Saturday, May 28, 2016

Day 3 Contd....Ottawa Refuge.

Just a short post to cover that afternoon...

We moved off from the dizzying delights of Magee and headed just down the road to some different habitat - Ottawa Refuge and its shallow wetland pools.

Waders were the main goal and a few were present - 50+ Dunlin, 1 Pectoral Sandpiper, 10+ Lesser Yellowlegs, 2+ Least Sandpipers, 10+ Semi-palmated Sandpipers, 16+ Great Egret.

Another random little woodlot around the corner on a pool edge was interesting. One of the lads called Common Gallinule ( er Moorhen to you) but I couldn't get the adrenalin flowing enough to leave behind a male American Redstart, 2 Blue Gray Gnatcatchers, an Empidonax Flycatcher that may never be identified, Magnolia Warbler, Palm Warbler, Yellow rumped Warbler and a pair of Blue Jays. Then someone found a male Wilsons Warbler that took some finding afterwards and a nice Brown Thrasher.

No, I never did add Common Gallinule to my USA list....

Grilling shorebirds at Ottawa.


Great Egret 

Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, best I could do, sorry. We found its nest too and that didn't help.

Palm Warblers, a lovely subtle bird, one of my favourites. Common too...

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Wednesday 11th May - Ohio Day 3....

We drove the 40 minutes or so from our hotel in Maumee, towards Magee again, arriving at 8.15am. Before heading out to the masses on the boardwalk, we stopped a few miles away at a farmland site called Stange / Kraus Road to look for some prairie specialities. En route 5 Sandhill Cranes showed well including one almost half the size, a Lesser Sandhill Crane. I had not heard about this type before, but is apparently a subspecies from a different part of the USA?

We pulled into an empty view point car park where a dozen White-crowned Sparrows and 2 Song Sparrows fed around the edge and a pair of Northern Flickers gave away a nearby nest site in a tall rotting tree stump. Killdeers were ever present running around the roads and a nearby wet field held 15+ Dunlin and a Spotted Sandpiper. 2 Double crested Cormorants flew over.

A birder driving past kindly stopped to give us a tip about a singing Henslow's Sparrow just along the road at Grimm Prairie, a large flat dead grassed area. As this was a main target for Bob we headed straight along and soon found our bird. It was a mere dot, singing the worlds most boring bird song ( google it) a long way off. A few hundred yards of stalking soon secured decent identifiable views of this quite rare species. Also new for me here was an Eastern Meadowlark, a female Northern Harrier or Marsh Hawk,  2 Horned Larks and 2 Buff bellied Pipits.

Henslow's Sparrow twitch. Is over there somewhere.
Andy grilling some warbler or other.. 
So it was on to the main course, a morning at Magee Marsh. 9.30am - 11.30am.

Warblers arrived on cue and a wide variety of guises. There were 6+ Magnolia Warblers ( what a bird), 6+ American Redstarts ( mostly black and red firey males), 4 Nashville Warblers, 3 Blackburnian Warblers, 8+ Chestnut sided Warblers, 3+ Northern Parulas, 5+ Bay breasted Warblers, 2 Palm Warblers, good numbers of Yellow Warblers and Yellow rumped Warblers down to arms length, 6+ Cape May Warblers, 1 male Black throated Blue Warbler, 4 Black throated Green Warblers, 3 Black and White Warblers, 1 Prairie Warbler ( a rare species here caused a twitch) and 1+ Orange crowned Warbler.

Above two - Bay breasted Warblers.

Above two - Blackburnian Warbler, a male. A fire in the woods.

Above two -  Cape May Warbler taking midges from cobwebs. Down to 6 feet.
Northern Parula female too close to focus, in danger of being stood on.
Chestnut sided Warbler, a common species here.
American Redstart, never sits still hard to photograph even though quite tame.
Yellow Warbler.
Magnolia Warbler, shade your eyes....

What can you say about that! They are truly amazing birds and a real joy to hunt out. At some American migration spots these are canopy feeders but here many were at eye level. What a treat.

