I agree with Chris's post, May is too hectic for birding, homework, and doing blogs! If you haven't seen his blog you can check it out in my Links section.
Anyway, last Sunday (May 18), I did my Big Day (Baillie Birdathon) around the Sault, seeing 135 species, and setting a new record for Algoma District. It was a pretty crappy day for weather, with cold winds and rain most of the day. Despite that, I managed a few good birds including 3 Trumpeter Swans, 2 male Ruddy Ducks, the White-eyed Vireo, and a Le Conte's Sparrow. If you include WPBO on May 17, my 2-day list was 148, and a Northern Waterthrush on May 19 brought my weekend list to 149. Year birds: Trumpeter Swan, Virginia Rail, Sora, Whip-poor-will, Chimney Swift, Tennessee Warbler, and Wilson's Warbler.
Monday, May 19 I biked to the Locks in the morning, wasn't all that productive except for the aforementioned waterthrush. That night, I went to watch the swifts with John and a guy from the Netherlands who is volunteering at OFRI. I took a video, and counted them up the next day...2302 swifts! Compared to the 500 or so last year, that's quite a few!
Thursday, May 22 - took my friend to see the swifts, there were still about 1000 birds there...possibly new arrivals?
Saturday, May 24 - Well, the weather finally decided to be decent for a day, so I biked down to the Locks in the early morning. Found Red-eyed Vireo and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher for the year list, plus some warblers and a Bonaparte's Gull. I added 11 species to my Bigby list as well. In the later morning, we had a yard sale, and I saw and heard a Least Sandpiper flying over the house, yard bird #93!
Sunday, May 25 - Orchard Oriole and tons of warblers at the point on the 24th! Kirk and I headed out there for today, to see what else was around. We somehow managed to miss a Eurasian Tree Sparrow that was there sometime while we were wandering the woods...that's what we get for not taking radios! Anyway, there were a few warblers around, and I added Blackpoll to the year list. We also had a pair of Black-bellied Plovers at the Tahquamenon Rivermouth, another year bird. There were quite a few birds leftover from yesterday, and maybe some new migrants, but we managed to find 5(!) Indigo Buntings in one little area...not a bird I get to see that often. We also found a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher in with the Leasts, #197 for my point list. I finally caught up with Cedar Waxwing, a species that I should've seen back in January. There are a lot of winter finches migrating through, with Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins, Purple Finches, and American Goldfinches, all species that were surprisingly absent through the winter. Guess they all went down to Texas! Anyway, the highlight of the day was an adult Lark Sparrow that I managed to find while sitting at the feeder talking to Kirk and Ken Mety Jr! It was a little skittish, but I managed a few decent shots, which will be up here along with many others probably tomorrow afternoon. It was in fresh breeding plumage, and was by far the brightest individual of this species I've ever seen. Also, as a bonus, it was new for all my area lists! (#198 for WPBO, #264 for SSM, and #255 for MI)
On Saturday, Kirk, his dad, and I headed over to WPBO. On the way we cruised by 10-mile Rd. and found the Sharp-tailed Grouse still on the lek, and added Bobolink to the yearlist.
WPBO was pretty slow, due to the cold temps and strong west winds. I did add Evening Grosbeak, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Eastern Bluebird to the yearlist though. When 10 am. came around and only 3 species of warblers (5 individuals) had come out to eat, we figured we'd be better off heading inland. Our suspicions proved correct, and at the Tahquamenon Rivermouth campground we had quite a few warblers, including Blackburnian, Orange-crowned, Magnolia, Pine, and Canada. Blue-headed Vireos were also around, and we found 2 Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a rarity in this part of the state. Then we headed off to Trout Lake to try our luck at finding Spruce Grouse (my nemesis bird, although I have seen a pair back in 1999). Of course, we didn't find any. People say there are reliable sites, I've been to them at least 10 times each and never seen a SPGR. Maybe sometime... Anyway, we found some other good birds, and added Cape May Warbler and Vesper Sparrow to the yearlist. Then it was back home via 10-mile Rd. again (found Eastern Kingbird), and the Locks (added Chestnut-sided Warbler and Clay-colored Sparrow). We finished the day with 99 species, and I added 12 year birds.
So, the streak of rarities in the Sault continues! I heard from Kirk that somebody saw a WEVI down at the Locks yesterday, so I decided to see if it was true. Turns out it was, and I found the vireo pretty quickly. On the bigby list (#125), and a new bird for me in SSM! Also had a ton of singing Yellow Warblers and American Redstarts, along with a few other warbler sp. I ran into Ken who is back from field work, and told him about the vireo. He saw it, along with a bunch of other things that I hadn't seen just 2 hours before!! Why were they quiet when I was there??? Anyway, it's a good sign, as I am trying a Big Day on Sunday, hoping to break my last year's total of 121 (aiming for 140). In the hour or so I was at the Locks and Bellevue, I found about 65 sp. And that's in the middle of the day! Philadelphia Vireo was also new for my year list.
WPBO has had some good birds this month, unfortunately I haven't been there to see any! Hopefully I will get over there tomorrow for a while.
