. SULPHUR-BELLIED FLYCATCHERS were inspecting a sycamore nest cavity in the parking lot. A migrant WARBLING VIREO was the only bird of note from a dozen species detected in the heat of the day.66 species recorded:
Thursday, May 24, 2012
published 05/24/2012 10:15pm CDT
Multi-state road trip Day 1: Sierra Vista - Amarillo, TX (trip list: 56)
A long time in planning, today I started my annual "June" escape from Arizona a little earlier than usual. I normally wait until after the Memorial Day holiday but this year I'm hitting the road early for a couple of reasons. For years now I've been promising myself a visit to Magee Marsh in Ohio to experience migration there. Unfortunately, I've always needed to work in Arizona during the peak time for migration at that location. This year I've made the time available even though most migrants will already have passed through by the time that I get there. On the plus side, the crowds will have subsided so the visit should be all the more enjoyable. I'll always trade less birds for less people.
After visiting Magee Marsh I'll be continuing east through Pennsylvania and New York to Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine before heading back west to North Dakota and Wyoming where I'll be working for a week in mid June. On that leg I'll replicate some of my trip last year in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. After I complete a week of work ending up in Montana, I plan to head over to the Olympic Peninsula on the west coast. The first 4 weeks are according to a firm schedule; the last week is flexible. If all goes according to plan, I'll probably travel almost 10,000 miles through 30 states in 5 weeks. Now you see why I need to start a little earlier! This might be the last year that I'm able to do such a trip and I wanted to make it memorable. I plan to hit a few places that I haven't visited before as well as renew my acquaintance with familiar places.
Although I don't have any target birds for the trip, I hope to photograph a few species that I haven't photographed before without having any particular species in mind. Also, as usual, I have the chance to run into my nemesis Black-billed Cuckoo. I find it surprising that I haven't stumbled into this bird either on my June trips east or in migration during my April trips to Texas. Fact is stranger than fiction.
It's a good time to be leaving Arizona with triple digit temperatures, high winds and multiple fires burning Yesterday was extremely windy in Sierra Vista and the sky was heavy with smoke by the end of the day. Today I traveled a little over 700 miles from home to Amarillo with stops at Willcox and Buffalo Lake NWR (30 miles southwest of Amarillo). It was a warm and often windy ride with smoke filled skies in Arizona and New Mexico. Cooler temperatures are still a few states away!
An early start produced lots of LESSER NIGHTHAWKS at the Border Patrol Checkpoint on Hwy 90 north of Sierra Vista. It was a delightfully cool 55 degrees at Willcox Ponds when I arrived at 5:20am and it took some willpower to hit the road by my self imposed deadline of 6:00am (miles to go before I sleep). Best birds were singletons of MARBLED GODWIT and HUDSONIAN GODWIT, both first seen a couple of days ago. Hudsonian Godwit is very rare in southeast Arizona with only a handful of previous records. I checked my own records and found that I have now seen three individuals, all at Willcox: May 12 and May 16, 1996 (so that bird stayed at least 5 days); a juvenile on October 13, 2000; and today's bird. Few and far between would be a good description of their occurrence.
I wasn't able to do a thorough check for what else might be around. Highlights were three Teal species including a drake BLUE-WINGED TEAL; a pair of LESSER SCAUP; numerous SCALED QUAIL, 4 BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS, a CALIFORNIA GULL with a couple of RING-BILLED GULLS and a lone BANK SWALLOW. 32 species in all.
Except for a few SWAINSON'S HAWKS and the usual CHIHUAHUAN RAVENS, I didn't see much on the drive through New Mexico (I-10 to Las Cruces then Hwy 70 to Alamogordo, Ruidoso, Roswell and Clovis). The first bird in Texas was a MISSISSIPPI KITE. Plenty of GRACKLES of two species.
Buffalo Lake NWR was extremely disappointing. The lake is dry and it looks like it has been that way for some time. I wish that I'd known in advance - I would have gone elsewhere. NWR websites are sadly lacking in current information. Essentially, it's now a grassland refuge with some plains woodland. Not great habitat to bird in late afternoon at 90 degrees in the wind. I noted a grand total of 14 species in an hour before I threw in the towel. A singing CASSIN'S SPARROW was perhaps the highlight. Among the other species were LADDER-BACKED WOODPECKER, ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, many WESTERN KINGBIRDS, LARK SPARROW, WESTERN MEADOWLARK and BULLOCK'S ORIOLE. The final bird of the day was a COMMON NIGHTHAWK. A day that started and ended with two Nighthawk species. Not often that I do that (if ever!).
