Sunday, September 12, 2010

Shorebirds Make Me Sore...a!

Another visit to Sandy Ridge
September 12 2010
(Sorry in advance for poor photo quality; it was early in the morning and the lighting was not the best)

So, less than 24 hours and I'm back at SRR! Why? My grandparents were going to call me up and invite me to come with them to SRR this morning. Which is exactly why I called them! What are the chances? So, at around 8am we arrived. Ironically, while I was explaining about the little Red-tail from yesterday, he flew by our car! (No photos this time, though.)

After encountering a trio of beautiful deer (my Totem animal, if you didn't already know), the Bald Eagle flew by. In the exact same spot as yesterday! Again, what are the chances? The Cormorant, too, was sitting where I left him...hmm...what's with the birds and their coincidences?

Although the light was still clouded over this early in the morning, I was able to get a few shots of the Lesser Yellowlegs (I'm really beginning to love these birds) foraging:

Also, a small peep... I think it's a Semipalmated...? Any help? Shorebirds really aren't my strong point. I need some practice... the more I get to Sandy Ridge, the better I'll become at identifying sandpipers, I believe. For now, however, any advice will be appreciated!

When my grandma pointed out a "salt and pepper bird", I was looking at a nearby Yellowlegs. I told her as much and took a few photos.Moving up along the trail to a patch of marsh grass, another trail-goer suddenly pointed out a Sora!! Of course, everyone but I saw it disappear into the grass. It was then that my grandma told me, "That's the salt and pepper bird!" I could have had a full view of it earlier! Aaargh! I ended up going back 3 times to look fruitlessly for the uncommon bird. Darn! Another one slipping through my fingers! (This has happened before with other species...)

Oh well...we birders have to learn the hard way about letting things go.
On to the next birds... We reached the overlook, where the usual Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Egrets, Mallards, and Teals were foraging. I noticed a flit of brown and yellow next to me and looked away from my binos. A little warbler was perched right next to my grandpa, who was looking through his binos and didn't hear me in time! "Warbler, warbler!" but he looked away after the little girl had flown off. I tracked her with my camera as she flitted around in the flowers and before I knew it, she came close. I got one heck of a shot, one I'm planning to enter in a photo contest (North Chagrin Nature Photography Contest/Show). Since I don't want to publish the entry photo here, I'll show you a shot taken a few seconds later.

I'm thinking this is an immature fall Palm Warbler. Something sure to ID this bird is its bright yellow undertail coverts. It also sports some dusky brown streaking on its breast and sides, a faint darker eyestripe, off-white eye rings broken on each side... Here's a few more shots in case anyone wants to help confirm this ID:

(Scratch that itch!)

(Back off!)

I then sighted (rather, glimpsed) what I thought to be a Hooded or Wilson's female. Plus, some singing sparrows! We travelled along the trail to the other side of the marsh, were a Greater Yellowlegs was to be found:

A trio of noisy Belted Kingfishers were busy flapping from branch to branch, and I even saw one dive for a fish. I hadn't seen a Kingfisher since 2009 so this was a pretty fun sighting. I never realized Kingfishers were as small as they are, though!
A beautiful sleeping GBH was pointed out to me by my grandparents, and it made for a serene photo.

Of course a marsh wouldn't be complete without swallows, and a large colony of the lovable Northern-Rough-Winged variety preened silently in the dead trees. Next, while looking at a rather peculiar coloured duck (a Mallard, but pale on the body with light brown/tan accents. Maybe leucistic?) I scanned to the right with my binos and sighted a very still Green Heron. Love those guys!

Finally, on my last try on sighting that sora (Which of course never showed) , I saw some more Yellowlegs...invasion of the some more sandpipers. I know I'll be better at identifying them in the future, but for right now they make my eyes sore! (Just like my legs were at the end of this long walk!) As we went back into the woods, we sighted the trio of deer, and that cormorant again...sunning his wings...

(Pectoral Sandpipers? Please help...thank you!)

(Aaah catching those rays!)

Signing off this time with a tribute to my friend Dave whose advice and compliments are much appreciated! Visit his blog and you'll understand why I'm leaving you with this...:

~Until next time,

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rain and Red-tails

A trip to Sandy Ridge Reservation!

