2013 and beyond

It's pretty simple: the most birds seen or heard from one's yard during 2013 will be the "winner". Want in? O.k....then do it despite that.

2013 promises to be a lot less mean but still a carbon-free birding competition, even if slightly less exciting than a MEGA x EPIC hybrid.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lincoln's Sparrow - 150 for '10

Finally picked up one of my last "easy" ticks and got two LISPs by the wetland after work. Here's one shot I got before it went into hide mode.Also had a dozen Cacklers actually stop on the greens with the CANGs (two pictured). And this shot is just for Caleb. This is my 16th YBSA in the yard in 11 months (11 just in the past week and a half)... Okay I'll stop rubbing it in poor CP's face!

If I were Haas, I'd ask for 0.25

But since I am not, I'll just put my bird forward as a suggested addition to the rarity meter. So, check out this flicker which has been in my yard for 2 days:

I've never seen one of these in Michigan, and I cannot remember hearing of any reports. Have you guys? And does this not make the rarity bar?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pure raptor

Figuring that the conditions were decent for some hawk movement today, I stationed myself on the west boundary overlooking the old golf course with a view in the direction of Lake MI a mile away. Winds 5-10mph coming from the east and then swinging around to the north with mostly sunny skies and temps getting to the mid-60's might even be favorable for some thermal activity let alone possibly building up the birds along the lakeshore.

I got distracted, however, by a couple scolding HOWR that brought in Song and White-crowned Sparrows and then a sparrow that might have been a Harris. Needless to say, I "crossed over to the other side" and bushwhacked for the odd bird on the golf course. Well, the sparrows never re-materialized. A glance over my shoulder told me that this may have been a bad move as a medium sized buteo was speeding south across the yard over the south field. It was long gone by the time I got to an adequate vantage point, so I repositioned myself in the south field. TUVU's started streaming overhead and then a RTHA and at last a high kettle of 14 long awaited BWHA (153). Joining them were an adult and sub-adult BAEA. Unfortunately, no SWHA, but that can wait for another day.

Don't worry Putnut, I'll let you know if the HASP comes to light.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Today was Golden

This was a great day of yard birding. Its always so when a new one comes through. I'll start with my second best bird of the day which was close to Golden, but was actually Black-bellied Plover (152). At mid-afternoon it flew over calling. It was anticipated. However, at 1:15pm a bird I hadn't anticipated (151/173) sailed over on a steady north wind without a wing beat. My intent for the day was BWHA which is over due here. It never materialized, although there were a few raptors moving. An OSPR, several RTHA, a half dozen COHA and a few SSHA all drifted through. I lay down in the south field to enjoy some of what the sun was affording on this cool day and to get as full vantage of the sky as I could. And of course, there is the added benefit of the possibility of some eye closure.... I can guarantee, however, that my eyes were wide open when my day turned Golden.


Best salvage year bird of me, probably all time! I have no Salidago or herbaceous/shrub cover anywhere near my subdivision. Couldn't believe it. And was talking on the phone to Slagheap at the exact moment. Booyah!

Cape May Warb and Ovenbird shots

Hey didn't get anything new for the year, but I did have my first of fall GC Kinglets as well as Orange-crowned Warblers (2). Also had ten warbler species including my third ever Ovenbird (below). Also got an okay shot of one of the three Cape May Warbs that were chasing each other through the crabapples right outside my apartment at 715am.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

2 of 3 falcons down for the year

Yep that's right, I had this guy harassing the hell out of the flickers, starlings, and anything else along the edge of the wetland this morning. What's more amazing to me, is that this is my second falcon species of the year but I've yet to score AMKE this year (despite them summering a mile to my west).
Other notables for the morning was a life woodpecker for the yard...not the red-headed I'm on the lookout for...but an overdue Hairy Woodpecker. It was very birdy but the warbs proved elusive to pin down. Had almost 40 warb sps that outnumbered my identified warblers by 50%. Still managed 9 species of warb, my first of fall YTVI, AMPI, and WTSP. Three different Marsh Wrens (including two that were in crap goldenrod habitat rather than the nearby cattails?!) and 5 Northern Shovelers (4 pictured below) replaced the 8 BW Teal that were present yesterday evening. Also noteworthy was the steady numbers of geese flying south all morning.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Kat nap

Felt a little like Rip-van returning to the yard after an extended field work foray. Who turned on fall?? Had a Gray-cheeked Thrush in the yard the day I got back (September 20th -- #148) but otherwise it seems the neotropical fall migration has passed over the Swamp Kat.