56 species recorded:
Gadwall, Mallard, Blue-winged, Cinnamon & Green-winged Teal; N. Shoveler, Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Duck, Scaled & Gambel's Quail; Black-crowned Night-Heron, Turkey Vulture, Mississippi Kite, Swainson's & Red-tailed Hawks; Am. Kestrel, Am. Coot, Killdeer, Black-necked Stilt, Am. Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper, Hudsonian & Marbled Godwits; Wilson's Phalarope, Ring-billed & California Gulls; Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, White-winged & Mourning Doves; Lesser & Common Nighthawks; Ladder-backed Woodpecker, N. Flicker, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Cassin's & Western Kingbirds; Chihuahuan & Common Ravens; Horned Lark, Bank, Barn & Cliff Swallows; N. Mockingbird, European Starling, Common Yellowthroat, Cassin's & Lark Sparrows; Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern & Western Meadowlarks; Common & Great-tailed Grackles; Bullock's Oriole, House Finch and House Sparrow.
Friday, May 25, 2012
published 05/25/2012 10:30pm CDT
Multi-state road trip Day 2: Amarillo, TX - St. Louis, MO (trip list: 67; +11)
The first three days of my trip are mostly A-B driving and today was the most AB-ish of the three. I traveled over 750+ miles through the eastern panhandle of Texas on I-40; continuing east halfway across Oklahoma to Oklahoma City then northeast on I-44 through Tulsa; entering Missouri in Joplin and getting in to St. Louis at 7:00pm. A long-assed drive through busy traffic for much of the way as the holiday weekend gets underway (especially in Missouri) with very windy conditions in the western half of Oklahoma. I did very little birding today. The objective was to break the back of the journey to Ohio.
A stop at Elk City Lake in Oklahoma was moderately productive despite a constant high wind. Highlights were a soaring MISSISSIPPI KITE battling the wind; several SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHERS (their long tail always seems like a major disadvantage to me, especially so on a day like today); and a swarm of CLIFF SWALLOWS (100s) nesting in an amphitheater-like structure. The shallow end of the lake held plenty of BLUE-WINGED TEAL, GREAT & SNOWY EGRETS, SPOTTED, WHITE-RUMPED & PECTORAL SANDPIPERS and a few WILSON'S PHALAROPES. On a road leading down to the lake I saw CHIMNEY SWIFTS and a BALTIMORE ORIOLE working close to the ground.
I'm ready for some sleep. At least I didn't lose two hours due to time zone changes like yesterday.34 species recorded:
Saturday, May 26, 2012
published 05/27/2012 5:30am EDT
Multi-state road trip Day 3: St. Louis, MO - Toledo, OH (trip list: 96; +29)
Today I had a relatively "easy" drive of 500 miles to Ohio through Illinois and Indiana. Consequently, I had some time available for birding before leaving St. Louis. I spent most of that time at Columbia Bottom Conservation area then made a quick stop at Horseshoe Lake across the river in Illinois. This was my third visit to St. Louis but the first time that I have seen the famous arch, seen after I had stopped in "Dogtown" for EURASIAN TREE SPARROW.
Highlights of the day were provided by those species that I don't often see such as NORTHERN BOBWHITE and lots of INDIGO BUNTINGS & DICKCISSELS. I managed one distant photo of a nicely posed GRASSHOPPER SPARROW, shot from the vehicle while dodging bicyclists (there was an cycling event at the conservation area).50 species recorded:
Sunday, May 27, 2012
published 05/28/2012 6:00am EDT
Multi-state road trip Day 4: Toledo, OH - Erie, PA (trip list: 123; +27)
Today I visited Magee Marsh Wildlife Area and Conneaut Harbor. I didn't care much for Magee but I very much enjoyed my time in Conneaut. Yesterday I received an email (hey Bill) that mentioned "I hope you leave Murphy at home". FRAYED KNOT! I had problems with motels, restaurants, road work and other trivial stuff. However, that was just the tip of the iceberg.
