Jun Species Seen
Journal - June, 2012
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The last update was on Saturday, June 23, 2012
Friday, June 1, 2012
Multi-state road trip Day 9: Island Pond, VT - Errol, NH (trip list: 169; +12)
Today I finished up my Vermont birding with a visit to Moose Bog then headed to the Connecticut Lakes region of northern New Hampshire. Located about 10 miles east of Island Pond, Moose Bog in Wenlock Wildlife Management Area is known for several Boreal specialties. As the name implies, Moose might also be expected. I didn't see any Moose but I did find SPRUCE GROUSE and BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER. Fair exchange is no robbery.
Yesterday I picked up quite a few painful insect bites on my head so I made sure to slather on plenty of bug juice before walking the Moose Bog Trail. I hate to use that stuff. Ironically, Murphy stuck it to me in a different way because I didn't encounter any insects at all. Hardly surprising really since at 38 degrees it was a little on the chilly side. It was also pretty cloudy and gloomy when I started. The ride over from Island Pond produced some spectacular views of the forest enveloped in swirling, low cloud. I debated whether to carry a camera on the trail because it was so dark. I'm glad that I talked myself into it.
Initially, the trail was eerily silent save for an intermittently calling YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER and the drumming of a BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER. After 30 minutes or so I heard the unmistakable wing flapping of a grouse as it flushed from the ground to a tree. I soon spotted a male SPRUCE GROUSE as it dropped back into the grass. The bird was about 35 yards away and partially obscured. Given the poor light and location, I had little chance of a really good photo, especially without a tripod. Then I remembered that my new 7D camera body supports high ISO settings so I cranked it up to 5000 and gave it a shot. Although I couldn't get a well framed shot shooting through branches, I found a window to get the south end of a north facing grouse and the camera proved its worth in such bad light (I had to do some Photoshop work to reduce background noise). I'd passed another birder on the trail so I walked back to get him on the bird and stepped aside to let him get some photos. The bird eventually flew away and I didn't get the chance for a better image, proving once again that no good deed goes unpunished! I have a pretty good shot of a bird in Minnesota so I wasn't disappointed.
Activity on the trail eventually picked up and I noted RUBY-CROWNED & GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS; many NASHVILLE WARBLERS, BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER and WHITE-THROATED SPARROW. At the trailhead I added BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE (I searched to no avail for Boreal); BLUE-HEADED VIREO, CANADA WARBLER and NORTHERN PARULA.
Heading back to town I stopped at the airport a few miles from Island Pond. The habitat here is more open so there are a few different species, in particular VESPER SPARROW. Before leaving town I birded along Lakeshore Drive on the south side of the actual "Island Pond". There's an interesting mix of habitat here including riparian and mixed coniferous/deciduous forest. Species included ALDER & LEAST FLYCATCHERS, EASTERN PHOEBE, WARBLING VIREO, CEDAR WAXWING, CHESTNUT-SIDED & BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLERS; AMERICAN REDSTART, SWAMP SPARROW and SCARLET TANAGER. A nice entertaining mix of species.
I then took the time for my first sit-down breakfast of the trip so far before driving north almost to the Canadian border then east into New Hampshire. BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER was the last bird of 83 species that I saw in Vermont. Hard to beat that warbler! I enjoyed my rather short first birding visit to Vermont, especially the small town environment of Island Pond located in the sparsely populated northeastern part of the state. Lots of Boreal habitat and few people on the roads. This area is called "The Northeast Kingdom" or simply NEK to the cognoscente. As most of you will know, I'm not a fan of populous areas and I didn't select this area to visit by throwing darts at a map. A far cry from the busy Burlington area, although I did enjoy the Champlain Islands.
BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER was also the first bird in New Hampshire at the state line east of Beecher Falls, south of Pittsburg. I stopped briefly to look at the bird atop a tall fir where RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH was also present. I've birded the Pittsburg Area twice previously. I made a brief stop at Perry Stream crossing on River Road near Lake Francis before continuing north. This pleasant spot adjacent to the Connecticut River produced great views of ALDER FLYCATCHER and MAGNOLIA WARBLER. Also present were BELTED KINGFISHER, BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE, NORTHERN PARULA and more.
Further north I checked the 1st and 2nd Connecticut Lakes without seeing anything of note. At Scott Inlet I was pleased to find BAY-BREASTED WARBLER almost in the same tree where I saw my lifer in June 2007. I've since seen them in migration in Texas a couple of times. I heard the bird singing as I drove by. Hearing Check: If you can hear this bird, your ears are in fine shape. Back in Pittsburg I poked around a few back roads seeing common species then stumbled upon my second grouse species of the day, this time a RUFFED GROUSE on Indian Stream Road.
The drive from Pittsburg to my overnight destination of Errol yielded a few new trip species, notably YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER and VEERY. Last birds of the day were lots of RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS at the motel feeders and CHIMNEY SWIFTS overhead. A very good day.55 species recorded:
Saturday, June 2, 2012
Multi-state road trip Day 10: Errol, NH - Millinocket, ME (trip list: 172; +3)
Today was a bit of a write-off and I don't have much of a report. It was a partial travel day (about 5 hours worth) with just one scheduled birding stop at Grafton Notch State Park. Unfortunately, it was raining when I left Errol this morning and the rain steadily increased shortly after I crossed into Maine. Essentially, I didn't do any birding today apart from roadside stuff.
I've visited Grafton Notch State Park once before and was very much looking forward to spending some time there again. I tried to wait out the rain but it showed no sign of quitting, quite the opposite in fact. Bird song was minimal and even the RED-EYED VIREOS were subdued. However, I did manage to find a couple of singing PHILADELPHIA VIREOS to redeem an otherwise dismal morning. This is where I saw my lifer in 2007.
The journey to Millinocket didn't produce many birds and most of what I saw today came in the first few hours of the morning at Grafton Notch. In addition to the vireo, WINTER WREN (NH) and SWAINSON'S THRUSH (ME) were new for the trip.
I can just hear you now. Where the fire truck is Millinocket? Well, it's in north central Maine near Baxter State Park. I've visited Maine a few times now and learned where not to go (or at least the places that I didn't like). I disliked the very busy south coast area immensely and I didn't enjoy visiting the very popular (read crowded) Mt. Desert Island. Therefore, I decided to spend several days in a more remote area, in particular Baxter State Park and points north. I've also planned to spend a day on the upper coast (known as "down east" for reasons that are not clear to me; why isn't it "up east"?).
I'm scheduled to spend 4 nights in Millinocket to explore the area. Unfortunately, rain is expected for the next 4 days and I may not get much exploring done. In fact, I may have to change my plans and I may not publish the journal for a few days.34 species recorded:
Sunday, June 3, 2012
Multi-state road trip Day 11 Maine: Millinocket - Presque Isle - Millinocket (trip list: 177; +5)
After doing some weather research and determining that the rain would likely be worse on the coast and diminishing further inland, I decided to head north today. It was raining when I left Millinocket and raining when I returned. However, my plan worked and I managed to stay dry and get some birding done. I worked by way north on SR 11 as far as Ashland then headed east to Presque Isle; returning to Millinocket via US 1 and I-95. The temperature remained in the low to mid 50s for much of the day. Black flies were annoying but manageable. No Moose but I did see a Woodchuck (it wasn't chucking wood though).
I didn't see any birds of real note but I had a very enjoyable day poking around small towns, mostly in Aroostook County. The habitat along the route mentioned above is primarily dense spruce-fir forest with some deciduous trees and farmland to break up the forest monopoly. I spent my time checking small roadside ponds, old logging roads and a couple of lakes. I didn't spend much time in forest habitat.
The old logging roads provided excellent habitat and species diversity -- lots of new shrubby growth with a forest edge. Species seen in this habitat included ALDER FLYCATCHER, BLUE-HEADED VIREO, BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, WINTER WREN, VEERY, NORTHERN PARULA, MAGNOLIA, YELLOW-RUMPED, PALM & BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLERS; OVENBIRD, WHITE-THROATED SPARROW and PINE SISKIN.
At roadside ponds I saw WOOD DUCK and HOODED MERGANSER. Species at forest stops included YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER, CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER and AMERICAN REDSTART. Lake Josephine (a small stinky lake) east of Presque Isle was fairly productive. Among the 15 species that I noted here were AMERICAN BLACK DUCK, RING-NECKED DUCK, NORTHERN SHOVELER, REDHEAD, COMMON LOON, many DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS and SPOTTED SANDPIPER.