Yesterday under favorable skies I finally added Broad-winged Hawk -- 1354 of them in 2.5 hours. Evidently the lair doubles as a HMANA site with kettles (up to 200) coming in from 3 directions, including a nice passage across Little Bay de Noc from the Stonington -- right across the Portage Marsh. Along with the BW there were 116 SACR, 1 NH, 1 AK, 10 BE, 6 TV, 2 SS, and 49 CAGO. Rounding out that delightful discovery was a visit by Harris's Sparrow (#150) and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (#151, sorry putzville).

Still a few egrets and bitterns around.

Nothing but downpour today and a GCTH. Here's to the final stretch! Already looking forward to 2011.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Marsh Wren

Among 63 species this morning I had 15 species of warblers (including my second yard Ovenbird), Philly Vireo, 2 RB Nuthatchs, YB Sapsucker, 3 Cackling Geese, 2 Northern Shovelers, a Pied-billed Grebe, GC Thrush, and Dark-eyed Junco. The star of the show was the more expected Cistothorus in the form of a Marsh Wren that was actually whisper singing its way along the edge of the cattails and brush! The Blackpoll and Tennessee's were still both outnumbering the Yellow-rumps (barely) and that's the good news. Oh yeah, I also managed to twitch my second ever great lakes region bt gray warbler yesterday (photos here: http://www.ilbirds.com/index.php?topic=40862.0).

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Yard Birds!

Almost made me late to work today, them warblers. I was walking the yard 'briefly' before work and then got bowled over by a flock of warblers. Bang! CSWA. Bang! BBWA. Bang! BAWW. Bang! BLBW!!! Yardbird! Then BTNW, MAWA, AMRE, and another goodn' for my yard; Pine Warbler. A nice adult male! Actually many of the birds I had to day were AHY and pretty cool looking. Pine Warbler is a second occurrence for my yard and number 142 year. Also hanging around were a couple BRTH, EAWP, and flyby YBCU. I had to tear myself away, still sad I had no BTBW, but some good birds none the less.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chen already?

Departing the roost at dawn:
This Red-eyed Vireo responded to a House Wren that was all riled up.
I was surprised to see an "interesting" goose this early down here this morning!Here's a second shot of the bird.
And finally here's a Blackpoll Warbler from this afternoon (one of eight warbler species including my second NOPA of the fall and continuing NOWA). BHVI was also a first of the fall today.
Other recent yardbirds include a Red-breasted Nuthatch that briefly touched down in a Boxelder on Monday morning and a White-breasted Nuthatch this afternoon working the Cottonwoods along the wetland (wandering young of the year or migrant??).


Roof-topping tonight finally netted me Great Horned Owl (150) calling distantly from the west. A second one eventually chimed in and then a Barred Owl responded to them. As has been the case for several nights running, more Swainson's Thrush were passing over tonight. Their abundant calls make the heavens sound like a pool of spring peepers. Ruby-crowned Kinglet have been here since the 9th and a dozen White-throated Sparrow greeted me as I walked the trails yesterday morning. This is a week earlier than they showed up last year. Two Gray-cheeked Thrush were at the water feature this evening jockeying for position among the scads of Swainson's. However, GCTH was new for the year (149) several days back when three nocturnal birds were noted among a movement of Catharus in the early morn of the 9th. Two Palm Warbler were in the field along the west boundary this am while four RBNU were happily squeaking in the crowns of the fir trees as they have been the last week or so.

Besides all this new activity, the real change that is in the air was what my down jacket insulated me from tonight.....

Sunday, September 12, 2010


I worked the warblers along the edge of the wetland for a while and was circling the cattails to get to the other 30'x40' clump of vegetation that occasionally will hold a thrush or two due to it's dense understory. As I approached it I heard a harsh chip note that I at first thought was going to be yet another Common Yellowthroat (they have gone from none a week ago to at least 7 this morning). The bird was extremely close though and I could see the leaves moving only ten feet from where I was standing. I began some hardcore pishing and the bird popped right out and showed itself for maybe ten seconds before moving back into the foliage about a foot in. I managed a couple of quick "record shots" like this one as I was afraid I wouldn't get another chance to photograph it.
Luckily for me, the bird flew about fifteen feet down and began working the edge of the goldenrod. Then I began fighting with the auto focus on my camera which seemed to want to focus on every single branch either in front of or behind the wren... I got this shot off before it went back into the shade of the weedy stalks a little further in.I got this final shot of the bird before a greens keepers rolled up on a mower and scared the bird further back into the vegetation.
I don't know about you guys, but I'm stunned to get this species here. This is a bird I never recorded at my folks house in WI which had breeding BOBO, SAVS, EAME and a 7 acre hay field. Rarity-meter worthy or not?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fallout Warning!