I spent 4 hours at Magee Marsh and took lots of photos. As I was getting ready to leave, the camera gave me a message "card inaccessible, please format". I'd never seen such a message before and, although I was a tad worried, I just switched to another card. In the evening I determined that the card had a problem and even the image recovery software that I have was unable to salvage anything. Every photo that I took was lost. To say that I was bummed is a gross understatement.
Magee has lots of good habitat and I saw over 50 species with very little effort. I'm sure that there was much more too see than what I came across in limited time. However, I didn't really enjoy the place very much for reasons that I'll keep to myself. I wouldn't want to upset anyone (so unlike me). I have no desire to return; just satisfied to have crossed the place off my bucket list. Highlights for me were a handful of warblers, particularly PROTHONOTARY WARBLER (seen at close range; pity about those photos) and MOURNING WARBLER. I saw one Cuckoo but the bill color was wrong. I also enjoyed seeing WOOD DUCK, BALD EAGLE and WILLOW & ALDER FLYCATCHERS singing at the same time (perhaps a first for me).
There are plenty of potential places to stop along Lake Erie. When I planned this trip I looked for a small place that was conveniently along my route east. I selected Conneaut Harbor, less than 20 miles from the PA state line and less than an hour from my overnight destination. As I drove from town down to the harbor, I could see a very threatening sky developing directly ahead over the water. Interesting, I thought, just like a coastal storm. When I reached the lake, visibility dropped to zero as the wind whipped up the sand and I couldn't see the car in front of me. Then, it lashed down with rain. Another encounter with Murphy. Timing is everything. It was still early afternoon so I decided to wait. On the plus side, the temperature dropped from the mid 80s to low 60s.
Conditions improved after an hour and I was able to get out on the shore. Thankfully, the locals in big-assed trucks driving around in circles and gouging up the sand were just leaving at this point. Just goes to show that there are morons wherever you go. I checked the Ohio listserv while waiting and learned that there had been a dark-mantled "mystery" gull present earlier in the day. I didn't see the bird which is perhaps just as well because then I would have had to figure out what it was!
I wandered around seeing plenty of RING-BILLED GULLS, a few HERRING GULLS and 3 CASPIAN TERNS. Nothing with a dark mantle. I spent some time with the shorebirds and photographed SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER and DUNLIN (using a new memory card!). The Dunlin was shot hand-held with a 400mm lens; the other two with a tripod mounted 500mm. Also present were SPOTTED and WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS. It was a good workout for me learning to use my new 7D and 500mm in challenging conditions (still windy with adverse light).
A good end to redeem the day (but I still had motel and restaurant issues ahead of me in Erie).
By the way, the memory card that went bad was a Lexar Professional 8GB. What does "professional" mean? It means they can charge more for it. I'm a professional bird guide but charging more is not an option. I also can't stop working after seeing just a few birds.
Stay tuned, the adventure will continue. Perhaps tomorrow will be memorable, after all it is Memorial Day.66 species recorded:
Monday, May 28, 2012
published 05/28/2012 8:30pm EDT
Multi-state road trip Day 5: Erie, PA - Rochester, NY (trip list: 130; +7)
Today was my easiest day so far in terms of distance. I planned it that way with just a couple of birding stops because I knew I'd be running on empty after several days of hard driving. After an early morning stop at Presque Isle State Park near Erie I continued my inexorable push eastward with a stop at Iroquois NWR between Buffalo and Rochester.
I was somewhat disappointed by my results at Presque Isle, but certainly not by the place. I'd done my homework (or so I thought) and expected some decent places to find shorebirds (similar to Conneaut Harbor yesterday). That didn't work out. I was also a little surprised by how wooded the park was. Lots of great habitat and plenty of song in the woods. LEAST FLYCATCHER and EASTERN TOWHEE were new for the trip.
At the New York border I left I-90 and took the road less traveled (Hwy 20). This turned out to be an interesting drive through wine and farm country. Definitely not the New York "as seen on TV". I saw more U.S. flags along this road than I've seen in my life up to this point. Thankfully, I passed through early enough not to get caught up in the parades (people were already lining the streets in some of the towns).