I picked up five new trip species -- Ring-necked Duck, Hooded Merganser (always a delight to see); Yellow-rumped & Palm Warblers and Pine Siskin.54 species recorded:
Monday, June 4, 2012
Multi-state road trip Day 12 Maine: Millinocket - Baxter State Park - Millinocket (trip list: 180; +3)
Today I had a fairly unproductive visit to Baxter State Park. It was overcast all day and clouds obscured the views of Mt. Katahdin. It was also quite windy during the best morning hours. On the plus side it didn't rain. As a first time visitor, I don't have a good point of reference on what it's like at this location at this time of year, but bird activity and song seemed somewhat subdued compared to my recent experiences in similar habitat in New Hampshire and Vermont.
The day began and ended with a couple of good birds -- RUFFED GROUSE at the entrance to Baxter State Park and an adult BALD EAGLE at Dolby Pond east of Millinocket. However, I'd have to say that listening to the song of a WOOD THRUSH on a damp and chilly forest trail was the highlight. I haven't seen very many of them and I've heard even less. What a song!
The grouse encounter was a comedy of errors. I happened upon the grouse along the road and skidded to a halt. At this point I was too close to the bird and had to back up. The next problem was the vehicle mirror that prevented me from taking a photo. As I maneuvered into a better position, the up-to-now-tolerant grouse started walking away and for the second time in the past few days I ended up photographing the ass end of a grouse!
PHILADELPHIA VIREO was the only other bird of note (I detected just one singing bird among scads of RED-EYED VIREOS). I enjoyed PILEATED WOODPECKER (a bird that I don't see very often); unsuccessfully chasing and trying to photograph several BLUE-HEADED VIREOS; and sorting through the warbler songs (11 species of warblers, CANADA WARBLER threw me a couple of times). Three new trip birds were COMMON GOLDENEYE, the aforementioned WOOD THRUSH and ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK.
Today's lesson learned. The forests of Maine are not the ideal place to photograph birds!45 species recorded:
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Multi-state road trip Day 13 Maine: Millinocket - Machias (trip list: 183; +3)
Birding today was a bit of a challenge. Heavy overcast all day and for most of the day it was cold, blustery and wet. Not a day to be out on the trails. I interspersed birding from the car with sightseeing as I traveled from Millinocket, my base for the last three days, down to the upper coast (downeast Maine!). I visited the towns of Eastport and Lubec (including Quoddy Head) the easternmost point in mainland U.S. of A (it's all west from here!); then I traveled along the coast to Cutler and on to Machias. I actually enjoyed the weather (except for the rain) and had a decent day given the conditions. At least I'm not trying to find birds in Southeast Arizona at 100 degrees.
I started at Moosehorn NWR (near Calais) where I was able to get out on a trail for the only time today. The refuge is managed for American Woodcock and they are apparently abundant here (a relative term, I'm sure). A wet Tuesday morning in early June is hardly the time to be looking for one but, since I was here, I walked the encouragingly named "Woodcock Trail". It's been almost 20 years since I last saw one and that number will continue to grow -- I came up with a big round number today. Birds that I saw on the refuge included ALDER FLYCATCHER, EASTERN PHOEBE, BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE, GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET, VEERY, NORTHERN PARULA, CHESTNUT-SIDED & BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLERS, AMERICAN REDSTART and OVENBIRD.
Eastport yielded a trip first COMMON EIDER along with COMMON LOON and GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL.
Next I traveled south to Cobscook Bay State Park where I eventually gave up waiting for the rain to stop. On to Lubec where I saw more GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS plus HERRING and RING-BILLED and DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT. Nothing else of note on the water. At Quoddy Head I saw BALD EAGLE, BLUE-THROATED VIREO and several pristinely plumaged YELLOW-RUMPED (Myrtle) WARBLERS. I think Myrtle are more handsome than the Audubon's that we have in the west.
In Lubec I almost took the road over the bridge to New Brunswick by mistake and, since I don't have my passport with me, I had to judiciously back up to avoid a potential problem. That could have been embarrassing, eh?
Cutler is a pleasant place and the home of Bold Coast Puffin Tours. I took the tour out to Machias Island in 2007 but just couldn't fit it in on this trip (I'll be doing a quick and dirty trip out to Eastern Egg Rock tomorrow). I stopped in Cutler to get my first ever image of AMERICAN BLACK DUCK (and certainly only a "photo first" quality image) then made a couple of stops north of town at Little Machias Bay and Holmes Bay. Not much on the water but I did pick up a couple of trip birds in WHITE-WINGED SCOTER and LAUGHING GULL43 species recorded:
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
published 06/08/2012 8:15pm EDT
Multi-state road trip Day 14: Machias, ME - Portsmouth, NH (trip list: 189; +6)
My last day in Maine was very enjoyable and productive. I worked my way south from downeast to mid coast and finished up with a short boat trip. Although I ended up in New Hampshire, all of my birding today was in Maine. The weather improved quite a bit with high overcast throughout the day, clearing later; not much wind and only a light shower or two. I took a bunch of photos today but they will have to follow later when I get time to process them.
Before leaving the Machias area I spent some time at Roque Bluffs south of town (the only location on today's itinerary that I had not visited before). This is a very pretty spot overlooking Englishman Bay (appropriately enough) with a beach, a freshwater lake and spruce-fir habitat. I would have enjoyed the area without birds but I saw a few including COMMON EIDER, GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL, ALDER FLYCATCHER, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET, CEDAR WAXWING, NORTHERN PARULA and BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER.
My next stop was the Schoodic Peninsula, part of Acadia National Park. The peninsula is a completely isolated part of the park, well away from the madding crowds at Bar Harbor and Mt. Desert Island. When I was last in Maine (June, 2007) I visited all these areas. I really enjoyed the Schoodic Peninsula and detested the other crowded locations. You'd have to hold a gun to my head to get me back there. Actually, I'd probably say "go ahead and pull the trigger".
Even more so than Roque Bluffs, a visit to Schoodic Peninsula is well worth it without the birds. I peedled around and shot a few images for the first time in several days, mostly of COMMON EIDER at Schoodic Point (I had light and no rain!). Also present were COMMON LOON and the usual gulls. At Frazier Point I saw several BLACK GUILLEMOTS, BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, NORTHERN PARULA and lots of AMERICAN REDSTARTS.
Along the road to Blueberry Hill I saw 2 BALD EAGLES and a small flock of WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS (adults and juveniles). I haven't seen many White-winged Crossbills so the sighting was a real treat. I feel compelled to regale you with yet another Murphy story. A birder that I'd met at the crossbills flagged me down and said "we have an eagle perched here". It was a one way road but I was able to back up a few feet into a pull-out. I grabbed my camera and started walking towards to the bird. Just at that moment, two cyclists went by the clearing where the eagle was perched and the bird took off. Gosh Darn it, or words to that effect. You can't make up this stuff.
Before leaving the park, I added ALDER FLYCATCHER and MAGNOLIA WARBLER at Blueberry Hill and PURPLE FINCH at the park boundary. Then came a 3 hour drive in traffic down to the Damariscotta area. I stopped at Salt Bay and spent some time trying to photograph diving OSPREY with a modicum of success.
I spent late afternoon at Pemaquid Point at the end of the Pemaquid peninsula, another picturesque spot that I have visited before in winter as well as at this time of year. Plenty of sunshine now which was actually bad news because I was hoping for Shearwaters and Gannets off the point. No luck with those birds and I had to "settle" for COMMON and ROSEATE TERNS plus COMMON EIDER and gulls.
My last Maine birding of the trip was on the Hardy Boat "Puffin Watch" trip from New Harbor out to Eastern Egg Rock. As I mentioned back in June 2007 when I took this trip, this is the poor man's Puffin trip compared to the trip out to Machias Seal Island (that trip also yields Razorbill). However, it's well worth it if you can't get out to Machias Seal Island and Roseate Tern is a bonus. All viewing is from a moving boat at some distance which makes photography very difficult. The trip started well with a BALD EAGLE as we left the harbor. Also in the harbor were the usual Eider and Gulls plus LAUGHING GULL. Out at the rock we probably saw 50 or more ATLANTIC PUFFINS on the water as well as in flight. My reason for taking this trip was to try for a ROSEATE TERN photo and I don't think I was successful in obtaining a publishable image. Also present were COMMON & ARCTIC TERNS and lots of BLACK GUILLEMOTS.
The trip ran from roughly 5:30 - 7:15pm; a 30 minute ride each way plus viewing time. CHIMNEY SWIFTS were overhead as we pulled into New Harbor. I pulled into Portsmouth at 9:30pm. A good day but I was pretty pooped and fell way behind on my record keeping.52 species recorded:
Thursday, June 7, 2012
published 06/09/2012 5:50am EDT
Multi-state road trip Day 15: Portsmouth, NH - Mifflinville, PA (trip list: 191; +2)
Today was the start my third week on the road. My next destination state is Michigan so I have a bit of traveling to do, two days worth in fact. Today I managed less than half of the distance traveling about a third the way west across Pennsylvania. After a final look at the Atlantic on this trip (on the New Hampshire seacoast), my plan for the day was to "tick" a couple of life states and do a little birding close to my route.
