Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Junco and the Merlin 4/8/2021


  This morning just before the rain sent me inside something caused the small birds at and under my feeders to scatter. As the other birds fled a single Dark-eyed Junco remained on the ground frozen in fear.  Luckily an alert Merlin swooped in like Superman and grabbed the Junco and carried it away to safety.  I never did see what startled the birds but I'd say that the Junco owes the heroic Merlin a meal.

   On Monday I saw this low Common Loon fly over my house.
  Northern Flickers are building in numbers as they migrate north along the lakeshore flyway. 

 I've been seeing Wood Ducks flying over the lake nearly every day so far this month.

Cooper's Hawk

Monday, March 22, 2021

Red-throated Loon. 3/21/2021

      Sunday morning from my deck I noticed a loon about half a mile offshore, through my 10x binoculars.  I grabbed my spotting scope and telephoto lens and headed to the edge of the bluff to get a better view.  The bright white on its face, throat and sides made it relatively easy to spot with the naked eye despite the challenging distance.  

   After a series of unsharp photos and a half-hour of observing it through the scope, It became clear that it was a Red-throated Loon as opposed to the more common, albeit out-of-season Common Loon.  It's another addition to the yard list, bringing it to 156.  I actually did a calculation of the loons distance and came up with a distance of 2800 feet. The bird was so small in the full frame that the photo would have to have been enlarged up to 10 feet by 15 feet in order for the loon to be 2.5" in length.  And that was with a 500mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter.

  Just before the loon appeared I had a first-of-the-year Purple Finch visit my feeder.  The year list for the yard is at 55 about 15 ahead of this point last year.


Friday, March 19, 2021

Looking Kinda Hoary 3/19/2021


      Up to 30 Common Redpolls have been visiting my yard just about every day since early November and despite my best efforts I had unable to turn one into a Hoary Redpoll,  That changed Tuesday when I spotted a lightly streaked, stubby-billed, white-rumped Redpoll visiting my backyard feeders.  I was able to get a series of poorly lit, unsharp photos through dirty windows that had been blasted by wind-blown sand all winter.  I put together a composite of the photos to try to make the case for a Hoary ID.

  The composite shot looked promising even showing a side view of the reliably diagnostic white under-tail coverts.  But a side view isn't as good as a view from straight-on or underneath.  Today the bird returned after an unexcused absence on Thursday and cooperated by revealing the under-tail in a couple of different settings.  First it posed as it consumed sunflower hearts on one of my feeders.
  Next it landed in a small Weeping Willow next to my driveway.  From that position I was able to get right under the bird and get shots of the under-tail coverts.  The only problem was that it so close that my camera lens couldn't focus on it as I stood underneath it.  Instead I had to lay on the driveway in order to be outside my 500mm lens's  15' minimum focal distance.

  The Hoary Redpoll is the 155th species on the yardlist and the third addition to the list this week.  The other two were a Carolina Wren on Sunday and a House Sparrow on Monday.
   Although I have seen dozens of House Sparrows along the US-10 corridor in Ludington I had yet to see one in the yard of either of the houses that I've owned since I moved here 6 years ago.  At my old house in Wayne County I was plagued with up to 300 of them at a time on cold snowy winter days, when they would empty my feeders almost as quick as I could fill them. But here in Mason County I had accumulated 164 species (153 species at this house and 11 additional species outside the Venn Diagram intersection of the 143 birds seen at the house that I sold last year) before my yard was (dis?)graced with this invasive nuisance.

  Other birds of interest today were....

....Tundra Swans which totaled 190 in two flocks as they flew across Lake Michigan. 

.....the first Sandhill Cranes of the year

 and a kettle of 10 Common Ravens.  

  Thanks to Matt McConnell, Dave Dister, Allen Chartier, Derek Sallman and Matt Young for help in the confirmation of the Hoary Redpoll.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Merlin 1/31/2021


    Yesterday morning a commotion occurred at my back window as a Mourning Dove franticly sought shelter under my second story deck.  When it found a secure hiding spot, the Merlin that tormented it chose to keep a watchful eye on it from a shepherd's hook at my bird feeding station. Ultimately patience paid off for the dove as the Merlin flew off seeking easier prey elsewhere.

  Only other birds of interest that I've been able to photograph since my last post were a flock of Redheads offshore at the end of December.

   Back on December 22 a freighter passing by at night caught my attention.  A quick check on ID'd it as the Arthur M Anderson.  The Anderson's historical significance is that it was the last freighter to have contact with the Edmund Fitzgerald on its ill-fated journey in November 1975.

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.