Here are my shots...it didn't come out into the open unfortunately.
Did a woodcock survey up by Searchmont last night, with Jim Hayden and Glen Brown. We had a total of 27 woodcock on the survey, a pretty decent number considering the habitat. Also had Hermit and Swainson's Thrushes, Veery, Canada Warbler, several other warblers, a pair of Merlin, a Broad-winged Hawk which flew right over our heads, 2 American Bitterns calling, and several snipe. The peepers and toads are really singing now, and some stops it was hard to hear anything else!
Ok, so some of the readers here (if there are any??? Please comment!!!) might not get the song reference that is the title today (Rainy Monday - Shiny Toy Guns), but it was indeed rainy. Nonetheless, I figured it'd be good at the Locks, so I drove down there in the rain. Luckily, I brought an umbrella, but I still got pretty wet. It was pretty good despite the rain, with 63 species. 9 species of shorebirds was definitely the highlight, with 60 birds total, not a number you usually see around the Sault! Also had quite a few Lapland Longspurs, some of which were almost in breeding plumage. New for the year were 12 Semipalmated Plover, Short-billed Dowitcher, Common Yellowthroat, Magnolia Warbler, and Canada Warbler.
John Ralston just got back into town today, and called me around 5 p.m. to say he had a possible Willet down at Bellevue. So, what did I do? You got it - hopped on the bike and headed down there. I biked past the Tufted Duck on the way, then set up the scope to look for shorebirds. The Willet was there, a little further out than when John saw it, actively feeding with 3 Lesser Yellowlegs. Another new bird for my SSM list (#262)!!! It was too far out for any good photos, but if any of my digiscoped ones turn out to be ID'able then I'll post them here soon.
Yesterday morning I biked down around Bellevue, adding American Redstart to the year list. The Tufted Duck was still there, so I decided that kayaking out to it might get me some better photos. Of course, by the time I got back down there with the kayaks, it had moved over to the Marina. Jim Evans was there photographing it, along with his friends Steffon Mcgregor and Chris (whose last name I didn't catch). Jim sent me one of his photos with his Nikon D300, definitely better than anything I got. The light was nice from the kayak, and the birds let me get closer than they did when I was on land, although the difference wasn't all that great.
Black-and-White Warbler at the Locks - May 10
Northern Rough-winged Swallow at Bellevue - May 11
Biked down to the Locks this morning, about half an hour after sunrise (I was tired). Most of the warblers from recent days have moved on, although there was still good diversity, with 9 species. Ran into Stan Phippen there who said he'd had 2 more before I got there. The only shorebirds were a Least Sandpiper and a couple Killdeer. Scored one new bird for the year here - Warbling Vireo - as well as added Nashville Warbler to my Bigby list.
Then I continued to Bellevue where I found a Rose-breasted Grosbeak (male), another new bird for the year. The Marbled Godwit from May 6 is still there, somewhat of a surprise given that the Western Tanager has gone and the Tufted Duck hasn't been seen since last night (by my friend and I). I ended up putting a good 14 km on my bike, and I forgot to add to my last post that I did 23.5 km that day.
The Yellow-rumps and Palms have been coming through in good numbers these last few days, hopefully a sign that more numbers of other warblers are close behind!
Ok, well...for anybody who reads this post, my apologies for not being very up-to-date about my postings. I have had quite the week, with final projects, homework, and the rare birds that seem to pop up almost everywhere! From May 3-May 8, I personally have seen 6 rare birds for the Sault Area, 5 of them new for my list, and one of them a lifer! I also managed to find a few of them!! This post will be a long one, so I'll try to keep everything short and to the point as I detail the events of the last 6 days, starting with May 3, when it all began. Photos up shortly.
May 3, 2008 I was up early to lead a hike for the Sault Naturalists, meeting at 6. It was pretty foggy and wet to start with, and was supposed to rain more later in the day. Luckily, the fog eventually lifted and it didn't rain. The front that went through caused a mini-fallout at the Locks, with birds all over the place. New year birds were Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White-crowned Sparrow, Black-throated Green Warbler, Ovenbird, Nashville Warbler, Least Flycatcher, Short-eared Owl, and Northern Rough-winged Swallow. After that, I headed to Bellevue Park, where I added a Purple Finch. I then went home to work on my Chemistry ISU, but decided what with the storm front just gone through, there was too much birding opportunity to work. So, I hopped in the truck and headed off east of town. Found Caspian Terns in Echo Bay, and...a Ruddy Duck in Bruce Mines!!! Another SSM lifer. Ended the day with 89 species, many of them new for the year.
May 4, 2008 Avoiding homework again, I headed down to Pte. LaBarbe in St. Ignace with Kirk to try for Great Egret and whatever else we could find. Had a Sharp-tailed Grouse sit right beside the road for us, even giving us an example of his display dance. At the Pointe, added American Pipit, Northern Waterthrush, and Great Egret to the year list. My second rarity! 66 species in the morning, and...finished my ISU in time!!
