Sunday, December 20, 2020

At Least It Wasn't Snowing - Ludington CBC 12/19/2020


   Saturday December 19 was the date of the 2020 Ludington CBC.  A light mist was falling in the barely above freezing temperatures during the 2 hours that I spent driving around my assigned area.  The precipitation limited visibility as did the low cloud deck that engulfed the tops of the 300' tall wind turbines in my territory.  All that contributed to a meager 97 birds of 12 species observed during a 2 hour drive that covered 20 miles. 

    At my house however, my feeders were abuzz with activity and a few rafts of ducks were within eye and camera range to boost my bird count totals.  The highlight of my day were the two White-winged Crossbills that showed up for the ninth straight day.  It is only the 5th time that they have been recorded on the Ludington CBC.

     This year was the first time that I've seen Common Redpolls on a Christmas Bird Count.

  The ducks out on Lake Michigan totaled 636.  Lead by Long-tailed Ducks with 473, followed by Common Goldeneyes - 150 and Red-Breasted Mergansers - 13.
Mostly Common Goldeneyes
     The only raptor that I saw all day was an adult Bald Eagle that flew along the bluff at the edge of my property.

Friday, December 11, 2020

White-winged Crossbill Yardbird #150 12/11/2020


   Last month in a text conversation with Matt McConnell after I added my 148th species (Common Redpoll) to my yardlist, I mused about hitting 150 by the end of the year.  Matt suggested that a likely upcoming addition could be a White-winged Crossbill, which had been seen in our area. His prediction came true this morning when a female White-winged Crossbill visited my platform feeder and got me to the 150 milestone.

    Going back a couple of weeks...I was thankful for the Harlequin Duck that appeared offshore from my yard on Thanksgiving.

    I noticed the Harlequin from my dining room through my cheap vintage Celestron catadioptric telescope that I bought on ebay about 10 years ago. I have been trying to resell/unload/give the scope away almost since the moment that I unpacked it from the shipping box.  Today tragedy befell the scope after it was knocked off a dining room cabinet where I had securely placed it last night.  
  The shattered front correction plate is as serious as a broken leg to a race horse and means it has seen its last Harlequin Duck.  I took the Celestron out back and pulled the trigger on the purchase of a Swarovski 20-60x 80mm spotting scope that I've had my eye on since I moved to the lakefront last year.  The low end Celestron scope is to lemons as the Swarovski is to lemon merengue pie.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Countdown to 150, Black Scoters Yard Bird #149 11/22/2020

  Early this afternoon, I took an early half-time break from the latest televised inept Detroit Lions performance and walked out to the edge of my bluff to scan the small flocks of ducks on Lake Michigan. I soon found a group of three ducks that appeared to be Scoters.  With the camera I was able to confirm that they were Black Scoters.  Their addition to the yard list brings the list to 149.

   Last Tuesday, Matt McConnell found a Purple Sandpiper on a small breakwater off the Loomis Street boatlaunch in Ludington Harbor. 

  A day earlier I had a late Indigo Bunting under my front yard feeders.  The November 16 date shattered the late fall date of October 6 for Mason County.


Friday, November 6, 2020

Mostly Grosbeaks (but not Always) 11/6/2020


    It only took 9 days for Evening Grosbeaks to go from celebrated new yard bird to nuisance bird.  Last Wednesday when they first showed up I was thrilled by the two 2-minute visits of first 10 then one single bird. Then this week their numbers increased as the time they spent at my feeders started to grow as well.  By this Wednesday I had up to 49 of them visiting a couple of times per hour for 10-15 minutes at a time.  Today it was all Evening Grosbeaks all the time, as about 20 showed up  at 8:30 AM and were seen or heard all day until after 4 PM.  Mid-morning I counted 78 but there were more in the area, because the flock of about 50 that landed right before the high count had come from the north over my neighbors yard where an equally large flock momentarily joined them but split off and headed east before they made it to my yard.  

  Plenty of photo ops were to be had and I decided to try to get some flight shots.

  They arrive one at a time but often leave together.

   By early afternoon it was time to try for close-ups through an open window from inside the house. 

  This single female Purple Finch managed to sneak a couple seeds during a lull in the Grosbeak frenzy. 

   The Rough-legged Hawk below was photographed yesterday at a relatively low altitude.

   All kidding aside these birds are pretty damn cool.  Tips to get the Evening Grosbeaks to frequent your yard.....Striped Sunflower seeds either on platform feeders of spread on the ground.   

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Late Pine Warbler 11/3/2020


   I was surprised to see a late Pine Warbler frequenting my suet feeders this afternoon. According to Dave Dister this is the latest into the fall that a Pine Warbler has been seen in Mason County.  The previous late date was October 6, in both 2017 and 2018

   The irrupting Evening Grosbeaks showed up again this morning just before 9 AM.  As with previous visits they quickly moved on without fueling up.  But the pair that showed up in the 11 o'clock hour hung around for 15 minutes feeding on the striped sunflower seeds that I bought over the weekend.

  For the second straight day at least one Common Redpoll mingled with the Siskins and Goldfinches at the feeders.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Common Redpoll 11/2/2020

    November has picked up right where October left off.  I added 4 birds to the yardlist in the last 8 days of October and today I added Common Redpoll as the 148th species on the list.


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Evening Grosbeaks 10/28/2020

       Through ebird alerts and Hawk Count site summaries, I learned over the weekend that an irruption of Evening Grosbeaks was beginning.  Most of the sightings that I had read about were either in Ontario or eastern Michigan but a couple of reports came from west Michigan.  With fingers crossed I filled the feeders and kept the camera ready.  

    Shortly after noon today the cool breezes off the lake made me give up my vigil over the backyard feeders, but instead of going inside to warm up I headed to the front yard to work up a sweat splitting up some logs that my neighbor had given me last week.  I wasn't out there two minutes when I noticed 6 Bald Eagles overhead soaring to the south. Luckily I had the camera nearby and took some photos of the eagles interactions.  No sooner did the eagles disappear beyond the tree-line, when I heard an unfamiliar chatter coming from overhead. I looked up and saw 10 robin-sized yellowish birds circling the immediate area before landing in a nearby tree.  It was the irrupting Grosbeaks that have now spread to several areas of the state.  They stuck around only long enough for me to get a few photos before lifting off and heading north.  At 2 pm a single male(below) returned for an equally brief visit.   

  The early reports of the Grosbeaks was reminiscent of the start of the last irruption in 2012.  During that event I photographed a single bird flying over my former yard in the Detroit area. The photos that I got then were so bad that it wasn't until the irruption became common knowledge that I suspected that the bird might be an Evening Grosbeak.  Here is a composite of the bad 2012 photos. You could say this is all just a little case of history repeating because the date of the 2012 observation was...….October 28.

    Before the Grosbeaks showed up today,  I already had enough material to do a blog post.  I had my first Rough-legged Hawk for my yard list on Saturday.  Yesterday I posted that three more passed by.  Today I saw eight more and had much better light to work with than yesterday's heavy overcast.

    Bald Eagles were also busy today. Twice I saw six eagles in the sky at once. 

   A Sharp-shinned Hawk made a low fly-by too.

  The Evening Grosbeaks are the 147th species on the yard list and the fourth that I've added since Saturday.  Beside the Rough-legs, Sunday's Hooded Merganser and yesterday's Snow Buntings also made their debut at my new house.