You think that cast looks good for 2 hours at one site, well its not over yet. As a support cast, this looks as impressive as it actually was - 2+ Ruby-crowned Kinglets,  1 male Ruby throated Hummingbird, 2 Blue headed Vireos, 3 Warbling Vireo, several Baltimore Orioles ( common), 6+ White crowned Sparrow, 1 Indigo Bunting, 5 Rose breasted Grosbeaks, 1 Lincoln Sparrow, 2 male Scarlet Tanager, 1 American White Pelican flew overhead, 3 House Wren ( more like a gropper than a wren), 1 Veery, 1 Swainsons Thrush, Andy found a fs male Summer Tanager that almsot landed on Richard as it flew to the ground to snatch an insect, 1 Eastern Bluebird and nearby several Purple Martins at speciall hung gourd nest boxes in a garden.

Phew! This is going to be a long post by the time I get the photos in here, please bear with me.

Summer Tanager, not sure if FS male or reddish female?
Day three to be continued this is just till lunchtime.....

Monday, May 23, 2016

Tuesday 10th May...USA Day 2...

This morning, a six hour time difference ( behind) found me wide awake and keen to get up by 4.30am. Problem being, it was still dark. So, a loiter around the tiny Chesterton hotel balcony drinking coffee, was time well spent. As the birds woke and began singing, some showed on trees in the car park and around the adjacent lake, but not before the second Racoon of the trip climbed down a tree, vanished into the woods, returning 20 mins later. I can only assume he was doing, er, the natural thing...
It was cool, overcast and drizzling, but it faired up by day break.

View from the balcony. The snapped off tree is the one with the racoon, the large green tree had House Finches and the confers had an American Robins nest...
Panning right the marsh and pond could be seen.
New species seen - 1 male Northern Cardinal, 1 Northern Flicker a pair of House Finches showed before we even ventured out doors properly. Then on the lake edge around the back of the hotel were 2 Killdeer, 2 Spotted Sandpipers, 1 Pied billed Grebe, an Osprey, 1 male Yellow Warbler, 1 male Yellowthroat, 2 male Baltimore Orioles, 2 Northern Rough winged Swallows, Coopers Hawk, a Northern Waterthrush, 1 Warbling Vireo, 1 Yellow throated Vireo, 2 Black and White Warblers, a Swamp Sparrow, a Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, a Hairy Woodpecker and 6+ Blue Jays.

Northern Cardinal, not only a looker, but a good singer too...
Male Common Yellowthroat, a common bird on this trip. Anywhere with wet ditches, ponds etc.

After breakfast we headed off to our next stop near Toledo, 150 miles away, en route seeing 15 Wild Turkeys inc sev males all puffed out, 1 Red tailed Hawk and 10+ Turkey Vultures.

We headed straight on to our main sought after destination, the one we have read so much about since planning the trip way back in 2014, Magee Marsh and its famous boardwalk. We had three nights booked here to check out the sights and reserves in the area. As this is the annual 'Biggest Week in American Birding' festival the area was very busy indeed with several hundred birders of varying capabilities around. Luckily the places are all big areas, so it is possible to get away from any mobs and do some birding alone.

Magee has to be one of the easiest places to birdwatch. It is all done on either wooden boardwalks or hard surfaces looking into open woodland with a scrub understory for migrant birds arriving.

The team arrive on the Magee boardwalk on a damp cold grey afternoon...
Four hours here produced a great list of birds, particularly those sought after warblers - 15+ Yellow Warblers, 10+ Myrtle Warblers, 2 male Cape May Warblers, sev Black throated Green Warblers, male Chestnut sided Warbler, sev Nashville Warblers, a female Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, a male Blackpoll, American Redstart, 2 Prothonotary Warblers, a male Blackburnian Warbler and 1 Ovenbird. Thats not all, we had many Tree Swallows nesting, Great and Snowy Egrets, 2 Downy Woodpeckers, 4 Warbling Vireos, 3 Gray Catbirds, 2 Northern Cardinals, 3 Ruby crowned Kinglets, 1 Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, 5+ Rose breasted Grosbeaks, 3 White throated Sparrows, 1 male Scarlet Tanager, 6+ Baltimore Orioles, 1 House Wren, 1 Veery, 1 Grey Cheeked Thrush, 1 American Woodcock, 1 Eastern Kingbird and 2 fledgling Great Horned Owls...What an afternoon.

