Monday, September 28, 2009
Because I will be out of town and hopefully getting some good Eastern Birds in the next week. I am headed on a fairly short notice trip to see my alma mater's Golden Buffaloes play the Mountaineers of West Virginia University on Thursday night. In addition I will be seeing college friends in Pittsburgh and D.C. as well as meeting up with others from areas in the East. Hopefully during the trip I will get to do some birding as well, even if it is just casual while other sightseeing.
On the downside there will probably not be any updates along the way, as the laptop is not in my packing plans.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Yellow-rumped Warblers seem to have similar characteristics in the fall as the spring, namely that once you have seen one they are likely to be everywhere.
I did see a good variety of common species, but by far the best light and most entertaining sightings were these Yellow-rumpeds who all worked their way past me in a grove of changing aspen.
In this case Bill Schmoker, who introduced me to the fun of Christmas Bird Counts, shared his sighting details of a Lesser Tern at Six Mile Reservoir in Boulder. Fortunately for me the bird remained in the area and was relocated around midday yesterday. I decided to give the location a shot after work yesterday. From my pics it wouldn't have been clear that the bird on the far shore was a Least Tern, fortunately a fellow birder was there with a scope at the ready, and we were able to reconfirm the id.
Here is a bit tighter crop, again, not enough to go on from here to confirm a rarity, but with the scope we were able to see more detail on the bill and legs and confirm that we were seeing the same individual.
Thanks to Bill for sharing the sighting details, and Art, (I believe), for the view through his scope.
2009 Count: 186
Thursday, September 24, 2009
three full days of Midwestern March weather, in Colorado, in late September. There has been a serious case of socked in, leaden skies around here, and the migrants and birders were none to happy about it. I didn't get any local snow, but could see it falling just above my elevation on the foothills several times this week. Despite it all I ventured out both Tuesday and Wednesday at lunch, and both times came back damp, with very little to show for it.
It was the first time I had seen a Yellow-rumped Warbler, (Audubon's - *note the yellow chin*), in first year winter plumage. Until I got back and had a look at a guide I wasn't aware that Yellow-rumpeds could have so much brown on them. A good close up view, but nothing compared to what I would see as the Yellow-rump passed me by...
A Ruby-crowned Kinglet not more than five feet from me, and ranging from one to four feet off the ground. I have seen this species before, but only breeding males, and only at a distance. Today I had a few good looks from close range. They seem even more tiny up close! The view above is better than what I have typically experienced, a head here, a tail in a different shot - always obscured by leaves or branches, or better - looking up into a pine tree - towards the sun.
This little lady, (maybe a non-breeding male?), was willing to sit in the relative open and give me a few nice looks. Even so this little spec was a constant blur of motion. Capturing it in the dark shade of the plum bush where it was moving proved to be far from ideal, but a satisfactory experience nonetheless.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I have seen one other fire in my life in forest land that was about the same size, I was in Junior High School, hiking to a lake high on the Grand Teton with a church group. Walking back down we saw a plume of smoke about that size and watched it grow as we descended. It became the giant fire that devastated a good portion of Yellowstone National Park. Needless to say I did a quick double take. I quickly noticed the shape of the fire though. Note how it has a wide base, fairly parallel to the flat ground. That is a good indication of a prescribed burn. In a normal fire without significant wind a fire will burn uphill. In that case I would expect a single low point, and an inverted funnel shape going upslope.
Even so, I checked the Boulder County OSMP closure page when I got back and confirmed that it had been planned for today and intentionally set.
Then, the ever challenging flycatcher species. I am thinking Willow Flycatcher after some back and forth.
The closer I look at Flycatchers the less certain I become, but this one seems to meet the Willow field marks, was hanging around in willows, and is in the same location where I have spotted Willow Flycatchers in the past. Seems like a compelling case to me, but if I have missed the obvious feel free to comment.
These two were both a part of a fairly large loose group of birds that I saw as I arrived, and then passed again as I returned up the trail and they moved south along the creek. The group included eight Black-capped Chickadees, one each of the Orange-crowned Warbler and Willow Flycatcher, and the White-breasted Nuthatch below that was just oozing personality and very intrigued by my "pishing".
Yesterday at lunch I had a quick drive west of Superior to see if I could get some lucky migrants in the heat of the day. The Vesper Sparrow (above) wasn't necessarily a migrant, but it was willing to pose in the sunlight.
I also had a full family of Lesser Goldfinches gathered right along the roadside. Mom is the least distinctive, she would be much more difficult to ID if Dad wasn't nearby as well.
He is still looking fairly bright, soon those colors will be much more washed out looking. Unfortunately he did not offer me an angle that showed off his great colors in the sunlight.