I started at Chapman's Landing not far from Portsmouth where I was hoping to improve on my image of SALTMARSH SPARROW. This seems to be a reliable spot for the bird and my only image came here back in June, 2007. On that day I was able to walk into the marsh but it was way too wet to do that today. However, I did see a couple of them. No other birds of note. Next I headed over to the coast at Rye. I saw a couple of MUTE SWANS at Eel Pond and the typical coastal species for this time of year -- COMMON EIDER, RING-BILLED, HERRING & GREAT-BLACKED BACKED GULLS and DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT. I only looked briefly but prolonged scanning may not have produced more than this. The sparrow and the swan were both trip firsts.
From the New Hampshire coast I headed south into Massachusetts. I visited here on business quite a few times in a previous life but I've only birded here for a day in February 2000. My only stop was at Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge in Harvard where Murphy was on the job again. There was a hunt in progress and the sound of gunfire soon prompted me to bail out. However, now I can say "Yeah, I went to Harvard". No biggie.
Next came a couple of "life states" -- Rhode Island and Connecticut. I stopped at Buck Hill WMA in RI and Bigelow Hollow State Park in CT. No birds of note; the most interesting sighting was a motor cyclist popping wheelies at 90+ miles per hour on the interstate in CT.
I achieved my modest objectives to set foot in two new states and record a few birds. However, generally it was a tough day slogging through lots of traffic and roadwork.49 species recorded:
Friday, June 8, 2012
published 06/09/2012 7:30pm EDT
Multi-state road trip Day 16: Mifflinville, PA - Grayling, MI (trip list: 191; +0)
No birding today just driving. By my standards, a drive of 650 miles isn't a big deal and I can normally cover this in a day quite easily with time left over for birding. Although I had planned to spend some time at Nescopeck State Park this morning before heading west, based on yesterday's travel I decided to skip that and it was just as well that I did. Travel through central and western Pennsylvania wasn't too bad but all of Ohio and the southern two thirds of the journey through Michigan was through heavy traffic and road work. Generally, the quality of the road surfaces in all the eastern states have been pretty awful compared to western states (weather related I'm sure). Roadwork has been prevalent throughout and I'm sick of orange signs. The journey was really miserable with maximum alertness required at all times. What a slog!
While I'm at it I'll have a mini rant about the turnpike system. I can see the logic -- the people who use the roads pay for them and it also provides jobs. However, let's be reasonable. Some states have kept it simple with a "one size fits all" approach. Others, such as New York and Ohio have taken the concept way too far and built a very complicated (and expensive) system that charges in a detailed way. It cost me $11 to drive from from the OH-PA state line to where I left I-80 near Toledo. What a racket - and I-80 was one long construction zone to boot. However, I digress.
The temperature ramped up as I traveled west and had climbed to 85 degrees by the time I reached Grayling. Clouds built up and there was a late evening thunderstorm but not much cooling. Quite a shock to the system after being in the 50s and low 60s for a while. I don't think I'm in Kansas anymore Toto. Over the next week I'll be covering some of the same territory that I did last year in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota on my way to Fargo, North Dakota.
One bird story. I was at a busy intersection waiting to turn on to the interstate when I heard the unmistakable sound of a KILLDEER. I looked in the direction of the sound and was horrified to see two adults leading four youngsters across the intersection with traffic whizzing by. I did my bit to ensure their safety by waiting as long as I could but when the guy behind me blasted his horn I had to leave them to fend for themselves!
Saturday, June 9, 2012
published 06/10/2012 9:10pm EDT
Multi-state road trip Day 17: Grayling, MI - St. Ignace, MI (trip list: 194; +3)
This is my third trip to Michigan, my most recent being last June. On that trip I allocated 7 days in the state; this time I'm spending only 3 nights all in the north. No southern lower peninsula birding at all. This morning I spent some time looking for Kirtland's Warbler then decided to explore locations that I hadn't visited before by traveling west to Traverse City and beyond. What an error of judgment that turned out to be. I'd forgotten that it was a weekend and I encountered big time tourist traffic.
Heavy overcast and rain greeted me this morning in Grayling. I would have been happy with the clouds all day but that didn't happen and the temperature soon climbed to 85 degrees as I traveled west later in the morning. I knew that in the rain I'd have little chance to improve on the images that I already have (which are pretty good) and that turned out to be the case. However, despite the rain I was able to enjoy 4 singing KIRTLAND'S WARBLERS east of Grayling. Other birds in the same area included BROWN THRASHER, many NASHVILLE WARBLERS, EASTERN TOWHEE, FIELD SPARROW and DARK-EYED JUNCO.
It was all downhill from here. I spent a few hours in Leelanau County west of Traverse City (a.k.a. non-traverse city or traffic city) where tourists and bikers were out in force. Still, I was out there on the road contributing to the problem as well. The most frustrating aspect was not being able to turn around quickly when I saw a bird. Very little on Traverse Bay save for numerous MUTE SWANS, COMMON MERGANSERS and RING-BILLED & HERRING GULLS.
The tip of the Leelenau Peninsula was more productive with a few grassland species near Woolsey Airport. I first heard then saw BOBOLINK and GRASSHOPPER SPARROW. The sparrow was very accommodating and allowed close approach. The camera reported 6.2 meters (a little over 20 feet in old money) but I had the impression it was closer than that. Anyway, it was certainly close enough to obtain a decent image. I've noticed before how most races don't have as much color on the breast as the birds in Arizona.
I was convinced that I'd also heard a Dickcissel but I never laid eyes on the bird and it didn't sing again to confirm. Since it's not annual in this area, I decided that I was probably mistaken even though I trust my ears. Among the birds In nearby forested areas were ALDER FLYCATCHER, BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER, AMERICAN REDSTART and ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK.
Before crossing into the U.P. to become a "fudgie" again, I stopped at The Headlands park not far from the Mackinac Bridge. I looked hard for Ruffed Grouse that I saw here last year to no avail. There was a wedding at the park so constant traffic probably didn't help my cause. Birds of interest to me included VEERY, NORTHERN PARULA, BLACKBURNIAN and BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLERS, AMERICAN REDSTART, OVENBIRD and INDIGO BUNTING.
New trip birds for the day were Forster's Tern, Kirtland's Warbler and Field Sparrow. Not a particularly auspicious outing but I was happy to see Kirtland's again (only the third time that I have seen the bird) and to see some nice scenery. Now, if we could please just dial down the temperature and traffic.59 species recorded:
Sunday, June 10, 2012
published 06/11/2012 9:10pm CDT
Multi-state road trip Day 18: St. Ignace, MI - Newberry, MI (trip list: 200; +6)
On what I have to believe was a pretty warm day by U.P. standards (85 degrees), I birded near Trout Lake and Paradise before heading over to Newberry. Although it was certainly way too warm for my liking, I still had a pretty good day.
I began on FR3344 north of Trout Lake where I was hoping to improve on the images of Connecticut Warbler that I obtained at this same spot one year ago today to the day, June 10, 2011. See my journal for that day for the images and some info on the location. I arrived just before 7:30am and immediately heard a CONNECTICUT WARBLER singing. I prepared to do battle and dosed up with bug juice then headed into the bog. With the experience of last year, I decided not to lug a tripod and big lens.
Just as last year, two warblers were dueling by song from high in the trees and very tough to locate. My normal strategy in such cases is to triangulate the direction of the sound by moving around (since I don't have offset ears like an owl). As I walked through the bog doing just that, I tripped and fell twice. I protected the camera and lens that I was carrying and let my body take the brunt of the fall. Thankfully, the forest floor was soft and springy and it was like falling on a mattress. I think I heard the warblers laughing. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I found one of the warblers in a very obstructed position. Although the intrinsic image quality is better than what I obtained last year in very gloomy conditions, the bird is much more obstructed. I decided not to wait around in hopes of a better shot. I figured that the bird wasn't going to change its modus operandi to suit me. Other warblers on the first 1.5 miles of the forest road included lots of NASHVILLE WARBLERS, CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER and OVENBIRD
I continued north up to Whitefish Point where it was pretty quiet bird-wise with migration already over. At least it wasn't pouring like last year. Highlight of a brief stay was a couple of BROAD-WINGED HAWKS seen soaring overhead just as I arrived. By the time I grabbed the camera they were gone (would have been a photo first - bummer). A quick check of Lake Superior produced a fly-by COMMON LOON.
Next, I drove the Vermilion Road that I had to skip last year in very soggy conditions (it would be easy to get stuck). After about 7 miles of driving I was wishing that I had skipped it this year as well. At this point I had seen very few birds - new for the day were HAIRY WOODPECKER, EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE, BLUE-HEADED VIREO and WINTER WREN.
