Thursday, January 31, 2013

Soo trip part 2

Sharp-tailed Grouse
    The final day of our birding adventure to the Sault St. Marie area was hindered by a steady freezing rain all morning.  The Sharp-tailed Grouse flock that we missed on day one, were found near the corner of 9 Mile and Nicolete Rd.
     A quick pass down Basnau Rd. at Hulbert Bog yielded only a Bald Eagle and about 50 Black-capped Chickadee.

  Here are some more photos from Day One.

Male Pine Grosbeaks at Dunbar

Female Pine Grosbeak
Distant American Kestrel
Adult Bald Eagles at Dafter Dump

Glaucous Gull at Dafter


Monday, January 28, 2013

Hawks, Owls and a Hawk Owl

   The highlight of day one of my birding trip with Dave Boon to Sault St. Marie had to be the 6 Snowy Owls on the Hantz-Centerline Loop near Rudyard.
Snowy Owl #1

Snowy Owl #2

Snowy Owl #3

Snowy Owl #4

Snowy Owl #5
  There were so many Snowys that we didn't even bother to photograph  the 6th one.

   One of the best birds today was the Dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk in the photo below. 

Dark-Morph Rough-legged Hawk

Same bird as above

Light-Morph Rough-legged Hawk

   The Northern Hawk Owl in the photo striking an I-don't-care pose was the third one we searched for but the only we found.  The other two N. Hawk Owls actually didn't care enough to show up at their recent haunts.
Mr. N. Hawk Owl cared

   One thing I've noticed about my past attempts at photographing Snow Buntings was that they never seem to be in focus.  Today when a group of the buntings were stirred up, Dave noted that they were heading for a nearby tree.  So I pointed the camera at the tree and got a pretty good focus on them as well.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Orion Nebula

    The photo above first appeared in my second ever blog post last March.  The post was about a fruitless attempt to see the Northern Lights.  The photo shows Venus(brightest object on the far right), Jupiter(just left of Venus), the constellation Taurus with the Pleiades star cluster(above the tree, at the top of the frame), and the constellation Orion to the left of the tree.   
    Orion, more specifically its naked eye nebula is where this post is headed.  Orion the Hunter is known for the three belt stars Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka,  which are almost of equal brightness and easily noticed with a casual glance skyward on a winter evening.   The photo below has the constellation circled and a notation pointing to the center star in what is referred to as the three stars of the Sword of Orion which hangs below the three brighter stars of the Belt.

     Although the Sword appears to be composed of 3 ordinary stars, the center star is actually a nebula.  It is the nearest massive region of star formation to the Earth.  It has a mass of about 2000 suns at a distance of  roughly 1340 light years away.  It's unconventional appearance can be detected with an ordinary pair of binoculars.  Through a telescope it looks something like this
Orion Nebula 
    I took this photo today through my Celestron C-8 telescope from the light polluted skies of suburban Detroit.   With a 0.6x focal reducer the exposure was 5.6 seconds, f/6.3, with a 1200mm focal length at ISO 8000. A longer exposure could have yielded more structure and color but moderate winds, scattered clouds and the aformentioned light pollution kept my times less than 10 seconds. At a distance of 1340 lightyears away it means the photons captured by my camera left the nebula back around the year 673.  

Monday, January 7, 2013

Ohio Hummingbird

Rufous Hummingbird at BSBO in northern Ohio, today.

      Plan A for this long weekend was to head to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to try to photograph Snowy, Northern Hawk and possibly Great Grey owls.  That plan was scrapped at 5:00 this morning when I  overslept as a result of not getting to bed until midnight after working a 15 hour shift yesterday.  No longer in the mood  for a 6-hour one-way drive and overnight stay, I checked local bird reports and decided to head to the Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Ohio and try to see the Rufous Hummingbird that has been visiting their feeders since September.  Yes, a hummingbird in January.
      Rufous Hummingbirds are native to western North America with a breeding range that runs from Oregon, Idaho and Montana northward up the Pacific coast to Alaska.  Their normal overwintering grounds are in Mexico, but sometimes a few will cross the Rocky Mountains and spend the winter in the Eastern U.S.  In November 2011  I had a hatch-year female Rufous visit my feeders for a week starting on the 7th.  She was the first Rufous ever in Wayne County, the most populous county in Michigan.   Here are two photos of my Rufous.

  The bird today was very cooperative and showed up every 20 minutes or so, pretty much the same feeding schedule my Rufous had. 
   Around sunset I went to the causeway at Magee Marsh to check for Short-eared Owls.  Didn't find any owls but there were 4 Northern Harriers that were flying low over the marsh in search of prey.  Here are some shots of an adult male Harrier. 

Male Northern Harrier
   The gender of adult Harriers can be determined by color.  The female (not pictured) is brown while the male is grey and they are commonly refered to as the 'Grey Ghost'.  
    Years ago at the LEMP fall Hawkwatch I heard someone tell the following story...... An  experienced  hawk observer noticed the flight pattern of a Northern Harrier approaching from a distance and called out the ID.  A visitor to the migration count site marveled "Wow you must have good binoculars'. As the bird got closer and the color could be observed another veteran birder called out 'It's a male'.  The awestruck visitor  exclaimed 'YOU CAN SEE IT'S GENITALIA?'. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Common Redpoll in the yard

New Year's Day Common Redpoll

  Back in January 2009, I added Common Redpolls to the yard list.  They arrived on the 13th and were seen 45 days straight through February 26.  After a one day absence on the 27th they were at the thistle seed feeders and on the Sycamore trees for 10 days in March before their last visit on the 17th. 
   Early this afternoon I had the bird in the above photo visit for a couple of minutes.  Hopefully it will stick around and bring some friends. 
   Other birds of interest seen from the yard this New Year's Day,  1 American Robin, 6 Mute Swans, 28 Canada Geese, and 1 American Kestrel.
  For my yardlist I count all birds that I can see from the yard.  This tree is actually about a block away. We used to live two streets over and I never saw a Kestrel from that yard.  Funny thing is that the tree the bird is in, is actually closer to my old house than to my current house.