24 September 2010

Blog hiatus

The title says it all.

15 September 2010

Sabine's Gull

Ashley and I found a juvenile SABINE'S GULL this evening at Jester Park, Polk County.  Here are some distant but identifiable photos:

Here is the SAGU sitting with 2 Ring-billed Gulls and a Franklin's Gull:

Speaking of Franklin's Gulls, there was a flock of 300+ viewable from Jester.  Also present were 25+ Caspian Terns, 22 Sanderlings, and a Peregrine Falcon.

There were several small flocks of BAIRD'S SANDPIPERS around the lake as well.  Here is one I photographed at Cherry Glen:

13 September 2010


Some of you know that I keep very close tabs on the birds I've seen in my yard.  Well, today we hit a milestone: 100 species on the yard list.

The ironic thing is that this morning I was sitting at 99 but ended up with 2 new ones in less than an hour!  First was a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH calling from an ornamental spruce by our parking lot.  It seems that there was a fairly big push of these guys recently as I've seen multiple other reports of RBNU's in the last day or so.

Secondly, and most bizarre to me, was a WINTER WREN that was foraging along some bushes right by our porch!  I would have expected a Winter Wren along the stream later in the year but I'll take it either way!

11 September 2010

The return of Nelson's...

Ashley and I searched for sparrows today at Harrier Marsh in Boone County... and found some.  

First things first, Marsh and Sedge wrens were plentiful as usual.  Today, the curious bird in the morning light was a SEDGE WREN:

Apparently, it spotted me as well:

We then stumbled on our first LE CONTE'S SPARROWS of the season.  We ended the morning with at least 2 LCSP's... here are some shots of the confusing juveniles:

The highlight was finding our target species, NELSON'S SPARROWS.  The aspect that caught me off-guard was finding multiple NESP's together at the same spot (a first for me).  For a bit, there were at least 2 NESP's in the same field of view even!  We ended the morning with a surprising 4-5 different NESP's:

Something that almost always jumps out on NESP's are the bold, white stripes down the back (as you can see on this photo):

At one point, both a juvenile LE CONTE'S SPARROW and a NELSON'S SPARROW were in the same bush:

According to the early-late dates summary from the IOU, today is the 3rd earliest fall arrival for both species (excluding a couple summer records of LCSP).

It was a windy and dewy morning out there but it goes to show that getting out of your car and actually bush-whacking can pay off!!

08 September 2010

9 warbs, 5 vireos, 4 wrens

Ashley and I couldn't pass up such a nice afternoon here in central Iowa.  We went over to Harrier Marsh to check things out.

There wasn't much in the way of sparrows (just Song & Swamp) but we still enjoyed the walk-around.

A SORA was a nice sound to hear again, it had been a while.  Secondly, we managed good looks of both SEDGE WRENS and MARSH WRENS.  Here is a MAWR that couldn't pass up a closer inspection of us:

Maybe the most common bird was the ubiquitous COMMON YELLOWTHROAT.  Here is a first fall male:

One thing that stood out were the flocks of BOBOLINKS around the marsh.  I would estimate 50-100 were seen flushing out and flying about among other blackbirds.  Here are a couple shots of some perched:

Anyone out there know their Iowa amphibians?  I photographed these two different frogs today and suspect they are Leopard Frogs.  Problem is... we can't decide if they're Plains or Northern.  Some appear to even show marks of both!

We ended at Emma McCarthy Lee Park in Ames looking for migrants.  Once we found the flocks, it was an enjoyable couple hours; we had 9 species of warblers, 5 species of vireos, and many other migrants.  Things that come to mind include:

Golden-winged Warbler (1)
Tennessee Warbler
Northern Parula (1)
Magnolia Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Wilson's Warbler
Canada Warbler
American Redstart

Warbling Vireo (1)
Philadelphia Vireo (2)
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo (1)

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1)
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Carolina & House Wrens

06 September 2010

Northeast Iowa

Ashley and I spent a quick 24 hours up in northeast Iowa this weekend birding at Yellow River and Mines of Spain (Dubuque).  Although conditions were a bit breezy and buggy for prime birding, we managed 17 species of warblers among many other migrants.  Here are some highlights and pictures...


Considering what I have been used to here in central Iowa, the numbers of warblers we saw (despite the conditions) was pretty enjoyable.  I'm not sure if we have had a 16-warb-day in Iowa before.  Anyway, here is our warbler list, in order from most abundant to least abundant: 

(YR = Yellow River, MS = Mines of Spain):

American Redstart (20+, YR, MOS)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (20+, YR, MOS)
Tennessee Warbler (20+ YR, MOS)
Magnolia Warbler (10+, YR, MOS)
Black-and-white Warbler (10+, YR, MOS)
Nashville Warbler (10+, MOS)
Common Yellowthroat (5+, YR, MOS)
Black-throated Green Warbler ( 5+, YR, MOS)
Blackburnian Warbler (3, YR, MOS)
BLUE-WINGED WARBLER (3, MOS) - Perhaps the most surprising this trip.
Ovenbird (3, YR, MOS)
Bay-breasted Warbler (2, YR, MOS)
Northern Parula (1, MOS)
Northern Waterthrush (1, MOS)
Golden-winged Warbler (1, MOS) - It took us a while but we eventually found a singleton.
Wilson's Warbler (1, MOS) - Not sure why we had so few!  
ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER (1, YR) - A pretty early bird, one of our better finds.