In about 8 miles from Whitefish Point Road I reached Vermilion Point Nature Preserve which is very close to the lakeshore. My disposition improved considerably when I rounded a bend and saw this AMERICAN WOODCOCK sitting in the middle of the narrow road about 100 yards ahead of me. As I mentioned a few days ago, I hadn't seen one for almost 20 years so I was very happy to see the bird (and to recognize it - although not much else looks quite like a woodcock). Now what to do. I wanted to get closer without spooking the bird (duh!) but having no experience on how they behave I was at a distinct disadvantage. I moved forward slowly then angled left and sharply right so that I could shoot out of the window and clear the mirror. I was only able to do two such iterations before the bird waddled off into the grass. Nevertheless, I managed a fair image from 25 yards.
I then snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by walking out to the beach where I was hoping to see Piping Plovers on breeding territory (even if they were fenced off). I didn't find any evidence that they were nesting here (other than generic info at the preserve entrance). I did find lots of bugs (more than anywhere else that I have been on the trip). I'll call them giant sand flies and they did a Kinks number on me (they really got me). I hoofed it back to my vehicle and tried to get in without letting the flies in. That didn't happen and they bit me all the way back to the end of Vermilion Road!
I headed into Paradise to lick my wounds and eat lunch at the Berry Patch (very good, recommended). By now it was early afternoon and very warm so I headed over to Newberry and took a break. I had planned to visit Tahquamenon Falls State Park this afternoon but I postponed that until tomorrow. In the evening I worked some of the county roads north and west of Newberry (I did the same route last year with decent results). Highlights tonight were a couple of SANDHILL CRANES on CR415 about 1.5 miles north of McMillan (OSPREY and BREWER'S BLACKBIRD in the same spot); and an AMERICAN BITTERN in a roadside ditch on CR 421.
With the Bittern I had the opposite problem to the Woodcock - I was way too close and was unable to back up because the road was too narrow. I removed the 1.4x converter from the 400mm lens but I was still too close and my 300mm lens was in a bag in back of the vehicle. Drat, or a word to that effect! I had to settle for a clipped image; decent quality but too big for the frame. Use to view the image (it will use as much of your screen as possible, vertically).
An enjoyable and interesting day with six new trip species - American Bittern, Broad-winged Hawk, Sandhill Crane, American Woodcock, Connecticut Warbler and Brewer's Blackbird.53 species recorded:
Monday, June 11, 2012
published 06/12/2012 6:40pm CDT
Multi-state road trip Day 19: Newberry, MI - Ashland, WI (trip list: 203; +3)
Today was a partial travel day as I begin my journey west to North Dakota. I birded in a couple of Michigan locations in the morning then drove through the western Upper Peninsula into Wisconsin in the afternoon. The day began at 70 degrees in Newberry; climbing to 80 degrees in the afternoon. It was windy for all but the first couple of hours, increasingly cloudy and windy the further west that I traveled.
I'm sure you've all experienced the phenomenon of good birding at a location (or good meal at a restaurant, etc.) only to be disappointed on a subsequent visit. Well, that's what happened to me at Tahquamenon Falls State Park this morning. Last year I encountered lots of birds at the state park just after heavy rainfall. Today I found very few birds during the early morning hours. However, it's a delightful place (especially when not another soul is present) and it certainly wasn't a bird free zone! I enjoyed hearing a singing MOURNING WARBLER (only the second of the trip) and my subsequent attempt to track the bird and get a photo. I actually managed a few images but they were inferior to what I already have so they don't make the cut.
I didn't walk the steps down to the brink of the upper falls (almost 100) and spent my time birding. I told myself it was the right thing to do since I might not have made it back up! Species diversity was generally low but I certainly had fair warbler success. In addition to the Mourning Warbler I saw CHESTNUT-SIDED, MAGNOLIA, BLACK-THROATED BLUE, BLACK-THROATED GREEN, BLACK-AND-WHITE and BLACKBURNIAN WARBLERS; NORTHERN PARULA, AMERICAN REDSTART and OVENBIRD. Among the other species present were LEAST FLYCATCHER, BLUE-HEADED VIREO, BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE and CEDAR WAXWING.
Driving back to Newberry I crossed Murphy Creek but didn't want to tempt fate by stopping. Good call! Just beyond the creek I saw a large bird leaving the blacktop and soon realized it was a BALD EAGLE. The bird conveniently perched atop a tree and finished eating whatever it had found along the highway. I was over 50 yards away but managed a decent image. The first EASTERN KINGBIRD that I've seen for 10 days was perched nearby. The last was on May 31 proving that they are not fond of boreal habitat where my focus has been for a while.
After breakfast I drove the short distance west to Seney National Wildlife Refuge, my third visit to this excellent refuge (a mix of wetlands and boreal habitat). Last year I remarked about being disappointed (see journal for June 13, 2011) and today's visit left me feeling the same way. Mid June is certainly not a good time for waterfowl here. Of course, most waterfowl species don't breed here and those that do are apparently in hiding, or at least not easy visible on the tour route.
I noted perhaps 6 or 7 pairs of TRUMPETER SWANS, only two of which had Cygnets. Highlights for me were WOOD DUCK, WINTER WREN and PURPLE FINCH. Other species present included COMMON LOON, OSPREY, SORA, SANDHILL CRANE, WILSON'S SNIPE, CASPIAN & COMMON TERNS, ALDER & LEAST FLYCATCHERS; lots of CEDAR WAXWINGS and NASHVILLE WARBLERS; PINE WARBLER and SWAMP & WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS.
Now came the long-ish drive across the U.P to Ashland broken up by just one stop at the mouth of the Au Train river. I noted a lone HERRING GULL amidst many loafing RING-BILLED GULLS and the only TREE SWALLOWS of the day working over the sand. On the early part of the drive I listened to the Spanish language commentary of the Euro 2012 England - France game on ESPN Deportes satellite radio (a 1-1 draw; boring in any language).
It was pretty windy in Wisconsin, especially when I reached Ashland; and I didn't do any birding there. New species for the trip were Trumpeter Swan, Sora and Wilson's Snipe.56 species recorded:
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
published 06/13/2012 7:45pm CDT
Multi-state road trip Day 20: Ashland, WI - Eveleth, MN (trip list: 211; +8)
This morning in Wisconsin I made my first (and probably only) overt effort for Black-billed Cuckoo on this trip then traveled west into Minnesota. Unfortunately, it was a super windy morning and that plus my natural ability to repel all Black-billed Cuckoos in the immediate area combined to thwart me yet again. Am I disappointed? Certainly not. In fact, perversely, I might be more disappointed when I actually see one (if I ever do) because the challenge of finding this long term nemesis has taken on a life of its own. At this point, the journey is as much the end as the destination which is why I didn't make searching for the bird a major part of my trip.
There was a major change in the weather since my arrival in Ashland yesterday. Heavy clouds were gathered over the lake and the temperature was a very pleasant 49 degrees. CHIMNEY SWIFT was the first bird of the day as I loaded up the vehicle. Roadside birds as I got underway included RING-NECKED PHEASANT and INDIGO BUNTING.
Acting on a tip from Wisconsin birder Mike Korducki, I visited Roy Johnson Wetland in Brule National Forest. This location is just south of Lake Superior northwest of Iron River, approximately midway between Ashland and Superior. Habitat consists of a few ponds surrounded by open fields adjacent to stands of conifers and deciduous trees. I knew from the outset that I would have a tough time because of the wind. I did a couple of loops around the area trying to listen for the sound that I have only heard once before (June 27, 2008 in North Dakota).
Even though I didn't get a sniff of the cuckoo, I really enjoyed birding this location with its habitat so different to what I have been in for several weeks. Noteworthy birds for me were SEDGE WREN, MOURNING WARBLER and CLAY-COLORED SPARROW. I also spent a few minutes at the mouth of the Brule river. It was really chilly here with a cold wind blowing off the lake. RING-BILLED GULLS were huddled on small gravel bars. I also saw an unidentified Tern species. Other species noted in boreal type habitat included the "easy" warblers -- NASHVILLE & BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLERS; AMERICAN REDSTART, OVENBIRD and NORTHERN PARULA.
I had a late breakfast in Superior then headed over to the Sax-ZIm bog area in Minnesota which, in retrospect, was a mistake. I planned this trip long ago and selected Eveleth as my overnight destination so that I could bird the bog in the afternoon and be close to my overnight destination. However, I've been birding in boreal habitat in 4 states since the end of May. I'm pretty much borealed out.
