Birding (and more) in Calhoun County and beyond
October turned out to be a huge month for FOY for me with 2 more being added since my last post. Both were purely "accidental" finds where I just happened to go somewhere I hadn't intended. After all my whining about no shorebird habitat I found a nice large mudflat within my 5MR. The farm pond I had dipped on Common Gallinule in August I remember had some flooded farm area, so I at the last minute on my way to Homer decided to swing by there. A very large mudflat was right in that same spot that was previously a flooded part of the corn field. I could not believe this spot was so close and such good habitat. I am left to wonder what else may have visited this site the past couple of months. This site gave up FOY Pectoral Sandpipers, along with Killdeer, both Yellowlegs and Wilson's Snipes.
2 days after this I was headed to the same mudflat but did a hard brake on B DR N and turned down 10.5 Mile Road. I thought one of the Sandhill Cranes looked a little light, it wasn't. Turned out mixed in with a large group of Canada Geese were at least 6 Cackling Geese. They took off shortly thereafter and headed to the West. I later located what I think were the same birds on Beadle Lake. Finally we got one of the 4 "rare" Geese to show up here.
The Cackling Geese gave me 10 FOY this month. Past May I've never had more than 7 in a month. Twice in June, and twice in December. Needless to say I feel much better about getting one more to get to 200 for the year. It also puts us at 213 for the year. Still a little behind to get above the 218 eBird high. Not out of question, but we'd need some mix of the following:
Brooks Nature Area also gave me some great close up looks at a fishing Belted Kingfisher. It was nearly directly overhead hovering and did dive in once. I of course missed the dive on camera as the dive was so quick I couldn't keep the camera on it well enough to stay in focus.
Taking the day off to allow some subsiding of Chaos, and just focused on some yard birding today along with some yard Hawkwatching for a couple hours. Ideally somewhere like Baker, Brooks or the airport would have been ideal. Nothing of note in the air, but this little incessant "chip" bird showed itself finally. Apparently not happy I was hanging out near its bushes. Looked off for the usually nearby Carolina Wren. When it flashed its dark rear it confirmed my thoughts of Winter Wren. Of my target list for the remainder of the year, this was the last "walking" bird for me. Also a new Yard Bird for me. It also gave me a new yearly high for the yard. A Bald Eagle shortly after added to the year list. The Winter Wren was a new 5 mile circle bird, as well as Township.
The Hawkwatching wasn't as good as I had hoped, with mostly single Red-tailed Hawks. A single instance of a Cooper's hawk flying South with another pair of Red-tailed was the lone multiple bird flight. Overall not a bad count for the day with 28 species. Maybe if Chaos subsides some I can catch some more tomorrow. Still looking for that Red-shouldered Hawk. Below are some of the highlights from today. Some great looking juvenile Red-tailed Hawks.
On the nerd side I did some playing around with my eBird data to see how often I am seeing the different coded birds. Of the 237 birds I have seen they break down as follows by code
What is interesting is how often one sees these code birds over the past 6 years.
Stir Craziness drove me out and about today. Hitting up Homer WTP still trying for shorebirds. I did get some flushed bird before I even got off the main road, with 9 Yellowlegs flying around the South end. I was able to later ID them as Greater Yellowlegs, with the 9 being a high count for this time of the year. I was unable to pick up a Pectoral or Dunlin though. Even with the help of a couple of Red-tailed Hawks spooking up the Yellowlegs and Killdeer. I also thought I had a Black Scoter candidate, but some underwing looks and general "off-ness" it turned out to be a Redhead with a very dark bill.
