For several months now my wife and I have been planning our trip to Boston to visit our oldest son. All the details had to be covered, from airfare, to the Airbnb we we’re going to stay in, to side trips.
So one of our side trips was a 2 hour drive to Portland Maine to do your typical sightseeing. However one thing came under my radar about 2 weeks prior to our departure. It seems a Little Egret was sighted at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center just 5 minutes from downtown Portland. This is an exciting bird, and one I was hoping to seeing. So I started to watch the internet to make sure the bird was still being seen. And it was.
And even the day we were driving to Portland I called the gift shop to ask if the bird we there, and he told me as far as he knew it was even though no one confirmed it.
Gilsland Farm isn’t a huge place so checking out the area along the river wasn’t too much of an effort, however as much as I looked in all the spots where the bird was sighted on previous days, there was no bird now. This was disappointing.
Since we wanted to visit other places we had to leave without picking up this life bird. So we drove back into the city and parked the car, and started out. We were walking along Commercial Street looking at all the shops and restaurants, I couldn’t help but notice birds swimming between some of the wharfs. I hurried down and much to my surprise there were some Common Eiders. A new life bird! I didn’t bring my camera this trip so there are no pictures, so you’ll have to take my word for it.
So I may have dipped on the Little Egret, but not the Common Eider, so it wasn’t a total bust.
“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.
What’s going on? Birding two days in a row! Maybe I’m feeling better and decided to follow up and do a little chasing of a pair of Long-tailed Ducks that are showing real well at East Fork State Park. But what got my spidey-senses tingling were the rumors of a Western Grebe also being seen.
So after working out at the YMCA this morning, I ran home to clean up, then out the door to get to East Fork. Now granted a Western Grebe would be an outstanding bird for this area, however the one I spotted myself back in January of 2016 was the last one that was recorded in this area I believe.
Now I could see the confusion when looking at a Horned Grebe in winter plumage, with it’s black cap extending just below the eyes, with loads of white showing on the neck area. I did spot a couple of Horned Grebes as I scanned the area, but no Western Grebes.
Just below the dam at East Fork was where I found the male and female Long-tailed Ducks. It’s been a pretty good winter for this species what with more and more reports coming in from all over the state of this beautiful bird. Even though they kept their distance, I was able to snap off a couple of good shots.