Having said that, I had an enjoyable time working my way from south to north zig-zagging through the bog, focusing more on field habitat than forested areas. I enjoyed seeing BROAD-WINGED HAWK, OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER, BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE, EASTERN BLUEBIRD, MOURNING & BLACKBURNIAN WARBLERS; CLAY-COLORED & LE CONTE'S SPARROWS; DICKCISSEL and more of those ever delightful BOBOLINKS.
I picked up 8 new trip species on the day: Ring-necked Pheasant, Northern Harrier, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Black-billed Magpie, Sedge Wren, Eastern Bluebird, and Clay-colored & Le Conte's Sparrows.57 species recorded:
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Multi-state road trip Day 21: Eveleth, MN - Fargo, ND (trip list: 215; +4)
Today I traveled west through the northern half of Minnesota into North Dakota with a couple of birding stops in the western third of Minnesota (how's your geography?). It was a clear sky day for most of the way, becoming cloudy in extreme western Minnesota as I approached Fargo. Unfortunately, wind was once again a problem.
A significant change in habitat was noticeable today - boreal habitat soon disappeared with pine and deciduous trees replacing spruce-fir. Also, the landscape opened up with fields, farms and lakes almost always in view; and there was a commensurate change in the type of species seen. In fact, the astute reader looking at the day lists that I include wherever I go, not just this trip, should be able to envision the type of habitat from the birds listed. Today's habitat is much more appealing to me than closed in boreal habitat with bogs and bugs, even if they do hold lots of birds.
The day began well with a BROAD-WINGED HAWK overhead as I left Eveleth. A roadside lake in Itasca county produced OSPREY along with a trip first AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN. As I gassed up in Remer, I heard the song of VESPER SPARROW. A brief stop on the shore of Leech Lake at the city park in Walker produced COMMON GOLDENEYE, COMMON LOON and BALTIMORE ORIOLE. I've birded at Leech Lake before but not at this spot.
My first real birding stop was at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in Becker County, about 20 miles northeast of Detroit Lakes. On county roads heading to the refuge I noted PURPLE MARTIN and EASTERN BLUEBIRD. At the refuge I found what in my experience has been quite a rarity - someone on the refuge staff who had more than just a superficial knowledge of birds, particularly with regard to locations to look for Golden-winged Warbler (uncommon at the refuge).
I enjoyed my time at the refuge as much as any place that I have visited on the trip so far. I spent 3 hours on the property, although at least an hour of that was at the visitor center trying to photograph PURPLE FINCH without much success (image of female). The birds were common enough but they were fairly skittish, especially males, and would stage high in the pines adjacent to the feeders. I could have had as many images as I wanted of birds on a feeder. Also in the area were RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD, EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE, WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH, BLACK-AND-WHITE & PINE WARBLERS and many AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES. As I left the visitor center, a nicely posed TREE SWALLOW gave me a somewhat disdainful look.
Despite the wind I was able to track down a singing GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER. I just drove along with the windows open, listening. That was actually tough to do though with all the dragonflies and big-assed bugs. Sadly, I didn't get a photo opportunity because it was on an inaccessible part of the refuge. Among the 40 species noted while I worked the refuge roads were 4 TRUMPETER SWANS, OSPREY at a nest, 2 immature BALD EAGLES, FORSTER'S TERN, GREAT-CRESTED FLYCATCHER, YELLOW-THROATED VIREO, VEERY, CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER, AMERICAN REDSTART, OVENBIRD, SWAMP SPARROW and SCARLET TANAGER.
I continued on to Bluestem Prairie in Minnesota, about 30 minutes from Fargo. I've birded here quite a few times now and I always enjoy the grassland birds. It was cloudy, chilly and windy when I arrived so I limited my birding activities to the 4+ mile stretch of 17th street. Nevertheless, I managed to turn up 25 species. Birds that I particularly enjoyed were a super low flying NORTHERN HARRIER and several EASTERN KINGBIRDS battling the wind, UPLAND SANDPIPER, CLAY-COLORED SPARROW, numerous VESPER SPARROWS, SWAMP SPARROW and last but certainly not least, BOBOLINK. I listened hard for Grasshopper and Le Conte's Sparrows without success. It was just too windy. Nevertheless, a good day.
New trip species today were American White Pelican, Upland Sandpiper, White-breasted Nuthatch and Golden-winged Warbler.66 species recorded:
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Multi-state road trip Day 22: Fargo, ND (trip list: 219; +4)
I woke up to sound of loud thunder in Fargo this morning so I didn't hurry to get away from the motel. Rain finally cleared up by 7:00am. I only birded during the morning hours and spent the rest of the day preparing for a work week that starts tomorrow; as well as catching up on record keeping and email, etc. Today was the start of my fourth week on the road so I have plenty of catching up to do. Journal note: I may not publish the journal on a daily basis over the next week.
I spent the morning at Sheyenne National Grassland (SNG) about an hour southwest of Fargo where the habitat is actually much more than grassland (there are wetlands, stands of trees and more). I've birded in SNG in four different years now so I have a good feel of what to expect. It's very interesting to note the differences in my results. Last year was very wet; this year, while hardly dry, is apparently not to the liking of many duck species. I also noted less passerines in the various shelterbelts and other wooded areas.
Based on my results yesterday in northern Minnesota and today in the grasslands, it's a good year for DICKCISSELS (usually not common at either location). They were very vocal today. I've birded in North Dakota in 7 different years dating back to 1997 and today was only the second year that I have found them (and they are not exactly hard to miss). SAY'S PHOEBE and EASTERN BLUEBIRD were of note - both firsts for me at SNG. I think the phoebe might just be a little east of its mapped range. Also of note was a single RED-NECKED PHALAROPE, perhaps a little on the late side (although I have a few records around this date).
Regular species included several RING-NECKED PHEASANTS (and one Broken-necked); UPLAND SANDPIPER, multiples of MARBLED GODWIT, WILSON'S SNIPE and BLACK TERN; LEAST FLYCATCHER, EASTERN KINGBIRD, MARSH WREN, CLAY-COLORED, SAVANNAH, GRASSHOPPER & LE CONTE'S SPARROWS, BOBOLINK and YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD.
New trip species today were Red-necked Phalarope, Say's Phoebe, Yellow-headed Blackbird and Orchard Oriole.53 species recorded:
Friday, June 15, 2012
published 06/16/2012 5:15am CDT
Multi-state road trip Day 23: Fargo, ND - Jamestown, ND (trip list: 223; +4)
Day 1 with Susan and Warren Jones (Trip List: 76)
Today was the first of seven days with Susan and Warren Jones from Winston-Salem, NC. I've birded with Susan on eight previous occasions and with Warren just once before. We'll be working our way west through North Dakota then on to Wyoming, finishing up in Montana. This is a little different than most of my June client work in a couple of ways. First and foremost is that we will be doing general birding rather than target birding. Also, the focus will be more on western birds than eastern which is not usually the case for me on trips such as this. My general strategy will be to try to see the specialties of each area that we visit while enjoying whatever comes our way.
Today we started by replicating what I did yesterday in Sheyenne National Grassland then we worked our way to Jamestown via Valley Road that runs alongside the Sheyenne river. It was a mostly calm and sunny day that reached 85 degrees by late afternoon.
On our way to the grasslands, a roadside stop to view a wetland on SR 18 in Richland County produced an adult BALD EAGLE. Shortly after we entered the grasslands on SR 27, another roadside spot yielded numerous UPLAND SANDPIPERS, MARBLED GODWIT, WILSON'S SNIPE and what was probably the same RED-NECKED PHALAROPE that I saw yesterday.
We then worked our way slowly south on 149th seeing lots of BLACK TERNS, more of the sandpipers mentioned above, several singing DICKCISSELS, BOBOLINK and plenty of spiffy YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRDS. After seeing little in the way of waterfowl yesterday, the pond near McLeod today held RING-NECKED DUCK, REDHEAD, PIED-BILLED GREBE and COOT. Perhaps the best bird of the day also came here. Mixed in with the CANADA GEESE was a blue phase SNOW GOOSE! Quite what it's doing here in mid June I do not know. The bird was a long distance away but I managed a documentary quality image using my newly acquired 500mm lens A decent waterfowl showing but, unlike yesterday, we didn't come across a single Le Conte's Sparrow.
At the Nature Conservancy's Brown Ranch we picked up a few woodland species including YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER, DOWNY WOODPECKER and FLICKER (yellow-shafted); EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE, LEAST FLYCATCHER, WARBLING & RED-EYED VIREOS; BLUE-JAYS with youngsters in tow, HOUSE WREN, BROWN THRASHER, CEDAR WAXWING and ORCHARD & BALTIMORE ORIOLES.