Holy crap! I have never had this many warblers in my back yard. It sure was exciting with a few Yard Lifers mixed in! I was feeling crappy as I pulled in the drive, beat from getting up fairly early to lead a bird walk at the park today (I'm not really complaining, but I was tired). It was a really birdy bird walk with decent numbers of 13 sp. of warblers, Yellow Bellied Fly catcher, Acadian Flycatcher (still calling), Red-headed Woodpecker juv. (rare in the park), Barred Owls, etc. But as I climbed out of my car feeling slightly better I saw a warbler alight in the crappy hybrid cherry tree right behind my house. It was a BTNW, what a joy! I could feel it in the air, it had just rained and I could hear some more chips and a BGGN in the row of pines beside my house. In that I found a CMWA and a NAWA. I headed down to the creek (a short 200 yards back) and started my owl whistlin'. What popped up was a Yard lifer, a gorgeous YBFL! Next to it was some other Empid, It may have been a WIFL, didn't look much like a LEFL. I looked to my left when I heard some chip notes and the Honey Locust tree was alive! BBWA at last, possibly a HY male. Multiple BLPW, NAWA, AMRE, BTNW, CMWA, CSWA, BAWW, WIWA, MAWA, TEWA, but no friggin BLBW! This after I had about 8 or so of them at the park. Its how it goes. I can't complain because the next plumage lifer was very exciting for me, even though several of us bloggers here have it already, it was a life plumage for me. After the hoppin' locust tree I went down the brushy hedgerow and I pished a couple times. Something stirred from down low and hopped up and as I raised the bins I noticed its tail slightly up (glad I didn't dismiss it as a wren in the worsening light before I looked closer). There was a HY Mourning Warbler! Awesome broken eyering, dark lores, pinkish legs, green back, yellow underparts, and yellow throat with shadow hood. It was up, then down then up again, and then it was gone. Classic MOWA behavior. Its funny how I've seen decent numbers (maybe 12+) of adult males in my life, only one adult female, and now this youngster. Do the females and juv. birds just lay low? Or are there that many more males out there. Its always the MOWA's behavior that alerts my attention to it, so I don't think it has anything to do with a certain plumage being more noticeable than another. Anyways, it kicked ass. Last night an odd thing happened. I had a feeling I should open the window to listen for night migrants, it being a prime night for them, and seconds after I stuck my head out I heard a distinct down slurred "queerrr", tweeerr/peeuu, or whatever it sounds like to you. I heard little else, a few un-identifiable (by me) zeeeps etc. I couldn't believe I just got GCTH just like that. Ever feel like you have some kind of birder sixth sense?

Finaly more Bath Action

I added a few more warblers on this past Thursday (9/9)...most seen in/near the bath. Here's the complete list:
Blackpoll Warbler - 1 (Year bird #98 AND #26/26 for all the warblers on my all-time yard list now having been seen in 2010).
Bay-breasted Warbler - 1
Cape May Warbler - 2
Mourning Warbler - 1 (3rd yard record, first for fall)
Nashville Warbler - 1
American Redstart - 2
Magnolia Warbler - 1
I've also seen a Swainson's Thrush using the bath the past 2 mornings (on Friday a.m. it was 46Degrees at bath time!).
Surprisingly there have been NO Tennessee Warblers here yet.
Sorry for no pictures, my camera was out of battery power. Also, my laptop's hard drive went ca-put so I've been computer-less lately (other than my iPod touch which does not jive with posting to the blog). I'll post as I can.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Finally some migrant love

