“Life Bird #455″
On April 22nd in the small hamlet of Fennville Michigan, at the waster water treatment facility a birder was checking out all the waterfowl that had congregated on the 3 small holding ponds. Amongst all the Lesser Scaup, Buffelheads, Horned Grebes, Mallards and Blue-winged Teal was a Scaup species with a all black back. That’s no Scaup, that’s a Tufted Duck!
I’ve been keeping tabs on this bird as soon as it was posted on the ABA Rare Bird Alert Facebook page.
The duck seemed pretty content and would leave from time to time, but always returning to the same location. So when Sunday morning came and the weather turned from rainy to sunny, I figured why not chase it. What are my chances of ever seeing a bird like this unless I’m on the East coast where they seem to show up somewhat regularly. It was a 330 mile one way trip, and I really wanted to drive home after seeing the bird. So off I went.
Being a Sunday morning traffic was pretty light until I got to Kalamazoo, but still it wasn’t that bad. I got to Fennville, found the waste water treatment facility at 3:10 pm.
Even at a distance of 700 feet, I quickly re-found the bird and was able to assist other birders find it. Owning a spotting scope sure does pay off at times like these.
Most of the time while I was there it kept it’s head tucked so you weren’t able to see it’s tell tale “tuft”. So when it finally raised it’s head I just started snapping away in hopes of capturing one head shot with the Tuft showing.
The bottom photo I included to show the color comparison on the back between the Lesser Scaup and the Tufted Duck.
It was a long day and I didn’t get home till after 10 pm, however I got my lifer # 455!
One of my new pet projects is to collect the Warbler photos I’ve taken over the years, delete the bad ones and store the average to above average ones in a new album on my Flickr page. The recent posting of my Prairie Warbler photos was the first in the hopes of getting decent shots to fill in the many blanks.
If you’re interested in my Warbler Album on Flickr, the link is below.
So yesterday I decided to head off to a local park where Louisiana Waterthrush can be common in the Spring. The park has a trail that cuts through a gorge with a nice flowing stream which is perfect. It was pretty quiet as I approached the area where they’ve been spotted recently. I hear their familiar song first. Now the tough part, locating the bird.
It takes several minutes before I’m able to get on the bird, then move into position to snap off dozens of shots before settling on this one.
As I was about to leave for the day and head home I decided to check my local birding Facebook page to see what’s going on. Well it turns out Ellis Lake has a Wilson’s Phalarope and 2 Cattle Egrets. So off I go.
The birds in question weren’t either in the lake, they were in the agricultural field that was partially flooded from all the rain, and the fact that the area sits in a real low lying area that’s prone to floods. The park sits so low that bordering the park sits the ancient remains of the Miami-Erie Canal.
Well the cattle Egrets were pretty easy to tick off.
Now the Wilson’s Phalarope was another matter all together. From what I gathered from other birders was that an eagle flew overhead and scattered the flock of wading birds and moved them all further away and a little more difficult to observe. So trekking out into the muddy and through standing water i was able to get some terrible photos of a great bird.
Setophaga discolor, or prairie Warbler is one of those Warblers that have eluded me photographically for a very long time. Granted I’ve had plenty of great looks in the past, but to get one in the view finder and get off a decent shot has proved difficult for me.
So today before the rain moved in I was off to East Fork State Park from what I’ve heard is a pretty good spot for Prairie Warblers. The area in question is the road that leads back to the horseman’s camp on the same road that you access the park campground. Being on the north side of the lake I found that driving there was much closer and easier than driving to the beach area. All told it was just over 30 minutes to drive there.
It wasn’t long after I got there and walked around a bit before I heard my first of several Prairie Warblers.
It’s the beginning of April in the Ohio Valley. The outside temperatures are warming, and some of our early migrating birds are starting to show up like Pine Warblers, Louisiana Waterthrush, Eastern Phoebes, and the increase of Yellow-rumped Warblers. Early April is also the time us birders in southern Ohio start looking for Vesper Sparrows as the pass through to breed further north. Unfortunately for us our window of opportunity is narrow as the proceed further north in the breed.
Found in open country feeding mostly along the roadsides and open areas within grasslands, they associate alongside Brewer’s, Savannah, and Lark Sparrow’s. Blending in with their surroundings, they can be tricky to spot, but if you happen to spook one, you’ll notice their familiar white edges on the tail. The classic field mark for this bird.
So one of the best places in town to find them is Armleder Park. Located along the Little Miami River, this 305 acre park is a flat, and prone to flooding with great habitat for grassland birds, especially Sparrows. This is the same park that years earlier I was part of a field trip that spooked up a Yellow Rail. Unbelievable!
But yesterday it was about Vesper Sparrows, and luck was on my side.
Armleder Park this time of year is home to soccer fields galore. I arrived early enough to walk the fields and find the birds as the feed in the dried patches of grass or along the edge of the sidewalks.