After lunch in Lisbon we took the scenic Valley Drive that winds along the Sheyenne River. We stopped at a mixed colony of swallows to enjoy their comings and goings. BANK SWALLOWS greatly outnumbered NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOWS. We noted some 30 species along the route - among those new for the day new were WOOD DUCK, BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE, WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH and FIELD & LARK SPARROWS. Continuing on to our overnight destination of Jamestown, one of the lakes along I-94 yielded AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN and numerous WESTERN GREBES.
An enjoyable day with an interesting mix of waterfowl, marsh birds, woodland birds and grassland birds. New trip species for me were Snow Goose, Northern Pintail, Western Grebe and Cooper's Hawk.75 species recorded:
Saturday, June 16, 2012
published 06/17/2012 8:45pm CDT
Multi-state road trip Day 24: Jamestown, ND - Bottineau, ND (trip list: 227; +4)
Day 2 with Susan and Warren Jones (Trip list: 105; +29)
Today we moved north and birded at Sullys Hill Preserve near Devils Lake and in the Turtle Mountains near Bottineau. Both locations offer the chance to bird in wooded environments in a part of the state that is mainly agricultural fields. Unfortunately, weather conditions were against us and we got few few breaks from wind and rain. Consequently, roadside birding (which is a major component of birding in North Dakota) was very difficult. Despite the adversity, we saw a fair number of species and had a decent day. A short report today.
Sullys Hill Preserve is a very pleasant place to bird and, on this day at least, the first half mile from the entrance was very birdy. Emphasizing the wooded habitat were four species of woodpeckers -- RED-BELLIED, DOWNY & HAIRY WOODPECKERS and YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER. Other birds of interest were WOOD DUCK, BUFFLEHEAD, COMMON GOLDENEYE, BELTED KINGFISHER, GREAT-CRESTED FLYCATCHER, NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH singing from atop a high perch, many BALTIMORE ORIOLES and a very vocal and active YELLOW-THROATED VIREO. I almost managed to get my first ever image of the vireo but the quality wasn't even up to "photo first" standards. The bird simply would not stay in one place long enough.
We also watched a LEAST FLYCATCHER working on the final touches to a nest (squishing down lining material). I decided to try for a photo and made use of my 500mm lens for only the third time on the trip. Given the angle, distance (over 80 feet) and the fact that the nest was swaying in the wind, I was pleased with the result.
After an enjoyable few hours at Sullys Hill we then had a thoroughly unpleasant drive through major construction in the Devils Lake area with just a few terns for mitigation..
It was very windy and at times wet in the Turtle Mountains, especially at Carpenter Lake. By the time we reached Pelican Lake it was a little less windy with sporadic rain. Highlights in the mountains were several RED-NECKED GREBES and COMMON LOON. Other species noted included NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (both lakes) and many AMERICAN REDSTARTS at Pelican Lake.83 species recorded:
Sunday, June 17, 2012
published 06/19/2012 5:40am MDT
Multi-state road trip Day 25: Bottineau, ND - Kenmare, ND (trip list: 235; +8)
Day 3 with Susan and Warren Jones (Trip list: 119; +14)
Today we birded at three National Wildlife Refuges - Lords Lake east of Bottineau; J Clark Salyer in McHenry County and Des Lacs near Kenmare. The weather changed from cloudy, cold and windy at Lords Lake early this morning to sunny and warm at Des Lacs in late afternoon. Bird-wise we had a good day but unannounced road work and lack of detour information has been a feature of our trip so far and today we drove quite a few unnecessary miles.
The rather small Lords Lake NWR was quite productive and we recorded 40 species in about 90 minutes. This was the site of my lifer Nelson's Sparrow some years ago. I listened intently for them without success. Highlights today were SHARP-TAILED GROUSE and 3 RED-NECKED PHALAROPES. Among the other species were several male BUFFLEHEADS, many CANVASBACKS, REDHEADS and EARED GREBES; BLACK TERN, WILLET, EASTERN & WESTERN KINGBIRDS and BOBOLINK.
Salyer is one of the better refuges with a long tour route (23 miles) through several different habitat types (and we didn't even take the separate grassland trail). Three plus hours yielded 60 species highlighted by MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD and numerous LE CONTE'S SPARROWS. When we ran into the sparrows they were fairly plentiful. Despite poor light and sprinkles, I managed a couple of useful images: #1 - front and #2 - rear (both are of the same individual). Other species included WOOD DUCK, FERRUGINOUS HAWK, GREAT HORNED OWL, scads of FRANKLIN'S GULLS (some still "in the pink"); a handful of SPOTTED SANDPIPERS, WILSON'S PHALAROPE, HAIRY WOODPECKER GREAT-CRESTED FLYCATCHER, AMERICAN REDSTART and ORCHARD ORIOLE.
Des Lacs featured scads of WESTERN GREBES and a pair of RED-NECKED GREBES building a nest. I was puzzled by an odd sound that I couldn't identify. We eventually concluded that it was a SPOTTED TOWHEE.
New overall trip species today (8): Canvasback, Eared Grebe, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Ferruginous Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Willet, Mountain Bluebird and Spotted Towhee.92 species recorded:
Monday, June 18, 2012
published 06/21/2012 10:45pm MDT
Multi-state road trip Day 26: Kenmare, ND - Dickinson, ND (trip list: 240; +5)
Day 4 with Susan and Warren Jones (Trip list: 128; +9)
This morning we visited Lostwood NWR then worked our way south via a circuitous route to avoid major road construction. For those who are unaware, western North Dakota is undergoing an oil boom. In addition to the "uglyfying" of the landscape, side effects include road construction and hard-to-find motels at exorbitant prices. I'd booked well in advance so we didn't have an availability problem, but we did have to bend over and take it on price. We sure saw many oil well sites and lots of roadwork and traffic. In fact, some of the oil wells can even be seen from within Lostwood NWR. Some time ago I read a post on NDbirds urging "come see North Dakota before it's gone". I've been visiting the state for a number of years now and can heartily second that.
Our time at Lostwood was marred by a constant high wind and we struggled to find some of the grassland species. BAIRD'S SPARROW is apparently quite scarce this year so I consider us fortunate to find a singing bird and another carrying food. We also found a singing LE CONTE'S SPARROW but didn't pursue that species since we had already seen them well yesterday [I added a couple of images to yesterday's journal entry]. We also saw SHARP-TAILED GROUSE, GRASSHOPPER, VESPER, SAVANNAH and lots of CLAY-COLORED SPARROWS. We dipped on Sprague's Pipit, hardly surprising in the windy conditions (plus we didn't spend much time on the bird). HORNED GREBE in breeding plumage was the most noteworthy species for me, a rare treat since almost all birds that I have seen have been in drab winter garb. We saw 4 individuals.
On the southern portion of our route to Dickinson we stopped at Little Missouri State Park where LAZULI BUNTING was the only bird of note. At Lake Ilo NWR we noted 25+ species including BROWN THRASHER, DICKCISSEL, BOBOLINK and LARK BUNTING. We stayed off the highway and continued south on county roads. Highlights along the the drive were FERRUGINOUS HAWK, UPLAND SANDPIPER, CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPUR and GRASSHOPPER SPARROW.
New overall trip species today (5): Horned Grebe, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Baird's Sparrow, Lark Bunting and Lazuli Bunting.77 species recorded:
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
published 06/24/2012 9:15pm
Multi-state road trip Day 27: Dickinson, ND - Sundance, WY (trip list: 245; +5)
Day 5 with Susan and Warren Jones (Trip list: 139; +11)
This morning we birded the south unit of Roosevelt National Park then traveled to northeastern Wyoming. It was a rainy and windy morning but we managed to get some sightseeing and birding done. A look at my records showed that I visited the park in June 1997 but I have absolutely no recollection of that day so in essence it was a first visit for me.
We started in grassland habitat near Dickinson where we found a few expected species including RING-NECKED PHEASANT, GRASSHOPPER SPARROW, LARK BUNTING, DICKCISSEL and BOBOLINK. Somewhat more interesting on a roadside pond were 3 female HOODED MERGANSERS. The same pond yielded SPOTTED SANDPIPER and a few common duck species. Other species included NORTHERN HARRIER and EASTERN & WESTERN KINGBIRDS.
Birding in Roosevelt National Park produced a noticeable shift to western birds with the first "red-shafted" NORTHERN FLICKER, several WESTERN WOOD-PEWEES, VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW, a heard only BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, singing LAZULI BUNTINGS throughout and BULLOCK'S ORIOLE. Despite the wind and rain we recorded about 40 species including BELTED KINGFISHER, DOWNY WOODPECKER, ROCK WREN, MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD, BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER, AMERICAN REDSTART, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT and ORCHARD ORIOLE.
Heading south from Medora we added UPLAND SANDPIPER. Just before saying goodbye to North Dakota, a brief stop at Bowman sewage pond yielded a handful of waterfowl plus AMERICAN AVOCET and WILSON'S PHALAROPE.
