[Birding (and more) in Calhoun County and beyond
Brief shorebird spectacle
I went back out in a snowstorm on 5/18 to check on the Whimbrel status. The bird was much closer this time and I was able to get some better shots of it. I think around 15 people showed up for it. It being rare to have one in April helped and it stuck around till the 20th. The evening of the 19th Hercules and I went to Brooks Nature Area. I missed some stellar shots of a Bald Eagle as we weren't to the lookout yet when it was gliding around the lake. Another cool birding experience was watching a Merlin maneuver to pick off a swallow right along the surface of the lake.
After some significant rain the night of the 22nd I went back around N DR N/20.5 Mile and up 21 Mile to R DR N and over. There were fluddles all over the place, just not many birds. This would pay off in the following days though. I did manage a FOY Sora in the small cattail marsh that is on R DR N. I think I have had them in that spot a few other years. It is such a small spot for them, but it has been pretty consistently calling when stopping by there.
Hercules and I hit up Brooks the night of the 23rd and FOY were abounding with Yellow Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, House Wren and some very surprising Terns. Orange-crowned was a new early record for me. The light was not great on the Terns, but I could identify some really long tails on a few to make them Forster's Terns. I had 1 that I was pretty sure was a Common Tern. I went back on the 24th and got such better shots so put it in as a Common Tern. The body was grey looking, and the tail looked dark. Apparently the field guides don't reflect that the darkness on the tail is on either the outer web, or the inner web as a difference between the two.
The night of the 23rd I was really hyped for the next day. Between all the fluddles and the BirdCast forecast being high for that day I didn't sleep much. We had winds coming from the south, so I was able to "sleep" with the windows open. That combination lead to YardBird #158 as I heard a Greater Yellowlegs call out as it flew over. The forecast paid off with over 1.6 Million bird estimated to have crossed the county, and a peak of 239K birds in flight. I had 9 FOY birds on the 24th with Black-throated Green Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Warbling Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, early flagged Eastern Kingbird and Green Heron at Woodland Park. The fluddles started to pay off with notification of 21 American Golden Plover on 21 Mile Road. The count ended up being 23 with one bird in full breeding plumage. That bird felt like a Lifer. Crossing back and forth checking for birds brought notification of a Dunlin right back across from the Plovers, and a Semipalmated Plover back on N DR N and 20.5 Mile. The fluddles continued to pay off with 2 different groups of 4 and 2 of Long-billed Dowitcher. I had 2 of the 4 as Short-billed, but they are so far away it is just based on their shape and size. I just received and e-mail tonight from Adam Byrne that they should probably go in as Dowitcher sp. It makes sense. Hard to give up those birds, but with rain all day today, maybe we still have a chance at some.
Chaos started back up, although honestly not as chaotic as what used to be, so yard birding was the prerogative on the 27th with a FOY Black-and-white Warbler giving good looks. Quick trips out to the fluddles showed them losing water quickly, and Brooks Nature Area was prioritized for walking Herc. We did manage to check out a marsh on D DR S that Brendan Klick had posted about on Discord. It paid off with 3 Sora and a Virginia Rail. He thinks it might be a good spot for American Bittern. I need to prioritize checking it out late at night, or early in the morning. Several Wilson's Snipe put on very active flight displays. 28th brought FOY Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a partially leucistic female Red-winged Blackbird. FOY Blue-gray Gnatcatcher showed up in the yard on the 29th. One other neat observation around this time was a Yellow-rumped Warbler actively eating from the feeder and on the ground under the seeds. Not too surprising considering how cold it got at the end of April.
The 30th ended up bing another big FOY day with Swainson's Thrush, Gray Catbird, Yellow-throated Vireo, at Woodland Park and Spotted Sandpiper at Homer. 4 more FOY on 5/1 with Woodland again providing 3 of the 4 in a Northern Waterthrush that was really very Louisiana-like, Wood Thrush and Ovenbird all within first 20 minutes and 100 yards of the entrance. Bobolinks were back at 23 Mile and 0 DR N. Latest FOY was Baltimore Orioles showing up in the yard on 5/2. One last very cool observation was a Blue Jay making a perfect Broad-winged Hawk call. As you can see in the animation below the yellow is an overlay of a snapshot from a Broad-winged Hawk call on MacAuley library, and the grey is the Blue Jay making the same call. The Merlin app can usually do a good job distinguishing the Blue Jay hawk imitation, but it even called this a Broad-winged.
Trip with Hercules to Brooks on 5/1 showed off 3 more Terns with much better looks this time. All 3 were Forster's Terns with on in non-breeding plumage, which I think at this point means it was a bird born last summer and hasn't reached maturity yet. The tail was also very short compared to the adult breeding plumage birds. Hercules also spooked up a Spotted Sandpiper which was a new bird for Brooks. Looking at birds Brooks doesn't have I think Kiehl Smith's prediction it could be the #1 hotspot in the county could probably come true with some focus during migration as it is 14 behind Whitehouse. I managed another Dunlin out on the large flooded area on 5/1 with a Pectoral. It was really the only spot with any water on that day. May have to run out tomorrow and see if today's rain filled them back up.
Quite a few records this year have been new early records for me. Weird migration weather has really caused some spurts and then long days of less than ideal conditions for the birds.
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My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)