Let me say, first off, where has this place been all my life? It's only 10 minutes from my house and yet houses so many great birds. I don't know where to begin! Within 30 seconds of entering the trail, I sighted an immature Red-tailed Hawk attempting to catch a squirrel. He was flapping noisily along the ground as the squirrel scuffled around him. It was amazing and amusing at the same time. The squirrel eventually chased him away! We also saw a snake in the woods...oooh...

Then, we emerged from the woods about 5 minutes later to find a Great Egret, followed by a soaring pair of Red-tails. Then...the Bald Eagle! Sandy Ridge is famous for its nesting pair of Baldies, and I'm glad to have seen one.

Then, the most ADORABLE Wood Duck swam out from the vegetation and started spurting across the water and vocalizing. It was pretty fun to watch.

(She is so cute...)

Next, the 'flats', or sand bars, with sandpipers galore! Killdeer, Yellowlegs, and some other sandpiper species that I've yet to identify. The Killdeer were surprisingly tolerant of us photographers coming close and snapping a few pics.

(EDIT: Pectoral Sandpiper. Thanks Dave!)

(It's so cute!)

Looking up from the close Killdeer, I saw a very close GBH... as the people started coming towards her with cameras and binos, I knew she'd fly away. I had time to get this one photo before she flew:

Then came the SECOND close encounter with a raptor! An accipiter (Sharpie or Coops, who knows?) burst from the bushes wheeled around in front of me and another woman taking photos (our cameras weren't ready, of course!) and landed for a few seconds on a dead tree before swooping off again. It took us all by surprise and left us (and the blackbirds) breathless!

At the overlook, we saw a fishing Great Egret with no luck dinnerwise. Green-winged Teals (life bird) foraged alongside Yellowlegs and Killdeer:

(Did somebody say aquatic invertebrates? Yum!)

As we headed back, I saw a striking woodpecker and raised my binos. A juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker! Life bird! I snapped a few shots during the brief seconds she was on the visible side of the tree before it started to drizzle. But-- don't rain yet!! I need to get a photo of this awesome sandpiper that I just found! I ended up getting a few shots of the close-up sandpiper before it really started raining.
As everyone ran for the trees, I heard a strange sound and looked to my right. Wahoo! A DC-Cormorant! I watched it for a few minutes before stubbornly following everyone into the woods.

Here comes the BEST part! When we were heading to the car, I saw the immature Red-tail perch on a handicapped parking sign! Woah! I've never seen a wild raptor that close; this was incredible. He just looked around, seeming to not notice as I (and another young birder) got closer and closer with our cameras. Finally, after a few minutes, he moved to the next sign (a Stop sign). Shaking with excitement, I reluctantly climbed into the car. Then, he flew onto a post right above our car! I rolled my window down and got a few more shots, while hearing some other regular visitors talk about this 'resident Red-tail who is learning to hunt'. So that's why he was so inexperienced with that squirrel.

(Look at those talons!)

(You know what's out below!)

I'm visiting SR Reservation tomorrow morning with my grandparents and, with any luck, I'll see my new fine-feathered raptor friend again.

Happy trails!


Friday, September 10, 2010

The Little Warbly Things in Life

On my mini-vacation to Hocking Hills this Labour Day weekend, I was certainly expecting to see some life birds, but not the amount I ended up counting! Plus, I sighted an uncommon Connecticut Warbler (see my last post) and what's more, got some photos of him! All the hiking we did produced nothing more than a few Cedar Waxwings, but it did burn some calories. We stayed at a cute bed and breakfast near Athens, OH, and boy did it have birds! Nestled in by a forest and a marshy pond, I was out there with camera and bino's every chance I got. If the 10 Wood Ducks foraging in the pond and the (still unidentified) flycatchers weren't enough, there were life birds of the warbly kind to be seen!

The first morning, I was randomly hoping to see vireos out my window. What do you know, I open the blinds to see vireos in the trees! I scrambled to get dressed, grabbed my gear, and headed out into the cool morning air. (When I say cool, I do mean cool). The wet grass froze my feet clad in flip-flops, but I didn't care. A flurry of colourful feathers was all around me; I barely had time to watch one bird before another stole my attention.