Some misses (for one reason or another) included:
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Canada Warbler - We're past peak here in IA but I'm still surprised we missed this.
Mourning Warbler - Same goes for MOWA's.


We had only 2 BAY-BREASTED WARBLERS but this male put on a decent show:

One of the most common warbler species were MAGNOLIA WARBLERS.  Here is one keeping it's eye on something above it:


We managed 4 species but missed Blue-headed:

Red-eyed Vireo - Abundant!
Yellow-throated Vireo - Surprisingly common, we probably had 5+
Philadelphia Vireo - 3
Warbling Vireo - 1 (not surprising, it's getting late for these guys)

The PHILADELPHIA VIREOS were my first for the fall.  At one point, we had 3 quite close to each other.  Here is a funny capture that shows two of them at once:


EASTERN WOOD-PEWEES were abundant and there were still several GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHERS around as well.  

We didn't have any Yellow-bellied Flycatchers which was disappointing but I still expect to find a couple yet this fall.  We only had one empid and that was this lone LEAST FLYCATCHER:


I was happy to find WOOD THRUSHES (2) at Mines of Spain this morning.  I haven't had one in IA for a couple months!  Other than that and AMRO's, we had no other thrushes this weekend.  My state Gray-cheeked Thrush will have to wait...

I was also happy to see this lone PURPLE FINCH, my first for the fall:

Some other expected migrants included:

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Scarlet Tanager - At least 2-3 birds including this one that stayed still for a second:

02 September 2010

Onset of fall

With the onset of fall here in central Iowa, the birding has started to pick up for me.  For example, a hefty flock of CASPIAN TERNS was present yesterday at Cherry Glen, Saylorville.  I counted 280!  Come to think of it, I'm not sure if I've ever seen more CATE's in one place ever in my life.  Here is just a portion of the flock:

Also present at Saylorville:

15 Forster's Terns
2+ Common Terns
20 Black Terns
2 Franklin's Gulls
Least Sandpiper (Lincoln Access)
Semipalmated Sandpiper (Lincoln Access)
Baird's Sandpiper (Lincoln Access)

Birding along the entry road at Oak Grove gave us some good warblers and other migrants including this VEERY:

I mentioned warblers; we've seen 15 species in the last 2 days (Y = yard, EM = Emma McCarthy Lee Park, OG = Oak Grove).  They are:

Northern Parula (EM)
Tennessee Warbler (EM, Y)
Golden-winged Warbler (OG)
Nashville Warbler (EM)
Yellow Warbler (Y, OG)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (Y, EM, OG)
Magnolia Warbler (EM)
Blackburnian Warbler (EM)
Bay-breasted Warbler (EM)
Black-and-white Warbler (EM, OG)
American Redstart (Y, EM, OG)
Ovenbird (Y)
Northern Waterthrush (Y, EM)
Common Yellowthroat (OG)
Wilson's Warbler (Y, EM, OG)

Some other species we've seen lately include:

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Scarlet Tanager (1 even in the yard!)
Blue-gray Gnatcatchers
Carolina Wren
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Wood-Pewee (it was in the yard, I shall assume it was a migrant)
Common Nighthawk (quite a few during the big migration event that took place yesterday, probably 1000+)

Since I've started keeping track of bird species I have photographed, I've realized how pitiful my collection of particular species can be.  One of those species is BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER.  I had already taken some very sad shots before but I was able to improve "slightly" this evening at Emma McCarthy Lee Park in Ames.  And by that I mean... these are ID'able:


Also taken this evening, here is a NORTHERN PARULA chowing down at Emma McCarthy Lee Park:

Here is a BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER with the sun at my back:        

I've only seen 2-3 MAGNOLIA WARBLERS so far this fall (only lack of trying, I'm sure).   Here is one peaking around a tree:

As some of you know, I often wander into tough identifications without really having the proper background knowledge that I should.  For example, BLUE-HEADED VIREO versus CASSIN'S VIREO.  Of course, no one would expect CAVI to be here in Iowa... and neither would I.  That doesn't stop the question that I had this evening... "Would I know it if I were looking at a CAVI?"  If nothing else, it's good for me to brush up on some basic field marks...

Here are some shots of a vireo this evening at EMLP in Ames:

All sources mention the sharp contrast of the gray head with the white throat should be distinct for BHVI.  The above photos show the cheek/throat line but I'm not sure how to define "distinct" in this situation.  Surely there is a gradient of some sorts??

One source mentioned that the thin line of dark color between the bill and the eye ("within" the spectacles) is a good field mark between CAVI and BHVI.  They speculate that if the color of the spot matches the color of the head, it should be a BHVI.  Likewise, if the dark spot in the lores is darker than the head, it might be CAVI.  However, I have no experience using this field mark.  I found the top two photos here interesting (I think the dark line looks darker than the head).

Another sources says that BHVI has "distinct white on outer tail".  Looking at the photo below of the closed tail, can yellow maybe substitute for white in this situation?  Maybe someone out there that has banded BHVI's can comment on this?  

So what do I think the bird is?  Well, BHVI of course!  Ha.