Migrant Love! So at long last I had some decent warblers in along the creek today, plus a few other interesting migrants. Nothing too spectacular. I tried to make the NOWA into a LOWA, but it wouldn't work for me. The little guy even was singing softly. Other weak songs I heard today were RBGR, WAVI, and AMRE. But I did get a yard lifer! Its such a lame yard lifer I'm ashamed to brag about it. Its a shame this species doesn't nest in my back yard. Stupid Blue-winged Warblers. It was a beautiful little male though. A pleasant sight on a very pleasant day. Another highlight was all the BLPW! Such an epic migrant I'm always glad to see them. No BBWA today though. I can't believe I'm missing that, I usually get it. Soon, I hope. Here is a list to spite you all:
Location:     Home Observation date:9/10/10 
Number of species:     56  
Canada Goose     10 Wild Turkey     6 Great Blue Heron     1 Turkey Vulture     8 Red-shouldered Hawk     3 Red-tailed Hawk     1 Killdeer     1 Mourning Dove     6 Yellow-billed Cuckoo     1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird     5 Red-bellied Woodpecker     4 Downy Woodpecker     4 Northern Flicker     1 Eastern Wood-Pewee     3 Empidonax sp.     1 Eastern Phoebe     1 Great Crested Flycatcher     1 Warbling Vireo     2 Red-eyed Vireo     1 Blue Jay     12 American Crow     6 Barn Swallow     4 Carolina Chickadee     8 Tufted Titmouse     4 White-breasted Nuthatch     6 Carolina Wren     2 House Wren     6 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher     1 Eastern Bluebird     2 Swainson's Thrush     1 American Robin     80 Gray Catbird     20 European Starling     12 Cedar Waxwing     6 Blue-winged Warbler     1 Nashville Warbler     1 Magnolia Warbler     2 Black-throated Green Warbler     1 Blackpoll Warbler     8 Black-and-white Warbler     1 American Redstart     6 Northern Waterthrush     1 Common Yellowthroat     3 Wilson's Warbler     1 Canada Warbler     1 Eastern Towhee     2 Chipping Sparrow     1 Field Sparrow     4 Song Sparrow     2 Scarlet Tanager     1 Northern Cardinal     10 Rose-breasted Grosbeak     1 Indigo Bunting     1 Common Grackle     80 House Finch     4 American Goldfinch     8 House Sparrow     6

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A real good one...

Last night, while sitting on the roof and talking to Curtis, amongst the hundreds of seeps, SWTH, and occasional GCTH flying over, I heard (and recorded) a low, dry buzzy note. In the recording, you can hear me say "Whoa, buzz note. Holy crap, that sounded like Dickcissel! Curtis, I think that might have been a Dickcissel." It was a noticably dry note, lacking any of the piercing, metallic/high=pitched quality of INBU, etc. I figured it either had to be BLGR or DICK, or something else not expected in my yard.

So, this morning, I anxiously analyzed the recording to see what I could do with it. The bird was pretty high up, so that it was barely picked up on the sonogram, but it is there, and most critically, the frequency range of what's visible is in the 2,800-5,500 HZ range only. The duration is around 0.08 sec. Basically, boys, what I suspected at the time is confirmed. None of the other buzzes are this low-pitched, and I judged by ear (immediately) that the sound quality was way too dull/dry for INBU. So, Skyler, enjoy losing your lead back again!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Thrush Movement in HUGE


I had a massive thrush flight this morning around 5AM. In about 20 minutes of listening, I had between 120-150 Swainson's move over. With this large thrush movement, I added two new yard birds:

GCTH (#61/63) & VEER (#62/64)

I also had 4 different warbler notes, each of which was different. MUST. GET. MICRO-PHONE.

Finally, it's BACK ON

And mine aren't House Sparrows, unlike at Curtis's place...

This is the first time this fall that I've had any substantial #s of warbs in the bath. It required much tweaking of the setup out there to get them comfortable enough to come in. For the longest time birds would approach the bath within a foot but balk at actually getting in, then fly off. But finally, today they gathered the courage to do it.

The tally:

Now to just get some more diversity...


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Just a little MOWA

A gorgeous adult male Morning Warbler came to investigate the bath this evening. It wasn't around long enough for a photo op, but hopefully it will be back tomorrow. Other highlights at the water feature today were adult male Cape May Warbler & Ovenbird. Lots of Swainson's Thrush eating grapes in the tree tops. Yesterday a female BTBW was outside the bay window for a few minutes. Best bird of the weekend was an Osprey (146) Sunday evening that leisurely glided fifty feet overhead as a group of us were enjoying the spectacle of hundreds of migrating Black Saddlebags and Green Darners in the south field.

