Thursday, May 23, 2013

In search of shorebird photos with Danielle

Danielle thought being up high would allow her to spot birds (for me) better.
For the past two weeks I've checked the flooded Bartlet Lake Road or read updates about the shorebirds on Facebook almost daily. On Monday this week I even took off my shoes and walked through the water to check the other side of the road. With clear skies forecasted I planned on taking photos of the reported birds this morning after dropping Michaela off at school.

For some reason, Danielle woke up early this morning.  She would not snuggle in bed with Christine nor fall back asleep, but that is not surprising as she hasn't done either lately with the earlier sunrise. Instead Danielle got Christine out of bed and wanted to drop off  Michaela.  Danielle has attended school four days a week the past year, with Thursday being her day off so I knew there was no hurry once we dropped Michaela off. Based on last week's adventure when Danielle liked a cattle egret I figured she  would be game for birding this morning.

To my surprise, the road was open this morning and we were able to drive to the boat landing.  Only a handful of shorebirds remained, which was dramatically less than Monday wen the picture below was taken. I suspect traffic on this narrow road will push these little birds elsewhere in the near future.
Mixed flock of sandpipers (peeps).
Danielle was a trooper and spent the first half hour sitting on my lap watching Dunlin and taking pictures.  With limited assistance she looked through the viewfinder, put the focus area on the birds, and snapped decent photos.  She started to get cold however and we walked back to the car.  After talking Christine into taking the camera from us and I put Danielle on my shoulders and we went searching for the small flock to show "mom" what we found. We spent almost another hour exploring the snails, birds, and air bubbles trapped in the asphalt before heading home. After transferring the photos to the computer I'm glad we talked Christine into taking photos, as she got awesome photos of a handful of species (at least in my opinion).

Enjoy the photos below. All of the large photos are Christine's from this morning, with a few of the smaller thumbnails being mine or from Monday's wet foot day. Flickr just recently changed their storage allowance.  I'm using Flickr's links of full-sized photos on this blog for the first time.  I hope it works.
Dunlin Dunlin
White-rumped Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Least SandpiperLeast Sandpiper 
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper Unknown Sandpiper 
I am not sure if the bottom right photo in the semipalmated Sandpiper group is accurately identified. I originally identified this bird as a white-rumped sandpiper based on the narrower body and fine streaking along the chest and sides (which was corroborated by two local birders), but after reviewing the 700 photos today and looking through the O'Brien Shorebird field guide I'm leaning toward semipalmated Sandpiper.

I spent a couple of days with excellent birders the past week, and the days were a ton of fun with all the birds seen and heard. Their easy going personalities were quite enjoyable and I thoroughly enjoyed learning from them in the field. I was reminded during these forays that there is always more to learn. I'm hoping a shorebird expert can give me the nuances of shorebird plumages on this identification.
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird

Monday, May 20, 2013

Neighborhood kids

We are blessed with wonderful neighbors.  Many of them have kids that love playing with Michaela and Danielle, which means that Christine has turned into a community mom figure. This weekend she had an impromptu picnic when the neighbors were putting in a new front door.  The umbrellas protected the kids from the warm sun. 

Our great friends little girl is at our place after school a couple days a week, with a variety of normal activities planned for various weekdays.  Today we came home right after school. The girls played on the neighbor's playhouse as I mowed the backyard. Afterwards all the girls came inside to play a game on Kinect.  Below is Michaela playing a boxing game for the first time.

With the summer nearing we are going to make sure to enjoy out neighbors and friends before we move.  We will miss them.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A new pet and more birds

Michaela and Danielle have repeatedly asked to get a horse and farm when we move. Christine and I have been unsuccessful in changing their minds, instead we've attempted to redirect with promise of a Beta fish. 

After a busy week I had the entire day to spend with Danielle.  I slept in her bed and watched cartoons in the morning and brought her to return keys and credit card at work one last time.  

Afterwards we stopped at a favorite birding location and happened upon 6 Cattle Egrets. I did not have my scope with at the time, so I quickly took identifying pictures and turned the Jeep around. To our pleasant surprise there was a 7th cattle egret that was right along the road on the way out. Of course we stopped for pictures. Our favorite photo was when it shook its feathers and appeared as a fluff ball. This was the first time Danielle or Christine had seen a Cattle Egret and they both thought it was extremely cute. So much so, that Danielle decided it would be fun to have one for a pet. I was elated to hear anything other than a horse, but this option didn't sound better and somehow we morphed Danielle's two pet requests into a flying horse.  Christine and I both agreed that if she could find a flying horse we would work something out as a pet.

With this close encounter finished my desire to observe the other 6 egrets in a scope waned and we made alternative plans for the rest of the day. We checked other birding location for shorebirds before returning to the cattle egrets.  Danielle was very interested in looking at the birds today, so I set the scope up at its lowest level and let her find them.  She identified a red-winged blackbird, duck (mallard), and something else (coot) for me after I started her off on a Great Blue Heron. Christine snapped this picture below on our walk back to the Jeep.  

We picked Michaela up from school and told her we had plans this afternoon as a family.

First we stopped by the golf course driving range and hit a bucket of balls. A junior golf bag just for the girls clubs was a hit, but neither girl seemed interested in hitting or putting in the heat. Next we went shopping for a picnic. The girls picked out fruit, sandwiches, chips, and drink. We had an early supper at Farmer's Park in Stockton. Rough-winged swallows appeared to be nesting in the old railway bridge and kindly posed for a few snapshots. I even took a nap while the girls played and we all returned home tired for bed.

This past week I've spent a fair amount of time out birding.  The woods are loaded with migrating Warblers and I suspect I'll try to get out in the coming days as much as possible. Earlier Christine and I observed this Great Egret struggle with his meal.  

On Wednesday I road with three excellent birders for a county big day. We tried to tally as many different species of birds within Houston county in one day.  We started at 1:30 in the morning and ended at 9 at night, finding 155 different birds along the way.  It was the first time I have done anything of the sort and thoroughly enjoyed the day. I found it particularly awesome asking the other guys about different sounds during the dawn chorus as birding at that time of day was almost completely by ear.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Melting Snow and Migrating Birds

We made a mad dash to Kansas City in order to look at elementary schools this past week, but were dampened by the May snowstorm and returned impressed with both districts we looked at.  When we returned to Winona the ground was covered in snow.  Sun appeared  late Saturday morning, so I grabbed the camera and binoculars and went searching for birds.

Spring migration is often the best opportunity to observe birds that breed and reside further north, offering individuals the chance to see them along their journey.  Warblers are some of the most colorful birds of North America, and many birders love their migration. Unfortunately the number and diversity of warblers is not great yet here, but recent reports indicate they are close!  The highlight of the past two days were the cooperative thrushes, with the Veery and Gray-cheeked Thrush being quite friendly and photogenic. I put on quite a few miles, sat in mud taking pictures, and enjoyed seeing over 100 species the past two days.  Below are photos for everyone to enjoy.

Gray-cheeked Thrush
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Northern Waterthrush

White-crowned Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Ruby-crowned Kinglet