One of the objectives for this trip was to pick up a few new states for Susan
and our drive today was conveniently through South Dakota to complete all 50.
We correctly predicted that RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD would be the first bird after crossing
the state line. Not much clairvoyance required for that. LARK BUNTING, the South
Dakota state bird, was fourth. Other roadside birds near state line included a
beautiful FERRUGINOUS HAWK and a perched CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPUR.
With improving weather conditions, we made an effort to pick up a few state species by driving to an isolated Butte in Custer National Forest accessed from Cox Road in Harding County. Apart from being a very scenic area, the mixed short grass, riparian and pine habitat yielded a few interesting species including HAIRY WOODPECKER, VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, SPOTTED TOWHEE, FIELD, VESPER & LARK SPARROWS; LAZULI BUNTING and RED CROSSBILL.
New overall trip species today (5): Western Wood-Pewee, Violet-Green Swallow, Rock Wren, Back-headed Grosbeak and Red Crossbill.
Dinner at "Etta's Place" in Sundance was very good (and overpriced); highly recommended.
77 species recorded:
Canada Goose, Gadwall, Am. Wigeon, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, N. Shoveler, Hooded Merganser, Ring-necked Pheasant, Wild Turkey, Pied-billed Grebe, Turkey Vulture, N. Harrier, Red-tailed & Ferruginous Hawks; Am. Kestrel, Am. Coot, Killdeer, Am. Avocet, Spotted & Upland Sandpipers; Wilson's Phalarope, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Downy & Hairy Woodpeckers; N. Flicker, Western Wood-Pewee, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Western & Eastern Kingbirds; Warbling & Red-eyed Vireos; Black-billed Magpie, Am. Crow, Horned Lark, Tree, Violet-green, Barn & Cliff Swallows; Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted & White-breasted Nuthatches; Rock & House Wrens; Mountain Bluebird, Am. Robin, Cedar Waxwing, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Yellow & Black-and-white Warblers; Am. Redstart, Yellow-breasted Chat, Spotted Towhee, Chipping, Field, Vesper, Lark, Savannah & Grasshopper Sparrows; Lark Bunting, Black-headed Grosbeak, Lazuli Bunting, Dickcissel, Bobolink, Red-winged, Yellow-headed & Brewer's Blackbirds; Western Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Orchard & Bullock's Orioles; Red Crossbill, Am. Goldfinch and House Sparrow.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
published 06/25/2012 7:50pm
Multi-state road trip Day 28: Sundance, WY - Cody, WY (trip list: 252; +7)
Day 6 with Susan and Warren Jones (Trip list: 154; +15)
Today we went into grockle mode with a visit to Devils Tower National Monument then traveled west across Wyoming. The morning began with bright sunshine in Sundance but we soon encountered rain east of town. It was also windy for much of the day. [britspeak: grockle; a slightly derogatory word for tourist]
We began with a short excursion into a small portion of Black Hills National Forest on the "Bluebird Trail" off Moskee Road, southeast of Sundance. This area is described in the now well outdated "Birder's guide to Wyoming" published in 1993. I've birded here many times but had trouble finding the correct road this morning! We saw just one EASTERN BLUEBIRD. All of the bluebird boxes were occupied by MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRDS. Other species along the route included COOPER'S HAWK, VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW, SPOTTED TOWHEE. GRASSHOPPER SPARROW, a singing DARK-EYED JUNCO (White-winged form); DICKCISSEL (not annual here) and BOBOLINK. Wet, cool (47 degrees) and windy along the route.
Devils Tower was already crawling with grockles when we arrived and we blended right in (yeah, right). We walked part of the trail around the base of the tower where we only saw a few species. However, most were new for the trip. First up was a fly-by WHITE-THROATED SWIFT followed by a group of chattering PYGMY NUTHATCHES. This is a good location for TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE but it wasn't easy to find one today. However, just as I was beginning to think we were about to dip, I heard the "toot" of a nearby bird that we were able to track down and view. CANYON WREN sang from the tower wall where numerous ROCK PIGEONS are presumably nesting.
After lunch in Buffalo we checked Lake De Smet. Nothing of note on the water, just lots of whitecaps in the wind. We continued north off the main highway by birding our way to Story along Wagon Box Road. Best bird here was a probable Calliope Hummingbird that we just didn't see well enough to be certain. Also of note was a singing VEERY (regular here by my records). Other species included SANDHILL CRANE, BROWN THRASHER, AMERICAN REDSTART and LAZULI BUNTING.
Next came a long drive through the Bighorn Mountains mitigated by great scenery. RED CROSSBILLS were calling as we passed through Dayton. At SIbley Lake we found LINCOLN'S SPARROW and several CASSIN'S FINCHES. Crossing the Bighorn river we saw WHITE PELICAN and more SANDHILL CRANES.
New overall trip species today (7): White-throated Swift, Pygmy Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Canyon Wren, Townsend's Solitaire, Lincoln's Sparrow and Cassin's Finch.72 species recorded:
Thursday, June 21, 2012
published 06/26/2012 3:30pm
Multi-state road trip Day 29: Cody, WY - Bozeman, MT (trip list: 262; +10)
Day 7 with Susan and Warren Jones (Trip list: 168; +14)
Although this was the final day of our week long trip, it was a day that we were all looking forward to very much. My time on the Beartooth Highway in northwestern Wyoming is always the highlight of my June trips and I purposely planned it as the last day of this trip (mainly to avoid any problems due to high snow level). We spent the day working from Cody along the Chief Joseph Highway then along the Beartooth almost to the Montana line, then returned along the Beartooth continuing into the northern section of Yellowstone National Park and on to Bozeman from where Susan and Warren are flying home tomorrow. The day worked out really well with perfect weather, fantastic scenery and some good birds.
[Route note for anyone planning to "do the Beartooth". Although coming from Red Lodge, MT gets you into Black Rosy-Finch habitat more quickly, the contrast in scenery is more dramatic and best appreciated if you start from Cody. You'll experience an elevation change from 5000 feet in Cody to almost 11,000 feet at West Beartooth summit traveling through grassland, coniferous forest and finally into alpine tundra with fantastic views of snow capped peaks. If this fails to inspire you, check your pulse immediately. I've done plenty of traveling in the U.S. and this is my favorite place. Species diversity is low but birds are somewhat superfluous compared to the scenery.]
We started out by checking a couple of lakes in Cody. Beck Lake yielded a few WHITE PELICANS but generally held very few species. Alkali Lake is always more interesting. We picked out one or two CALIFORNIA GULLS from the plentiful RING-BILLED GULLS. There were a half- dozen duck species including GADWALL, GREEN-WINGED TEAL and REDHEAD. We also saw numerous WILLETS and a few AMERICAN AVOCETS and WILSON'S PHALAROPES. Surrounding areas had VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW and YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD.
Next, we enjoyed a leisurely drive along the 47 miles of Chief Joseph Scenic Highway with several stops. Birds in riparian grassland and low elevation forested areas included BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE, WARBLING VIREO, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, LAZULI BUNTING, BREWER'S BLACKBIRD and WESTERN MEADOWLARK. Among the birds at Dead Indian Pass were RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, several singing HERMIT THRUSHES, WESTERN TANAGER, RED CROSSBILL and PINE SISKIN. Words can't adequately describe the experience of listening to the thrushes while looking at the expansive view of the road below from the viewpoint at 8000 feet.
Continuing on we added MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD. The road drops at this point down to around 6200 feet at the Yellowstone River where you can walk on the bridge to view the river below. We spent 30 minutes at the river crossing seeing lots of VIOLET GREEN SWALLOWS. Also present were WHITE-THROATED SWIFT, ROCK WREN and CASSIN'S FINCH.
The road steadily climbs from here into coniferous habitat. We stopped at a roadside pond some 11 miles from the Beartooth to view a female BARROW'S GOLDENEYE as an AMERICAN THREE-TOED WOODPECKER drummed from within the forest. Also at the pond were PIED-BILLED GREBE, RING-NECKED DUCK, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, WESTERN TANAGER and PINE SISKIN.
After joining the Beartooth Highway we traveled about 10 miles before stopping at the rather grandiosely named "Top of the World" store, motel and gas station. Don't get me wrong, it's a great place to stop and will save your day if you forget food and/or gas (albeit at a price). I even stayed here once so that I could be on the Beartooth early. However, at around 9400 feet, it's not even the top of the Beartooth let alone top of the world. A half hour here produced GRAY JAY, MOUNTAIN CHICKADEE, MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD, RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, CASSIN'S FINCH and PINE SISKIN. The jays were shamelessly begging but would not stay in the same place very long. I had to settle for a too close frame-filling image because I didn't have time to remove the 1.4x converter. Use for best view.
