14 May 2010

Biggest Kirtland's in American Birding...(Magee Marsh, Ohio): 14th M ay

Here are just a few shots of todays mega Kirtland's Warbler found by Kenn Kaufman on the beach at Magee Marsh. Just wish he hadn't found it while I was marooned (with a bunch of warblers so not all bad) on Kelley's Island out in the "middle" of Lake Erie! On our return to shore a car chase ensued as all the birders from Kelley's raced to the beach to see it. Thankfully the male bird was waiting, happily pumping its tail and posing for a very, very appreciative crowd. He even gave the odd warble...great stuff. Hope he lingers for the weekend warriors coming tomorrow. Two Connecticut Warblers banded at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory banding station (Navarre) today gives us hope for this "Master Skulker" this coming weekend. I might be off site tomorrow afternoon so that could be the prime time for that one!!!

13 May 2010

Biggest Week in American Birding...(Ohio): 12th May

I began my day within Ottawa NWR at the magical migrant trap of Cedar Point. An empidonax flycatcher feeding in the low shrubs provided an early challenge and this mute bird had to be left as simply "Traill's Flycatcher", although the poor eye ring pointed towards Willow? After a slow start we bumped into migrant after migrant and by the end of our few hours on site we had run overtime and racked up 18 species of warbler, including Mourning, Blackburnian, Wilson's, and Chestnut-sided Warblers, in addition to Northern Waterthrush, Black-billed Cuckoo, and even a rare sighting of Clay-colored Sparrow in these parts. My highlight though may just have been the pair of Sandhill Cranes that glided overhead shortly after arrival, a late, late lifebird in my birding life!

Back on the Magee Marsh boardwalk in the late afternoon saw slim picking out there, aside from a male Wilson's Warbler that seemed intent in getting rid of all other warblers from its chosen feeding area. However, this spiffy Prothonotary Warbler was the true Magee star today, one of a pair prospecting for a nest in the area. This stellar male dropped into a dead branch and was greeted with a flurry of flash activity from the assembled bird paparazzi, the bird looking like it was lined up for the oscars not the Biggest Week in American Birding Festival. And appropriately so turned this way and that and seemed to revel in the limelight!

11 May 2010

The Biggest Week in American Birding (Kelley's Island, Ohio): 10th May

Continuing The Biggest Week in American Birding today a pre-dawn start saw us at a dock in Marblehead ready for a boat trip and foray on to this Lake Erie Island. The idea behind the day was to try and find any migrants island hopping across the lake on their way north to breed with a visit to Kelley's Island. Our first walk struggled to find a migrant at all, although a short walk along Titus Road in the late morning perked things up a bit with a singing male Blackburnian, crisp male Cape May, and a lone Chestnut-sided Warbler. Also along there were a Blue-headed Vireo and a Veery sifting through the leaf litter.

Late afternoon on the Magee Marsh boardwalk brought Bay-breasted Warbler, and the female Golden-winged Warbler that has taken up residence and has now been on site for at least 4 days. The real showstoppers for me though were the friendly warblers along the spur into the reedbed where this Chestnut-sided begged me to photograph him, and this male Mrytle then tried to outperform him with his close-up antics.

07 May 2010

The Biggest Week in American Birding: Day 2 (Ohio), 7th May

For my second day I was glued to the magical Magee Marsh boardwalk, THE place for American Warblers. What I had not banked on was some classic turbulent midwest weather. Gusty winds, rumor of a tornado, chilling rain, and then sunny during the afternoon after we had been soaked, chilled to the bone, and blown this way and that! In spite of all these birding hazards (largely due to me being ill-prepared for any of this after my long stint on the Upper Texas Coast) the birding was good. After the stormy morning birds started to drop down lower bin the trees, and we all enjoyed some fantastic views of what we are all here for: WARBLERS. A Blackburnian Warbler threw out the rule book and decided to flit around almost within touching distance, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo tried drying off from the morning's rain during a sunny spell, Black-throated Greens dangled invitingly as if to ward off the Blackburnian from trying to steal the title for most showy warbler in Magee, Nashvilles lurked unusually low in the undergrowth, as did a stonking male Hooded Warbler, while an Ovenbird or two prowled the leaf litter. Late in the afternoon I finally caught up with the female Golden-winged Warbler that had frustrated me all day, while a few Gray-cheeked Thrushes and Veerys also gave choice looks just off the boardwalk.

International Migratory Bird Day
up next at Magee Marsh...