Iroquois NWR is in a setting with homes and regular roads and commensurate traffic. No quiet auto tour route here. It was pretty warm in the afternoon and I didn't find very much at all. Highlight was seeing breeding plumage BLACK TERNS, rare as a breeder in NY according to refuge info. In addition to the Tern, OSPREY, PIED-BILLED GREBE and COMMON GALLINULE were new for the trip.
It was well into the 90s when I reached Rochester and I took the afternoon off to catch up with record keeping and emails. In the evening I headed to the lakeshore (Lake Ontario for the geographically challenged) for sightseeing and dinner. What a mistake that was. I don't remember ever seeing such a mass of humanity and parked vehicles. Must be a national holiday or something. Cops were having a field day. I found a little solitude in Durand-Eastman Park. Wonderful habitat of pines and firs on Zoo Road, a great birding spot by all accounts and I can see why. Very few birds for me though - mind you it was 95 degrees. GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET was the best that I could come up with.
Over the past three days I've recorded birds in three states where I had not previously done any birding. I spent time in NY when I was a transatlantic commuter and did the tourist bit to Niagara Falls. Ditto in Pennsylvania; the Liberty Bell and Lancaster County. I don't remember even being in Ohio so it might actually be a life state. One more for the bucket list.48 species recorded:
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
published 05/29/2012 8:00pm EDT
Multi-state road trip Day 6: Rochester, NY - Burlington, VT (trip list: 135; +5)
Today was a moderate driving day (350 miles) and I had not scheduled much time for birding. Before leaving New York I birded at Montezuma NWR about an hour east of Rochester. I hadn't planned anything else until I reached Vermont where I wanted to do some field and slough birding in southern Champlain valley. As things turned out, I hardly did any birding at all in Vermont because of rain.
As you would expect at this time of year, most of the wintering/migrant ducks and shorebirds are gone from Montezuma NWR. However, I did find a smattering of the latter with 8 SPOTTED SANDPIPERS (may breed at the refuge?); 1 LESSER & 3 GREATER YELLOWLEGS and a single SEMIPALMATED PLOVER. I also noted a lingering REDHEAD. I was surprised to hear just one MARSH WREN in the extensive marsh habitat. SWAMP SPARROWS were quite numerous. I also heard and saw several WILLOW FLYCATCHERS in isolated stands of habitat within the marsh system. In wooded areas I encountered EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE, LEAST FLYCATCHER, WARBLING & YELLOW-THROATED VIREOS and BALTIMORE ORIOLE. Other species included OSPREY and GREEN-WINGED TEAL.
My drive through the Adirondacks was rather dull and I didn't encounter very many birds before leaving the state. However, I did encounter the first $4+ per gallon gas of the trip near Lake Pleasant.
Vermont is the first real "destination" state of the trip and I've allocated three days to bird here. I set foot in the state at some point in a previous life but I haven't done any birding. I approached the Lake Champlain crossing with great anticipation only to have my hopes dashed by heavy rain and high winds. There are flood warnings and even a tornado watch is in effect! I tried to bird for a while before throwing in the towel. Murphy is always lurking!
I'm in Burlington tonight then I'll be further east in Island Pond for a couple of nights. The weather doesn't look promising but I'm still hopeful that my first birding visit to Vermont will be interesting and productive. I had hoped to pick up 100 species in three days. With just 16 today, it's probably a tall order now.42 species recorded:
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
published 05/31/2012 5:15am EDT
Multi-state road trip Day 7: Burlington, VT - Island Pond, VT (trip list: 148; +13)
Despite the less than ideal weather forecast, the day actually turned out pretty nice and there was no sign of rain. Conditions were mostly sunny with temperatures in the 60s and 70s and zero wind. I started by visiting a couple of parks in Burlington then worked by way north through the Champlain "Islands" almost as far as Quebec province. In the afternoon I traveled east to Island Pond in the Northeast Kingdom area of Vermont.
The day began with HAIRY and PILEATED WOODPECKERS and a few common species but I was generally happy to leave the traffic of Burlington and find some less populous locations. At ~630,000, Vermont ranks somewhere around 46th in state population. However, I think most of them must live around Burlington! Not as quiet as I had pictured. Anyway, once in the islands I enjoyed poking around several coves and wildlife areas and ended up at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge.
