Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spring Migration

    The northward movement of birds to their summer breeding grounds took a big step forward today.  Above is a photo of Tundra Swans that were travelling from a staging area somewhere in the eastern Great Lakes to the next staging area in the upper plains.  I earlier had seen two other flocks of over 100 birds each.
    Last March 13 I saw over 2200 Tundras fly over my yard which were all moving in the same WNW direction as today's birds.  In December last year the few flocks I saw were moving in the exact opposite ESE direction.
   Besides the Tundra Swans I also had several first of the year yard birds such as Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Killdeer, Golden-crowned Kinglet and Sharp-shinned Hawk.
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

   I had a nice raptor migration over the deck today that included 4 Bald Eagles, 7 Turkey Vultures, 1 Red-shouldered Hawk, 4 Red-tailed Hawks, 2 Coopers and 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks.
Immature Bald Eagle

Local (not-migrating)Red-shouldered Hawk

I'm going with middle bird being a Cooper's and the other two being Sharpies

Merlin at Ludington State Park this morning

Winter Wren 3/27/2017

  After a walk on the south breakwater of Ludington Harbor, I found a Winter Wren at the boat launch behind the Pere Marquette Monument.  Dave Dister says this sighting beat the early spring record by one day.

  From the south pier I spotted a Common Loon cruising through the harbor.
   I also was able to photograph one of the male Red-breasted Mergansers, who were the most numerous species tallied.

Horned Grebes at Pt. Mouillee 3/25/2017

  While in southeast Michigan on Saturday I was able to spend some time photographing Horned Grebes at the Pt Mouillee Headquarters. 
  The grebes appeared in almost the whole array of plumages
Horned Grebe in basic plumage (non-breeding)

Transition between basic and alternate plumages

Getting close to full alternate plumage

  Back closer to home on Sunday in a search for previously reported White-fronted Geese I came up empty but found the following birds.
Snow Goose
American Kestrel

Rough-legged Hawk
Pair of Hooded Mergansers

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch 3/16/2017

  March is the beginning of raptors passing through Michigan from their overwintering sites to their summer breeding grounds. Around the middle of this month eagles and some large hawks make a significant push along their favored routes.  As they pass north through the lower peninsula they are funneled toward the Straits of Mackinac in order to navigate to the UP and points beyond. 
  Today I traveled to the Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch in Mackinaw City in hopes of observing this yearly phenomena. 

Here are some photos taken from the watch location.
   More than 260 Golden Eagles have been counted in the month of March in each of the last two years.

Golden Eagle
   This Bald Eagle was determined to be one of a local pair.

Rough-legged Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk
  Finally an update on the planet Venus.  We are just 9 days from Venus moving from the evening sky to the morning sky.  It now displays a 4% illuminated crescent the spans almost on arc minute in diameter (for reference the Moon is 30 arc minutes in diameter).

Friday, March 10, 2017

Snowy Owl, Mason County

  Dave Dister left a message on my phone about 11 Ross's Geese initially found by Linda Scribner in Free Soil Twp, Mason County.  By the time I arrived at the location on US-31 the only geese at the location were Canadas, but a Snowy Owl was a nice consolation prize. 
   I later refound the Rosss' a couple of miles south on Fountain Rd they were too far out in a field to even get an ID photo.  Here the consolation birds were Rough-legged Hawks.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

What Iss It?


   At first (through maybe ten) glance(s) the above photo appears to be an empty or extremely underexposed black field.  It is neither.
   Here is the technical data of the image....
                                                Time/Date.........0643 AM/March 4, 2017.
                                                Exposure..........1/1250 sec @ f/16 at ISO 2500
                                                Focal Length ..700mm (500mm x 1.4x teleconverter)
                                                Camera.............Canon 5d Mark IV

  This version of the photo highlights the location of the subject.

   A closer crop reveals there actually is something in the photo. But what? A planet?

    No.  A tighter crop shows the subject has an irregular shape to it.
   A plane?
  Nope, it's the International Space Station.  The 356' wide object was 264 miles from my driveway when I took the handheld photo.  I'm somewhat pleased with the result that I was able to attain with  my manually-focused lens at an effective 700mm focal length (500mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter).

   Things closer to my house than the ISS was when I took this photo....
                           Wrigley Field Chicago, IL.............153 miles
                           Ford Field Detroit, MI...................204 miles
                           Fort Wayne, IN..............................209 miles
                           Crane Creek SP, OH......................231 miles
                           Dubuque, IA..................................236 miles
                           Point Pelee NP Ontario.................243 miles
                           Copper Harbor, MI........................251 miles
                           Winona, MN..................................260 miles