May 5, 2008 Ok, so I didn't go birding today, but it was rainy. Ken found a Lark Sparrow up in Stokely which I didn't bother chasing, as the area is private property and hard to get to.
May 6, 2008 Freshly out of the shower at 8:15 am, I get a call from Ken - Marbled Godwit at Bellevue!!! So, I hop on my bike and pedal down there as fast as I can. I managed a good enough look to ID it, but had to get to school. All day, I was itching to get back down there and photo it, so after school I went down there again. I crept up to the bird out on the mudflats, where another photographer whose name I didn't quite catch was already waiting. I laid in among the rocks while he walked out in the water to try for a shot. He managed to spook the bird, and it came right over to me!!! I got some great shots from less than 30 feet of this rarity. Also added Yellow Warbler and Common Tern to the year list.
May 7, 2008 Another rainy day, and I had a job interview. Unfortunately, my interviewer was unable to come, but while there I had Alder Flycatcher, Baltimore Oriole, (both new for the year) and many warblers which I couldn't ID without the binocs. It looked like fallout material, so I decided to head out - again! Got home to check emails and discovered that there was a Northern Mockingbird at the Locks (found by Ken), so I decided to head there. Didn't find the mockingbird, but had a fallout (in Sault terms...not in TX or Pt. Pelee terms) of all kinds of birds. Sparrows, warblers, flycatchers, Kinglets and more were everywhere! I also found a Lesser Black-backed Gull while down there, another rarity and new for my SSM list! Other new birds for the year were Black-throated Blue Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, Least Sandpiper, Lincoln's Sparrow, and Gray Catbird, all in a light drizzle. After that, I went to Bellevue Park, where there were more warblers, the Marbled Godwit was still there, and some new ducks for the day. By now, I was late for supper, so I had to head home. As soon as I got home...what do I see? A little note on the counter that says..."Ken called to say he has a Western Tanager in the clump of trees at the tip of Topsail Island at Bellevue"!!!! So, I biked down there in the continuing rain, and got crazy close looks of the Western Tanager (#150 for SSM yearlist), my 5th rarity in 5 days, and another new one for SSM! Had 67 species today.
May 8, 2008 So, what with the rain yesterday, and the Western Tanager showing up, I thought it'd be a good idea to get out in the early morning. I biked down to the Locks, where I met up with Ken. Bob and Joanne Knudsen were also there, seeing what was around. There were quite a few more warblers around, along with my first Lapland Longspur, Northern Parula, House Wren, and Swainson's Thrush for the year. Saw some good birds, but the mockingbird and LBBG weren't around. Then I biked to Bellevue, where my main purpose was to photo the Western Tanager if it was still around. Indeed it was, and I got some frame-filler shots as it flitted around, catching bugs with the warblers. Then it was time for me to go to school. All day, I sat wondering what else was around, that I was missing. After school, I biked home, and what do I find? Another note on the counter... with a little drawing of a TUFTED DUCK on it. "David, Tufted Duck at Bellevue Park..where the GScaup are - Ken, 11:55 am". Are you kidding me right now? So, I hopped on my bike, and managed to average about 30km/h on the way down there (this is on a cheap mountain bike, while going down metre-wide paths and half-decent roads, dodging people walking their dogs). Anyway, I got down to Topsail Island, where I thought I had my best chances. I took a quick peek in the harbour, but there wasn't anything there...or so I thought. I spent about 20 minutes biking around Topsail, scanning all available waterfront, all to no avail (although I did pick up some new ones for the day). While I was sitting down, scanning, I saw Ken's van, and decided to go ask him where he'd seen it. Halfway there, I noticed some scaup in the harbour..and...wait -- what's that weird-looking one? TUFTED DUCK!!!! In the harbour no less, 20 feet from shore!!! I got out the camera and binocs, and spent the next 45 minutes studying and photoing the bird, with Ken there, and even my mom showed up to see it. With this bird, I had a total of 71 species for the day. Tufted Duck was an ABA lifer for me, and so close to home too! My 6th rarity in as many days, who knows what the days to come will bring? I added 17 species to my Bigby list today, #100 was a Lesser Yellowlegs, and finished the day at 115, only 35 short of my goal. I've also had close to 130 species in the last week, a number I hope to surpass on my Big Day this year.
Through all of this, you're probably wondering...where are these photos he keeps talking about? Don't worry, they will be here, I just need to go through the 1300+ photos I've taken in the last week and find the best ones. They'll be up...maybe tomorrow. Depends if I have to go see another rarity! (or do homework...bleh).
I've finally recovered enough to get out and about again, and I was down at the Locks yesterday morning with Ken, and then again today by myself, with a side-trip to Bellevue Park. Saw some new stuff, other warblers have finally arrived! New birds for my SSM year in the last two days are:
Palm Warbler Black-and-White Warbler Pine Warbler Spotted Sandpiper Peregrine Falcon Brown Thrasher Bonaparte's Gull
Other than those, I've seen about 60 species in the last two days. The weather for this weekend isn't looking too great, but you never know what might show up!
I haven't had too many photo-ops recently, and what photos I do have are still on the camera. I'll post a few once I get some good ones.