The Biggest Week in American Birding: Day 1 (Ohio), 6th May

I begun my day again, and started THE BIGGEST WEEK IN AMERICAN BIRDING, in the Mallard Lake parking lot (Oak Openings), where pretty soon yesterday’s male Cerulean Piped up and began calling. Bins were all pointed skyward and amazingly Michael Retter quickly picked his gleaming white unders up, as he sung his lungs out from the top of a tree. More incredible still was when we both managed to get him lined up in the ‘scope for all. A walk along the road produced some cute Field Sparrows, and an interesting Blue-winged Warbler, whose yellow-tinged wing bars betrayed “dodgy” parentage somewhere along the line. After a frustratingly long wait we finally got crackerjack looks at several hulking Lark Sparrows around the sand dunes, and further along still a male Summer Tanager, a pair of Pine Warblers (photo), and an Eastern Towhee all gave themselves up.

A brief period on the Magee Marsh boardwalk in the afternoon got me this Kentucky Warbler creeping through the garlic mustard (bottom photo)…

05 May 2010

Oak Happenings...(Oak Openings Preserve, Ohio): 5 May

Spent a fantastic morning checking the woods of Oak Openings near Toledo in Ohio. The day opened with this Field Sparrow, (bottom photo) and adorable Tufted Titmouse (top photo) rummaging in the leaf litter. However close by the Mallard Lake a showstopping male Cerulean Warbler in full song stole the show. Aside from that male Summer Tanager, and several cracking good Red-headed Woodpeckers, and a fine batch of Lark Sparrows made this prep walk for the upcoming BIGGEST WEEK IN AMERICAN BIRDING mega birding festival very, very worthwhile. Cannot wait to return there tomorrow...

03 May 2010

Warbler Fallout II...(High Island, Texas): 2 May

Another photo stream from yesterday's High Island warbler drop-in at Boy Scout Woods. There is always a tinge of sadness when the season closes here, for those like me who are addicted to the buzz of spring migration. Thankfully though I still have some fun to come with this in Ohio, that is next on the agenda for me...

Spent today cleaning up and closing down the Tropical Birding Information Center here in High Island. Have not checked the woods yet, although they look mighty tempting just across the street! Photos: Blackburnian Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler

Warbler Fallout...(High Island, Texas): 2 May

With the lackluster performance of Boy Scout Woods in the morning it was hard to see what came in the afternoon. The skies may have been deep blue, and the the wind light, but it was coming out of the north, and at this time of year the huge volume of migrants moving through this section of the Upper Texas Coast put us in good stead for a final flourish for the spring during our last official day in High Island.

A steady flow of birds dropping into the drip by the Grandstand encouraged me to check the photo blind as there were a few spaces available. I intended to pop in for 10 minutes, but stayed an hour. The action was non-stop, frenetic, gripping and unmissable. I sat glued as warbler after warbler fought for a place at the drips, birds literally lining up alongside to get a space! It was not just warblers though as Baltimore Orioles, Gray Catbirds, Indigo Buntings, Painted Buntings, Orchard Orioles, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks also hung around too. In all more than 20 species of birds visited, including a mindblowing 14 species of warbler! Best among the warblers were Magnolia, Golden-winged, Blackburnian, and even a furtive female Mourning Warbler that refused to actually get wet. The main pulse of warblers though was dominated initially by Yellow Warblers and Chestnut-sided early on, switching to a flurry of American Redstarts when I returned just before dusk. It was not just about diversity though, as the numbers of birds was remarkable too, with scenes of 5 different American Redstarts flicking nervously around the drips, while Chestnut-sided and Magnolia Warblers looked on not uncommon! An awesome last afternoon at this very special spot for migration.

02 May 2010

High Island Report (Texas): 1 May

A slow day in the High Island sanctuaries had us down on the shore, eagerly needing a distraction from the lethargy of the woods. Frenchtown Road (on the Bolivar Peninsula) was once again reliable and rock solid for shorebirds. A large shape in the deeper waters turned out to be yet another Hudsonian Godwit for the season at "faithful" Frenchtown. There were also at least four White-rumped Sandpipers scattered around the dowitcher-packed pool, that also held a few Westerns, Semipalmated Sandpipers, four striking summer plum Stilt Sandpipers, and a couple of Wilson's Plovers. Two roving Clapper Rails threw out the usual rail handbook and strutted around in the open, and a Sora even sneaked out of the cord grass to feed on the muddy verge. A pair of Wilson's Phalaropes also stood out from the dowdy dowitcher crowd.

At Rollover Pass terns packed the sandy islands, including a good spread of
Black Terns, many of which are now in sharp-looking breeding dress. The headliner though was a lost looking reddish Red Knot standing alone amongst the terns, cormorants, and Black Skimmers.

Back on High Island, this Common Nighthawk spent the afternoon sleeping by the entrance to Boy Scout Woods, and a couple of furtive Magnolia Warblers in Smith Oaks were pretty much all I could get hold of, among the horde of Tennessee and Yellow Warblers, and Scarlet Tanagers that dominated the mix in High Island in the afternoon.