Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sycamore Warbler: Just like Tex said

   Last November, when I had Wayne County's first ever Rufous Hummingbird in my yard I had several local birders stop by to see it.  One gentleman who came by was 91 year-old Tex Wells. Tex has been one of the top state listers yearly since at least the late 1970's.  A state lister is a birder who tries to see as many species of birds in the state in a calendar year.  Here is a link to Scott Jennex's compilation of state and county lister records. 21th Annual Bird Compilation 2011  On page 23 of the document you'll find the annual State Big Year Records.  Tex has been  in the top 3 state listers every year except 1992. 

   So why am I name dropping Tex Wells( besides trying get people to read my blog)? While talking to him in my yard last November, he asked if I had ever had a Yellow-throated Warbler in my Sycamore trees.  I told him that I hadn't and he explained that they are sometimes called the Sycamore Warbler for their fondness of that tree species.   Fast forward five and a half months later and what do you know?  A Yellow-throated Warbler shows up in one of my Sycamores.  It stuck around for only a minute but long enough for me to get some halfway decent photos of it. 

  Yellow-throated Warbler is now species 117 on my backyard list.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Loon quest takes a Tern

   Early one overcast April morning two years ago, I stepped out my back door when I let my dog out for what dogs do every morning.  I instinctively scanned the skies as birders are prone to do.  When from the east came an unusually shaped bird having a sort of symmetry with black feet sticking out the back roughly the same distance its black head was protruding from the front.  Its white belly showing on every upstroke of its wings.  After a few minutes of flipping through some field guides I identified it as a Common Loon.  Not a bad yard bird for a densely populated suburban neighborhood.  Over the next 3 weeks I saw four more loons flyover.
  A year later right on schedule I had another Common Loon flyover on April 1.  That month between the 1st and 15th I saw 33 loons, with a high of 11 on the 7th.  Of course I had to try to photograph them. Wouldn't you know it on the days with decent lighting they were flying way up.

Exhibit 1.  

While on dreary, gray days they were flying  nearly straight overhead and low.

Exhibit 2.

   The quest for the perfect backyard loon photo resumed today.  We had perfectly clear deep blue skies but true to past experience the two loons I saw today flew so high I had to use binoculars to identify them and they were below the treeline before I could get the camera pointed at them.  The morning wasn't a total write-off though, because while I was taking test shots of gulls flying over making sure the camera settings were correct, I photographed this bird.

   A Caspian Tern.  A new bird for the yard list, number 116. 

  Update: April 9, 2012. I was able to get a better Loon flyby photo in good lighting.

  Totally unrelated bonus blog .
   Question : What is this?
A) a photo of the blue sky with a burned out pixel near the center.
B) a weather balloon at the edge of the atmosphere.
C) the planet Venus in broad daylight.

  Answer : C)   The planet Venus is the 3rd brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon.  It is bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye in daylight.  You just have to look in the exact right spot (at 4:30 pm today it was 71 degrees high just west of due south) in a transparent blue sky(binoculars help to find it initially).  In the heavily cropped inset photo taken this afternoon the shape of the 45% lit phase can be detected.