At this point it was clear that snow levels were very low compared to last year's very high snow level. So high in fact that I missed Black Rosy-Finch for the first time. This year, Island Lake is essentially snow free. Unfortunately, the campground was still closed (a good place to look for Three-toed Woodpecker and Pine Grosbeak). We continued on adding WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW just before tree line then AMERICAN PIPIT, COMMON RAVEN and HORNED LARK.
Gorgeous scenery was now the main attraction with snow capped peaks and frozen or partly frozen lakes. However, there was still one bird to find. There was too little snow at the traditional summit spots to bring finches down to the road. We backtracked a little and about 1.5 miles (2nd major switchback) below the west summit I decided to stop to scan a snowfield (elev. 10,700 feet). It didn't take long to find a foraging BLACK ROSY-FINCH (possibly two) and we enjoyed a good scope view. If there was a disappointment for me it was that the bird wasn't at my feet (I've been spoiled in past years by close views).
We made two more stops as we drove back west on the Beartooth. A lunch stop at Beartooth Lake produced CLARK'S NUTCRACKER and a brief stop on Lily Lake Road (near the start of Chief Joseph Highway) produced BREWER'S SPARROW (a regular spot for them).
Traffic on the Beartooth had been relatively light and the needle on the grocklemeter wasn't very high. That changed on our way through the Silver Gate-Tower- Mammoth section of northern Yellowstone Park. This wasn't a destination, it was simply the most convenient route to Bozeman. We made a couple of stops, the most notable of which was at Floating Island Lake that held a few ducks and EARED GREBE.
It's amusing to stop and set up the scope and draw tourists in a matter of seconds. They soon depart when they realize you are looking at birds and not big animals. I remember doing tours in Yellowstone for the UK based company "Birdfinders". The participants would take great delight in faking out the grockles.
We capped off the day and trip with a very good meal at Ted's Montana Grill in downtown Bozeman. At this point in the trip I'd planned to travel on to the west coast (specifically the Olympic Peninsula where I haven't visited since the late 90s). However, I went to bed tonight without a firm plan for tomorrow, although I was leaning towards heading home.
If I had to do this type of week long trip again, I'd spend more time in Wyoming (my favorite state) and less in North Dakota (even though I like it there almost as much). Why? Usually on client trips I'm looking for grassland species that can be quite time consuming, hence the emphasis on North Dakota. However, on this trip, the birding was more generalized without specific targets so spending more time further south in Wyoming would have resulted in more species diversity. We saw a total of 168 species broken down as follows (4 full days in North Dakota, 2 in Wyoming). North Dakota birds were predominantly eastern; those in Wyoming were mostly western.
|Location||Species Seen||Unique Species||Birding Days|
New overall trip species today (10): Barrow's Goldeneye, Am. Three-toed Woodpecker, Gray Jay, Clark's Nutcracker, Mountain Chickadee, Am. Pipit, Brewer's Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Western Tanager and Black Rosy-Finch.
72 species recorded:
Canada Goose, Gadwall, Mallard, N. Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Redhead, Ring-necked & Ruddy Ducks; Barrow's Goldeneye, Pied-billed & Eared Grebes; Am. White Pelican, N. Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Am. Coot, Killdeer, Am. Avocet, Spotted Sandpiper, Willet, Wilson's Phalarope, Ring-billed & California Gulls; Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, White-throated Swift, Am. Three-toed Woodpecker, N. Flicker, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Wood-Pewee, Eastern Kingbird, Warbling Vireo, Gray Jay, Black-billed Magpie, Clark's Nutcracker, Am. Crow, Common Raven, Horned Lark, Violet-green, Barn & Cliff Swallows; Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Rock Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Mountain Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, Am. Robin, European Starling, Am. Pipit, Yellow & Yellow-rumped Warblers; Common Yellowthroat, Chipping, Brewer's, Vesper, Savannah, Song & White-crowned Sparrows; Dark-eyed Junco, Western Tanager, Lazuli Bunting, Red-winged, Yellow-headed & Brewer's Blackbirds; Western Meadowlark, Brown-headed Cowbird, Black Rosy-Finch, Cassin's & House Finches; Red Crossbill, Pine Siskin and House Sparrow.
Friday, June 22, 2012
published 06/26/2012 7:30pm
Multi-state road trip Day 30: Bozeman, MT - Idaho - Orem, UT (trip list: 263; +1)
Decision time loomed this morning but I still procrastinated for a while. In the end I somewhat reluctantly decided to head home and today was the first of two driving days. After a month on the road, birding and driving every day, I'm definitely a little weary and feel the need for a decent break before I resume client work in SE AZ on July 2. If you look at a map, you'll see that Bozeman to Sierra Vista is pretty much a straight line due south through eastern Idaho and central Utah. I like Idaho but I detest the drive through the almost contiguous cities clustered along the I-15 corridor in Utah. I decided to get further south than Salt Lake City while still allowing a little time for birding and finally settled on Orem as an overnight destination with a detour east to Bear Lake NWR near Montpelier in Idaho. I ended up driving 550 miles and had a generally unproductive day.
The drive from Bozeman to the Idaho border along the Gallatin River was generally devoid of birds. The route is lined with trees so birds can't readily be seen from the car. I'm sure that if I'd had time to stop I would have seen plenty. I noted OSPREY, BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE, MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD and a few common roadside birds.
Highway 20 through some resort areas in Idaho was a little more productive with a few ducks and gulls. Continuing south on I-15 from Idaho Falls I noted WHITE PELICANS and SWAINSON'S HAWKS.
I reached Montpelier in early afternoon ready to start birding at Bear Lake Refuge. Unfortunately, it was 90 degrees and very windy so I spent a few hours in the library doing computer work. It really didn't help -- the temperature and wind were about the same when I started birding around 5:00pm. I was hoping to do some photography but most of the birding was looking west into the afternoon sun. All in all, less than ideal conditions.
Birds on the refuge and adjacent areas included SNOWY EGRET, several BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS, a trip first WHITE-FACED IBIS (the only new trip bird of the day); OSPREY, SWAINSON'S HAWK, a few SANDHILL CRANES, BLACK-NECKED STILT, WILLET, numerous BLACK and FORSTER'S TERNS; lots of WESTERN KINGBIRDS, BREWER'S SPARROW and LAZULI BUNTING.
After a slow drive on Hwy 89 through the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, I headed down I-15 in heavy traffic and increasingly heavy smoke from a fire further south near where I was staying. To make matters worse, every city on I-15 had road construction. I usually try to avoid this area on my trips preferring to detour via Colorado -- but that requires more miles. The Salt Lake area is currently the only place higher than Phoenix on the list of places where I wouldn't want to live. The temperature was 95 degrees and the smoke really thick when I arrived in Orem at 9:30pm. Just to rub salt in the wound and prove that Murphy is never far away from me, the motel didn't have my reservation. Fortunately, the delay was short. The day was essentially the antithesis of yesterday in terms of enjoyment and one that will not live long in my memory.53 species recorded:
Saturday, June 23, 2012
published 06/27/2012 7:45am
Multi-state road trip Day 31: Orem, UT - Sierra Vista, AZ (trip list: 266; +3)
Today I completed my journey home with a drive of 800+ miles through southern Utah and northern Arizona. Not surprisingly, it was a driving day only and I made just one short birding foray off my main route. Despite only seeing a few roadside birds, 3 of them were new for my trip - Peregrine Falcon, Pinyon Jay and Western Bluebird.
My route was I-15, Hwy 20 and Hwy 89 to Kanab entering Arizona in Freedonia; then 89 to Flagstaff; I-17 to Phoenix; I-10 to home. RV traffic in canyon country was a pain (Bryce and Zion in UT and Grand Canyon, etc. in AZ). I first hit 100 degrees shortly after entering northern Arizona and it was 111 degrees in Phoenix when I stopped for gas (yikes).
A gathering of 6+ SWAINSON'S HAWKS accompanied by a COMMON NIGHTHAWK in a field alongside I-15 in Millard County, UT was the most noteworthy bird moment of the journey.
As I headed down Hwy 90 towards Sierra Vista, LESSER NIGHTHAWK was the final bird of the trip for a nice symmetry (it was also the first bird of the trip). Visibility was poor but I could see clouds gathered over the Huachucas giving me hope that the monsoon may be imminent. It did rain a little in the evening (but it was a 90 degrees rain).
I left Orem at 6:00am and with an hour gained (what will I do with it) I arrived home at 6:30pm. I was on the road for 31 days traveling 10,500 miles through 26 states seeing 266 species. Quite an adventure.
Look for journal entries to resume on July 2. In the meantime, I'll process photos and work on a trip summary as my schedule permits.27 species recorded:
This log is in chronological order and the most recent entries
are at the bottom of the page.
The last update was on Saturday, June 23, 2012
Jun Species Seen
Journal - June, 2012
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