Protonotary Warblers are really this yellow.

Ruby crowned Kinglet, without a ruby crown. 

This Veery shared a small patch of wood floor with a Grey cheeked Thrush, pity it wouldnt sit still for a photo too. 
Ovenbird, skulking.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Monday 9th May...USA Day 1.

Hello all, long time no see.

The lack of blog posts has been down to me being away on holiday for the last couple of weeks, so I am about to start a series of posts from this trip. Each day will be a separate post, then, normal service will be resumed.

 Monday 9th May 2016.

This morning the not-so magnificent seven comprising ....

Bob Biggs
Richard Dunn
Les Robson
Andy McLevy
John Todd
John Rutter
and me,

....headed off to Newcastle to fly, via London Heathrow, to Chicago for 11 days catching up with the American spring migration across Ohio and Michigan. As this was mine and JWR's first trip across the pond we were looking forward to many new species, not least, those brightly coloured warblers they have across there.

Our journey was quite uneventful as we sailed through customs at both ends without problem. We collected our  hire vehicle, a Ford Transit 12 seater mini-bus, though not before adding a few new birds to the life list. Outside the Budget Auto's office we had 10+ Chimney Swifts, 10+ Common Grackle, 4+ Red-winged Blackbird and 6+ Mourning Doves straight into the notebook.

We had about 70 miles to drive to our digs in Chesterton mainly along huge freeway systems. We were glued to the windows for birds, seeing our first Great Blue Heron, Red tailed Hawks, Caspian Terns, Bald Eagle, Turkey Vultures and American Crows of the trip, all lifers for me other than the tern. We were eager to get out for some proper birding so we finally stopped at Indiana Dunes State Park to fit in a couple of hours, just to kick things off, you understand...

Despite being quite cold and wet after rain, a car park behind the closed centre, was lifting with birds, almost all new species for me and John -
1 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, 1 Solitary Sandpiper on a tiny puddle, Sora flushed from the path side, 4+ White crowned Sparrow, 1 Savannah Sparrow, 1 Song Sparrow, 1 Downy Woodpecker, 1 Red bellied Woodpecker, 3 Blue Jays ( wow! they're blue, mind), 1 male Indigo Bunting ( even more blue than the Blue Jays), several American Robins and Red winged Blackbirds, 5+ Gray Catbirds and 1 male Eastern Towhee.

Male Downy Woodpecker, like our Lesser spotted, but much commoner...
 We drove a short distance down to the beach over looking Lake Michigan, a vast body of water, like the sea but calmer where we wandered the wooded car park edges and shoreline. Time was pressing but we found our first warblers here - Back and White Warbler, 3+ Palm Warblers, 1 Orange Crowned Warbler, 1 Chestnut sided Warbler, Yellow rumped Warbler all moved through very quickly. Also noted were Eastern Phoebe, 3+ Caspian Terns, 1 Chipping Sparrow and a Raccoon. I  was excited about this and was hoping to get one of these masked critters on the trip, but wasnt too sure how easy they would be. Now we get one on day 1. Excellent.

Black and White Warbler, a very tricky bird to photograph, they never sit still...
We arrived tired, but happy with events, at the Best Western Hotel at Chesterton near by. A glance at a large weedy looking pond immediately outside showed 2 American Coot, 2 Wood Duck, 1 male Canvasback, 1 male Blue winged Teal a Bank Swallow and a male American Kestrel.

All of this on day one... this is going to be a great trip...