Finally there is the teenage son. He is an awkward mix of adult, molting into the telltale yellow and black with a hint of the black cap visible above the eye, and child, pink legs and light portions of the back. Of course like any teenager, always hungry.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Yesterday afternoon I swung by Plaster Reservoir in Broomfield to see if there were any fall migrants about, specifically if there were any early or transient waterfowl arrivals. What I found were more Coots than I have seen there in the past. After squinting against the sun and counting I headed on to McKay Lake which is just down the road and into Adams County. McKay Lake has a great bit of wood land that had been good for warblers in the spring. It has also always been tantalisingly prime Owl habitat, but had yet to produce.
I love the texture in this Owl's plumage coloration. It makes Great Horneds so difficult to see, but when you find them you can lose yourself in the complexity.
Monday, September 14, 2009
One of the early highlights of the day was the Osprey in the previous post. In addition to that I had the chance to observe four new species, three of which I got passable photos of, including the Swainson's Thrush above.
It was really a day of Egrets when looking out over the vegetation surrounding the lake. We kept passing groups of Snowy Egrets in numbers from four to six, and then near the end of the day saw a group of 20 all working through the weeds together. They made a good comparison with the Great Egrets who were far fewer in number.
I was glad for the accompaniment of a much more experienced birder, who was able to help me identify this Cassin's Vireo. The overall olive tinge is a strong field mark distinguishing it from the Plumbeous Vireo which is more gray.
Along with the Cassin's Vireo, Kingbird, and Swainson's Thrush I added a group of Franklin's Gulls to my list, but while distinct through a scope they were just blurry specs on a fully zoomed photograph.
2009 Count: 185
Talk about flying in the catch of the day. Admittedly not the best focused shot I have ever arranged, but when I saw the Osprey crossing the sky in the distance I new I had to start shooting. Here is what the bird looked like in my view finder before cropping:
Friday, September 11, 2009
I had a chance to spend a few long minutes along the banks of Coal Creek at lunch today. It was just about perfect. The temp was perfect, not too hot, not to cold. There was a hint of a breeze to move the leaves just enough to give life to the spots of sunshine that made it through the canopy.
The creek softly babbled as it made its way through the rocky part of its course just to my side, pleasant to hear, but not so loud as to drown out the noises of birds and creatures in the area.
The birding wasn't spectacular for fall migration - I had a group of Northern Flickers fairly close at all times, and am confident but not certain that an Orange-Crowned Warbler was briefly over my shoulder and up-sun from me. In the end though, it didn't matter. I had a moment of pure peace in an otherwise hectic day. I got to savor Mother Nature at her finest, in a spot that is often passed but rarely appreciated or given more than a passing glance. I will be back, new found lunch spot; for the experience, for the calm, but most of all for the birds.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
One of the highlights of yesterday's hike was a few minutes spent at a small pond just before sunset. It was the place to be if you were a shorebird. With my usual disclaimer, (I may be way off on shorebird IDs), enjoy and feel free to correct me where appropriate.
The Solitary Sandpiper, above, was one of a group of three - not feeling so solitary, apparently.
While the Wilson's Snipe was foraging all by itself.
While at Walden Ponds yesterday I had many non-bird encounters. There was a Mule Deer to welcome me as I arrived. The dragon flies were everywhere, and my hands bear evidence to the numbers of mosquitoes that became active at dusk.
I also had a great closeup look at this Snapping Turtle. I watched something dramatically moving vegetation as it approached the shore, and was able to wait quietly until it reached the shore below me.
I had an early morning start at work yesterday, which meant a long free afternoon! I spent it at the Walden & Sawhill Ponds complex in north Boulder. There were lots of birds out and about, I tallied 32 species, one of which - American Bittern - was a lifer, but remained unphotographed. (I saw two individuals fly overhead at dusk and was unable to relocate them in the lake where they landed amongst the log grasses). The waterfowl as always were prolific. I had Wigeons, Blue-winged Teal, Wood Ducks, Canada Geese, and the Pied-Billed Grebes and Mallards pictured in this post.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
These were Chinese Geese, swimming happily in the large pond at Sunset Park in Las Vegas. They are certainly not countable, as they are a released captive flock that are fed and supported by the park staff. They are cool looking birds though, and ran a wide spectrum of light to dark color variation.
Yesterday I finally got back out to see if I could stumble upon any fall migrants. I have been distracted since my Las Vegas trip and haven't been out in the field with camera at all over the holiday weekend.
I did see some early signs of fall, so I believe I had the timing right. Even so, the birds were not present. I still had a beautiful walk along Coal Creek in the evening sunshine - but had a very pedestrian list when complete.
When a Mourning Dove is my sole avian contribution to the post it was clearly a common species day. There were a couple of Red-tailed flyovers and a nice singing Belted Kingfisher, but after a layoff my camera focusing wasn't dialed in and I couldn't seem to get on the birds.