I saw my first American Redstart; what an awesome sighting! They really do love their tails...
Then there was the female fall-plumage Blackpoll Warbler, Philadelphia Vireo, and fall plumage immature Black-throated Green Warbler. I'd only ever seen Yellow Warbler and Common Yellowthroat; before that morning I never appreciated warblers much. Now...I am officially hooked on warblers!! ID'ing them is fun but challenging in the fall and I believe is a great exercise. I'm still not comfortable ID'ing them in the field, but taking photos then using a field guide at home is a good start. (Remember, I only started seriously birding in late May this year.) I also observed (but did not photograph) a Hooded looked more like a Wilson's Warbler until it flashed its white tail feathers. Bingo, it was a Hooded!
That morning also brought familiar birds such as Ruby-throated hummingbirds, Northern Cardinals, Red-bellied, Downy, and Hairy woodpeckers, Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Turkey Vultures, Red-eyed vireos and more...

The next morning was slower and less active, but I still sighted some great birds. First off being the male Connecticut Warbler... wahoo! A great find for Ohio and in general. See my last post for more information on this one.
Also, some wood-peewees and Redstarts.

That day I also found (but did not keep) a beautiful primary feather of a hawk. Looked like a Red-tailed or Cooper's...
Well, I hope to visit Hocking/Athens again because it was beautiful and birdy!

~Peace always,

My Bird List for the Hocking Trip
-Red-eyed Vireo
-Philadelphia Vireo
-American Redstart
-Magnolia Warbler
-Hooded Warbler
-Connecticut Warbler
-Blackpoll Warbler
-Black-throated Green Warbler
-American Crow
-Ruby-throated Hummingbird
-Eastern Wood-peewee
-American Goldfinch
-American Robin
-Downy/Hairy Woodpecker
-Red-bellied Woodpecker
-Chimney Swift
-Cedar Waxwing
-White-breasted Nuthatch
-Rock Pigeon
-Wood Duck
-Northern Cardinal
-Red-tailed Hawk
-Black-capped Chickadee
-Turkey Vulture

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rare Sighting?

On September 6, 2010, near Athens, Ohio, I was out birding at around 8:30 in the morning when a small movement in the vines caught my attention. I had already seen some good warblers that morning (American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler; both life birds) and a few other good birds (Wood-peewees, vireos). Considering I had been up only since 8AM, this was a pretty good list for the day so far! This small wall of vines cascading and intertwining through branches of a large tree was not lit by the rising sun, so I stepped closer and lowered my camera's exposure, ready to track down this silent little bird. As soon as I saw that yellow breast and slate-blue head, I knew I had something unusual, and no doubt a Lifer. Unexperienced in all things warbly, I decided to skip the binos and just focus on getting a photo or two to bring back inside, in hopes of ID'ing him with a guide.

He seemed a bit shy but nevertheless let me get a quick but good look/ photo op. His complete white eye ring stood out in the shady vegetation. He 'walked' from branch to branch, never hopping nervously or flitting up and down the vines like other birds would. Then, as quick as he appeared, he vanished. Not a peep (no pun intended) out of this little guy. Oh, well, at least I had a substantial amount of (grainy) photos to reference to as I pulled my field guide out. Flipping through the warblers pages, I spied a couple of look-alikes: Mourning, Connecticut, and MacGillivray's warblers. I looked at their differences, and immediately realized that the only one with a complete white eye ring was the Connecticut. The range was a bit off, but otherwise my bird fit the description perfectly! Long undertail coverts giving the appearance of a short tail, blue-grey hood, eye ring sometimes broken on one side only, a bit stocky, walks rather than hops, found in spruce bogs or near wetlands (near the vines and branches was a large pond, complete with Wood Ducks and frogs) or moist woods... YES, this was my bird! But how could it be, all the websites and books I'd read said that Connecticut warbler (in the east, particularly in Ohio) was an uncommon find! After Googling some images of the Connecticut warbler and comparing them to my bird, I was sure...this was a Connecticut warbler!

I'm still working on reporting this sighting, but in the meantime, here are the (grainy!) photos I snapped of the handsome fellow:

If anyone knows WHERE TO REPORT THIS SIGHTING, please give me the link or e-mail; it would be much appreciated. Thank you!