Duck Lake WTP had nothing much to offer, so I stopped at Duck Lake trying to see if the Forster's Terns were still there. I did not see them, but I did get a couple of Bonaparte's. I also had a grebe that seemed to have an unusually long white neck. It could have just been a Horned Grebe somehow stretched out, but I was never able to re-find the bird. A running them in my 2.5 hours there. Shortly after this grebe I spotted a dark duck mixed in with some Ruddy Ducks as far across the lake, of course, as they could get. Before I could even think "Scoter?" I saw a nice angled streak of white on its side. Finally a long overdue White-winged Scoter for the county. White-winged have been seen in every other nearby county except Calhoun and Hillsdale till today. I knew we would get one eventually, but wasn't expecting it to be late October with everything still open.
Duck Lake wasn't done as I had my best look one of the Red-necked Grebe. I say "one of" because there were actually two out there. Maybe more. This was a bird that I had a hard time relocating as it seemed to be moving around a lot. After I sighted two close to each other I wasn't able to find them again. Given the choppy water and dark skies it didn't make things easy. These two birds were never even on my radar to try to see this year.
I give you White-winged Scoter pictures almost as good as those of the Loch Ness Monster.
Red-necked Grebe, juvenile Bald Eagle, and a Bonaparte's Gull.
What has felt like a weak Fall Migration surely isn't reflected by the numbers. It has been absolutely frustrating on the lack of shorebird habitat. Homer water level is way too high. Duck Lake WTP didn't drop their water level until early October. Far too late to catch most of the birds that should be found there. I have slim hopes of some late Dunlin and Pectoral Sandpiper, along with White-rumped and Baird's Sandpipers. Homer water level needs to keep dropping though.
Back to the numbers. September didn't "feel" like it was particularly great. When you look at the numbers though, it was my best September species wise ever. The 111 species seen topped my previous high of 103. A Swainson's Thrush being the only FOY added is what made it seem like it was less than spectacular. But the numbers don't lie. I saw a lot of good birds in September. 9 of which were new for me for September. A Northern Waterthrush being the highlight of those 9.
My takeaway is you can be one of those people who reflexively dismiss any sort of "counting" as less than pure, you can be an extreme about it as just ticks, or it can be used to help balance the subjective. The Northern Waterthrush was a first for the county in September. They just don't get seen on Fall Migration around here. It makes that sighting even more special.
October started out well with my first October Ruby-throated Hummingbird. October also brought my first Swainson's Thrush for that month. The jackpot was when the Cranefest site was finally opened. The year-long nemesis of Common Gallinule finally showed up for me, with two juveniles mixed in with some Coots. A juvenile Northern Harrier also made an appearance over Marsh Lake. The following weekend the American Wigeons I didn't catch the week prior were numerous, as were a pair of Northern Pintails. I dipped on Winter Wren at Baker, but several migrating Bald Eagles made it worthwhile. I was hoping for some Red-shouldered Hawks to pass by, but Red-tailed were the only other raptor.
Things seem like they are later this year. Leaves turning colors, large flocks of Geese are at Homer, but nothing mixed in with them. To hit 200 is still going to take at least 3 of the rare geese we've not seen this year. I'd feel better about it if the Dunlin and Pec would make an appearance though. The path to Duck Lake may end up being a very common place for me in the coming months as Gulls may be needed to push things over. In the meantime Chaos has given me a week off, but felled me with some physical Chaos to try to overcome. Hopefully I can make some good use of this time and find some good birds that are early for Novembird.
This Leucistic juvenile Trumpeter Swan gave me some great looks at D DR S.
Some other bird highlights included some juvenile Bald Eagles playing Red Baron over Baker Sanctuary, a really nice day for Warblers at Woodland on 9/21. I think it was 16 species overall, and a captive Eagle at Cranefest.
Not much for non-bird highlights. The moths have dwindled down quickly this fall. I really need to ditch the LED lights and get a better setup if I'm going to try to just attract them nearer the house instead of inside the garage. I think the Mourning Cloak was new for me. I thought it was just a really roughed-up Swallowtail of some kind. The "inchworm" I have in iNat as a Fall Cankerworm Moth, but not verification yet. The really cool looking one is a Black-blotched Schizura Moth. First one for me. Hoping to see an adult at some point.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)