RTHU just in time

In the gale south winds I had a long overdue life yardbird in the form of a Ruby-throat buzz me while I was watching a young Myrtle Warb hop around a dead snag. I glared at the MYWA for a while just so he knew I didn't appreciate him signaling the end of quality warbler flocks is nearer than I'd like...

Monday, September 6, 2010


So, yard birding of late has been completely useless for the most part. Absolutely zero warblers all weekend. I did get a good look at Mr. Black-billed Cuckoo today though. That did make up for some of the pain, since its always cool to see one of these unusual/odd birds. He was giving me the old once over as well. Well, I've got plenty of webworm/tent caterpillars etc, I hope he enjoys his stay at the Warner Ranch. I'm definitely in warbler withdraw. Help.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

New fall warbs and an Oporornis!

Dudes, had a nice morning of migrants here. Best warbler diversity of the fall thus far (9 species). Highlights were a flock of 4 Cape May Warblers in one spruce (woke up to a warbler chipping right outside my window which turned out to be a CMWA...). A lone Northern Parula foraging low in the willows and grass with TEWA, AMRE, and BLPW was cool.I also had my first Common Yellowthroat since late May today which I put photos of up just for Putnam's benefit.The other additions were a Wilson's Warbler and a flyover Oporornis species that was almost certainly MOWA based on the flight call it gave (sounded very similar to TEWA/NAWA, was definitely not a CONW zeep, and had a grayish hood). I'm on the fence whether I can count it as a MOWA with the observation I had. Thoughts? If there are objections, I'm okay just calling it an Oporornis species.
RBGR, VEER, SWTH, BOBO, and SOSA rounded out my migrants for the AM.

Bird Bath Bonanza...

Check out the Bonanza at the Bird Bath...

Putnam, I think I beat you by a long shot for "shear number of birds in the bath at one time"!

In addition to this "excitement" (if you want to call a flock of HOSP's exciting) I added the following birds over the last few days...

9/2 - #97 - Veery (some people actually get to SEE them in their yards) I also saw a Swainson's Thrush and had a bad look at what was likely a Gray-cheeked foraging by the Swainson's.

And to the Warbler War...(it's been slim pickn's here):
8/27 - Magnolia Warbler
9/3 - Ovenbird
Today I had only Red-eyed Vireo and a Wilson's Warbler for migrants...and they were like pulling teeth to find too. ARGH!
On a positive note, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have finally become regular to my feeder! YEAH!


New life yardbird, Goodbye to Haas's lead in the life yardbird contest.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

More new yearbirds

Well fellas, the radar has finally heated up, and sitting on the rooftop tonight finally yielded my most wanted late Aug/early Sep life yardbird: the dreaded VEER! Couldn't believe I actually heard it. Then, the local GHOW started singing for about 15-20 minutes, for the first time this year. Watch out Fitzy- I am knocking down the remainder of my easy ones, and I also have recorded and heard by ear many tens of warbler seeps, including tonight potential COYE (buzzy and lower pitched than other warblers, but sonogram necessary to confirm). Haven't had time to analyze the last few night's recordings yet...

ALl I can say is... When it looks like this, you need to go outside and sit on the roof for a while. I am actually starting to hear the difference between the double-banded upseeps (non buzzy), vs zeep (short, high pitched but with slight buzz) vs longer zeeps (CSWA, MAGW, etc.), etc. I think with much experience these broad categories should be separable by NFC alone. God this is awesome.

A few pictoral highlights from this AM

Nothing new this morning despite decent warbler flight (other than supplanting my previous Baypoll with quite a few definite Blackpolls). A LEFL was my first of the fall here among 42 species for the morning. Here are a couple of photos that turned out okay:Too bad that twig was casting a shadow on its head...
Nice and close flyby (one of three young coops circling the wetland this morning), unfortunately the sun was behind the bird rather than behind me!

Friday, September 3, 2010


Much anticipated for the fall. It stayed for all of 5 minutes. Many other of its traveling companions dropped in this morning, as well.

The Wastelands Milestone

Wednesday night, there was a huge push of Swainson's Thrush over The Wastelands. That was #59 for the year (#61 for all time). This morning, a decent swallow push finally brought Cliff over the property for the magical #60 (#62 for all time). Whoohoo!

A distant warbler 'spuh' at least gets me entered into this Fall Warbler War business.