If there was any disappointment at all I'd have to say it was lack of bird activity on Lake Champlain. I guess there isn't much that stays to breed here. Paraphrasing the old Cole Porter song "I got no kick from Champlain. No waterfowl didn't thrill me at all". COMMON MERGANSERS were the only ducks on the lake proper, although a couple of latish COMMON LOONS were of note (nests in northeast Vermont). Young Island between Vermont and New York (in Vermont waters) had lots of RING-BILLED GULLS and a few GREAT-BLACK BACKED GULLS and DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS. At Missisquoi NWR I picked up AMERICAN BLACK DUCK, GREAT BLUE HERON and BLACK & COMMON TERNS to round out the water associated species. A poor day in that regard.
Apart from RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD and STARLING, WARBLING & RED-EYED VIREOS and YELLOW WARBLER were the most common species that I encountered as I traveled through the islands.
Evening birding in the Island Pond area produced most of the warblers for the day. BLACK-THROATED BLUE was the most notable for me since I haven't seen many.65 species recorded:
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Multi-state road trip Day 8: Island Pond, VT - Franconia Notch State Park, NH - Island Pond, VT (trip list: 157; +9)
As I start my second week on the road, this morning was the first on which I've started in the same state for two consecutive days. However, that didn't last long since I spent the morning birding in New Hampshire (today was the first of three partial days that I have scheduled in New Hampshire on this trip (see also June 1 and June 7).
Those of you with good memories might recall that I visited New Hampshire in 2007. I timed that trip to maximize my chances for Bicknell's Thrush and I was successful seeing the bird in three locations. Today I visited Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch State Park hoping to improve on the image that I obtained there on June 8, 2007. I wasn't even sure if the birds would be back on territory yet but, as I've said many times, if you don't buy a ticket you won't win the raffle.
Today I won the raffle. Commitment gets the job done. All I had to do was drive 60 odd miles from Island Pond to Franconia Notch State Park, take the tram up 4000+ feet Cannon Mountain then walk 200 yards. Easy-peasy but the last 200 yards was the hard part! Not really, the elevation is actually less than where I live. I took the first tram (9:15am) and I was the only rider - a good start. Weather conditions were in my favor - good visibility and just enough wind to keep the black flies at bay. Some 30 minutes after I arrived I hadn't heard anything other than BLACKPOLL WARBLERS and WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS and I was beginning to think perhaps I was here a day or so early. That soon changed when I began to hear the "weer" call of BICKNELL'S THRUSH and then I heard their wonderful song that is so hard to describe (just listen to it!). Tourists were just starting to arrive so it wasn't a moment too soon. Fortunately, a bird perched very close to me in the clear and I was able to get a pretty decent image. I estimate that at least 3 birds were present.
I spent much of the remainder of the day working on warbler vocalizations in both New Hampshire and Vermont. At home I rarely encounter a bird sound that I can't instantly identify. However, every year when I venture east I have to relearn all but the easy stuff. I find some of the warblers particularly challenging. Ovenbird, Northern Parula, Black-throated Green and Black-throated Blue are all distinct enough to be easily and instantly recognizable. However, species such as Yellow and Chestnut-sided are similar enough to sometimes be confusing, especially since they are both common and going at it all day in most locations. Also, American Restart is annoyingly common and has enough song variation to cause problems. Don't get me started on Red-eyed Vireo! Anyway, I peedled around plenty of back roads listening and learning.
New trip birds for the day were BICKNELL'S THRUSH (of course) plus YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER, NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW, BLACKBURNIAN, BLACKPOLL and BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLERS; WHITE-THROATED SPARROW and DARK-EYED JUNCO.
In addition to the thrush, birds that I particularly enjoyed today were a very oblivious (or indifferent) PILEATED WOODPECKER seen from 10 feet at Echo Lake at the base of Cannon Mountain; hearing ALDER & WILLOW FLYCATCHERS at the same time in Whitefield, NH; and seeing and hearing BOBOLINK, also in Whitefield. Their song is simply delightful. I nudged my Vermont list up from 65 to 73.47 species recorded:
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