Monday, April 13, 2009

Digibinsing in Flight

Went last Saturday at Pointe Mouille, with the hope to see a few early shorebirds. Not such luck (except for the killdeers), but I still managed to have a good time, despite the strong wind. There was still an important number of waterfowl present (Scaups, Ring Neck Duck, thousands of American Coots, Pied Billed Grebes, Canada Geese), and a few Bonaparte's Gulls, as well as some Common Terns, Double Creasted Cormorans. Best bird of the day was an early marsh wren.

Having met at the start a fellow birder who had been criss-crossing the preserve with his bicycle for hours, I knew pretty much from the start that my quest for shorebirds was going to be vain, so I relaxed a little bit, and tried to bag a few decent pictures. They were hundreds of tree Swallows arround, and I took up the challenge to digibins a few swallows in flight. As expected, I turned out it was not very easy, but I managed to take a few OK pictures.

Tree Swallow, digibinsed

Common Tern, digibinsed

Common Tern, Digibinsed

Bonaparte's Gull and American Coot, Digiscoped
I was quite surprised to see that the 2 Bonaparte Gulls I've seen were not yet in complete breeding plumage.

American Goldfinches in my back yard. 2 Pine siskins are still around, and I am hoping for a nest!!!!

Monday, April 6, 2009

A cooperative bird

Too often birds have no mercy for the inexperienced birder. Some of them always seems to hide their most significant features from the rookies ( I am one of them), forcing them to check too many times the dreaded "unidentified emp. flycatcher species", "unidentified shorebird species", or the even worst "unidentified bird species" (I am not going to talk today about the possibility of misidentifying a squirrel for a bird, but you should know it happened to me in the past)

But for once, this was not the case last Saturday, in the Arb. Bird activity in the afternoon was rather slow, telling me that I will soon have to wake up at 6 in the morning on week ends if I want to have a chance to see any bird at all. Luckily, I will be soon be awake anyway, since our first baby is expected in a few weeks!

Anyway, after a slow start, 12 chickadees and one bluebird, I ran into a rather small bird, flying and hoping through a rather brushy area

Mmm, small, grey, let see, probably some kind of a kinglet, maybe a golden crowned kinglet, if only he could show the top of his head......


Other birds seen were also pretty nice, with my first warbler of the season (yellow-rumped, as usual), 3 creepers, 2 peregrine falcons, 3 creepers and an impressive 24 golden crowned kinglets (my high count so far)

A nice walk, all things considered. This morning weather was not quite as nice, if I think about it :

April 6th, picture taken from my office window in Lansing, Michigan

Friday, April 3, 2009

Zion National Park Trip Report

I have been clearly very lazy and forgot about the second trip of our birding trip from last Summer. This is certainly unfair, because the two days we spend in Zion National Park were wonderful in all points.

Birdingwise, I think that this park was a great addition to the north Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Located at a much lower elevation, its climate is obviously much more arid, but has the great advantage to offer many different ecosystems. Many short trails, accessible by Bus Shuttles, made travelling in the park very easy. We choose to stay in one of the Lodges inside of the park, thinking that the campground was going to be really hot. We decided this during our stay at grand canyon, and were lucky enough to book the last available cabin (they were quite expensive, though, slightly less than $200 a night). The cabins were very confortable, (with Air Conditioned, which we really appreciated) and offered a breathtaking view on the surrounding mountains. Lesser Goldfinches and Chipping Sparrows were quite numerous around the cabins.

Here are a few highlights of the hikes we were able to do. Most of them were really short (2-3 miles max), and we usually were able to do one early morning and one late evening hike per day.

The Narrows

This hike is a wonderful and relatively flat trail that at the top of the valley that leads the visitor through a very narrow canyon. Great pictures to take at the end of the trail!
Birding wise, we probably did not visit this trail at the optimal time (mid afternoon), and it is somehow a shame, because this place is really unique. It contains one of the very few "desert marsh" in Utah, and I was expecting to see some very special birds. Instead, only yellow warblers, and song sparrows were seen on the trail next to the marsh. On the side of the trail, we were able to spot a female Black-headed Grosbeak. But the best bird of the day was a nice Cordilleran Flycatcher, hunting over the creek.

Desert Marsh

Emerald Pools Trail

Imagine. You start from a typical riparian area, and spot a Black Phoebe hunting from a rock in the middle of the river. A Black-chinned Hummingbird stays on a branch long enough for you to identify him (rather rare, hummingbirds were my big frustration of the trip), and not far, a Western Pewee makes a cute addition to your life list. Then you climb up a few hundred feets and find yourself surrounded by Junipers, in a very different environment. Blue gray Gnacatchers, Juniper Titmices are oblivious of your presence. With a little bit more effort, you find a Virginia's warbler and a couple of Black-throated Gray Warbler. You hike hard uphill under the morning sun, and, an hour or so later, find yourself in the shade of the canyon. A pool of transparent and cool water is there, and suddenly tall and green trees are surrounding you. You take a sip of water in your waterbottle, and notice a small bird, warbler like, with a red belly, with obvious white patches foraging in a tree just above your head. Painted Redstart!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Looking at my Sibley (the western edition of course), I knew this bird was slightly out of range, and was not found very often in Utah, so I took my time to look at the bird. But no mistake possible.

Climbing up through the Junipers Trees

Wild Turkey. They were running around at night on the cabin's lawn.

Pa'rus Trail

A concrete bike path follows the river toward the entrance of the park. This hike was our last one, and we were trying to look for the few birds we had missed so far. We found a group of Lucy's Warbler at the very start of the hike, as well as a flock of Western Scrub Jay. Diane saw a Western Tanager (I missed this one!). The House Wrens were quite vocal, and puzzled me for a while (they really have a different "accent" than back in Michigan!)

Pa'rus Trail, at Sunset


A really wonderful national park, with a great variety of habitats. If I have only two regrets :

- I wish we could have visited the Narrows at an earlier time of the day

- I wish we could have try to visit the most arid parts of the park, to look for cactus wrens, bushtit, thrashers. But these parts are not so easily accessible, specially without a 4x4 car.

- I don't think I have seen a single raptor (except red tails hawks) during this trip. Too bad.

The complete list for this park :

Wild Turkey
White-throated Swift
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Western Wood-Pewee
Cordilleran Flycatcher
Black Phoebe
Ash-throated Flycatcher
Western Scrub-Jay
Violet-green Swallow
Juniper Titmouse
House Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Western Bluebird
Virginia's Warbler
Lucy's Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Painted Redstart
Summer Tanager
Spotted Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Black-headed Grosbeak
Lesser Goldfinch