Birding in Calhoun County and beyond
On the heels of the Big April, I had high hopes for May. This was especially the case, as migration had seemed very weak so far. The pace for the whole County was excellent so far. I have hopes of a 220 species year for the county. Already some great birds found, but some somewhat easy ones still yet to be seen.
May started out with the Red-headed Woodpecker back for Day 5. Really nice having this bird hanging around the yard. I've also had good luck recently with Turkey's strutting their stuff in the yard. On the 2nd they were at the feeders with them so close, I had to stand 10 feet back away from the window to try to get shots of them.
On May 3rd I managed a quick swing by the Cell tower on F DR N and caught an Osprey trying to rebuild the nest. I've not been able to get by there again to see how things were progressing. Hopefully they get a 4th year in a row there of raising some young. The Dowitchers were still there on the 3rd, but the lighting was not any better, and the temps had warmed up enough to cause a horrible mirage effect. They also stayed well in the back of the field. I was unable to see them the last 15 minutes I spent there scanning. A quick trip from there to Duck Lake WTP netted me a huge flock of Ruddy Ducks. 189 of them flagged as a high count for this time of the year. They were all over the West lagoon. I also had minimum 30 Purple Martins with 26 of them posing nicely on the wires near the lagoons.
May 5th I managed a few better shots of the Red-headed Woodpecker in the yard, and spotted another one on May 6th at the airport. My 110th bird at the airport. May 6th was also my Field Trip with the KBS group to Brook Lodge. Not quite 50 species there, but we did find an invisible Blue-winged Warbler (luckily another one managed to actually show itself to everyone.) Surprisingly Warblers were still not showing up yet. We managed only 6 there. I also only managed 6 at Woodland Park after the KBS field trip was over. Got some decent shots of Yellow-throated Vireo and Black-and-white Warbler. You can see the tell-tale "arrowheads" on the undertail of the Black-and-white Warbler.
The O DR N "fluddle" didn't really present much for a short time after the last Dowitcher sighting. Duck Lake WTP always seems to be one of the best places to get photos of resting Swallows for me. They like to rest on the fence line, and you can get relatively close to them. Photos in flight, usually not so much as you are having to face South to see them. This Northern Rough-winged Swallow gave me some nice looks. You have to be a little careful this time of the year with making a snap ID on the "brown" swallows. As you can see from this comparison the juvenile Tree Swallow on the right has a dirty chest, almost reminding you of Bank Swallow or the Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Notice the fat wings on the bird on the right, and how the white runs up to a nice sharp line on the side of the head. The Rough-winged, on the left, doesn't have the same facial pattern, and a Bank Swallow will have narrower wings and a narrower body.
I continued on to Whitehouse Nature Center to see the very late Common Merganser that was there. Good news/bad news, the bird was there and allowed some excellent views and photos, but it had fishing line wrapped around its bill. Potentially with a hook in there, as there was a sinker on the line. I did manage a photo of it catching a fish, but I'm not sure if it managed to swallow it. It was obviously irritating the bird, as it kept trying to scratch at its bill. It continued from the 6th to the 9th, and then disappeared. Hopefully it was able to overcome this.
May 8th started a string of lifers getting reported, and me being unable to take time off to chase after them.
The Marsh Wren was a tough call for me to make. I spent a lot of time listening to it, recording it and then analyzing the calls. They weren't giving a full song, even to playback. On top of that the Geese and Blackbirds were making quite the ruckus also. It ended up being an accurate call on them. I add another bird, even if Heard Only. Brooks also gave me the FOY Green Heron and White-crowned Sparrow (finally). Another FOY happened just as it was getting dark. As I was finishing up with the Marsh Wren, there was a huge flight of 200 plus Swallows on the lake. Suddenly this lean, long-winged large birds comes swooping through over the cattails, prairie and the lake. This was by far my closest looks at Common Nighthawk. It was amazing watching (I use that term loosely as it was quite dark), this bird hunt. Deftly quick and maneuverable. My previous experiences have been them hunting at higher heights and not having to do turns in which their wings went perpendicular to the ground.
It stunk to miss out on the Least Bittern, definitely a bird high up on the want to see list. I dipped on Golden-winged Warbler at Woodland Park also. A very frustrating bird that should be much easier for me to find. 1 out of 3, isn't too bad though. I thought I'd have to try to squeak one of these out of Baker Sanctuary. Next up a really Big Day for me in the county, on the International Big Day.
My exploits in my latest passion, Birding...not Bird-watching;-)