Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I got me some Limp Kin (24-29Jul2015)

Ok so this post is not about my wet noodle of a brother (Limp Kin.....get it???).  Dwayne M found a Limpkin where the Catawba River empties into Lake Norman North of Charlotte.  Here is the Wikipedia entry for this strange bird:

The limpkin (Aramus guarauna), also called carraocourlan, and crying bird, is a bird that looks like a large rail but is skeletally closer to cranes. It is the only extant species in the genus Aramus and the family Aramidae. It is found mostly in wetlands in warm parts of the Americas, from Florida to northern Argentina. It feeds on molluscs, with the diet dominated by apple snails of the genus Pomacea. Its name derives from its seeming limp when it walks.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  First a couple pics from earlier this week.  I have been going to the North End of WB in the evenings after work to decompress.  Its been a while since I have seen Ring-billed Gulls, or at least it seems that way, so when I saw this gull I was secretly hoping it was a Mew Gull. Of course it wasn't.

Ring-billed Gull

Local Birds - I believe some type of Peep. Maybe of the Adams subtype.

I did make a couple trips to the Fort Fisher Spit too, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Gull-billed Tern

This Gull-billed Tern chick was begging, but the adult was ignoring him.  Time to fend for yourself now chickie.

Yesterday evening my buddy Dave W called and reported that the Upland Sandpipers were at the observation field at ILM.  So naturally I high-tailed it over and set up the scope from my truck bed.  It did not take long to find the Lockness Monster of the bird world.  

These Upland Sandpipers were far off, a couple hundred yards at least.  However, my digiscoping rig did the job for a diagnostic picture.  Very strange that they are so wary of humans yet they hang out in fields next to an active runway.  Planes were roaring past them and they did not seem bothered.  I guess they know the planes are not a threat when they are in the field.

A Loggerhead Shrike perched on the fence so I practiced some shots with my digiscoping set up.

The pictures come out very different based on the eye cup positioning and of course the zoom.

As I was admiring the masked bandit, I noticed the Uplands were in a bit closer and the sun glare was not as bad.

Upland Sandpiper - now do you see the Lochness genetics?

So back to the protagonist of this post - Limpkin.  

I knew I would never make it to Lake Norman in time to get him yesterday, plus I had a ton of telecons for work.  So in the evening after the Uplands, I loaded my kayak on my truck and prepped for an early morning departure.  Is 3 am early or late?  I managed to make it to the Kayak launch at a little before 8am and after an uneventful launch I quickly found the cove in question on the Catawba River.  How did I know it was the cove?  Because Dwayne and Jeff and friends (was nice to see John H again) were standing on the river bank with a line of scopes pointed in the direction of the cove. Since I was the only one in a kayak or any watercraft for that matter I set off to explore the cove.  

I found multiple Little Blue Herons, some Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets and even two immature White Ibis.  There was tons of Killdeer vocalizing and I even saw a group of Wild Turkey.    Kingfisher pairs were staked out every hundred yards or so.  Ospreys thick as flies on a corpse.  However, no Limpkin!

Solitary Sandpiper

Immature Little Blue

I circled back to Dwayne and company and they also had not seen the Limpkin.  However, Dwayne had one more trick up his sleeve.  He knew of another cove with suitable habitat about 1/4 mile up river under a train trestle.  I did not want to fail after such a long drive so off I went.  1/4 mile turned into closer to a mile up river but I found the trestle and went under.  The habitat was great, looked like Florida.  I tried the left finger, there was nothing but more Herons so I checked the right finger (really a creek) and nothing there either.  Then I tried the middle finger (the middle finger should always be the last resort).  BINGO!  A Limpkin was sitting there just begging me to crush him.

I took a couple strokes with my paddle and stowed it in my rigging thinking it would bring me within decent photo range.

Well I kept snapping pics, but there must have been a current or slight wind or maybe just momentum, and before I knew it I was floating to within 15 feet of the bird.  I was kind of torn between getting my paddle out and back paddling to give some distance or just sitting quietly and hoping I was not disturbing it by being so close.

Well the bird did not seem to care one bit.  He was preening and looking away from me as if he was not worried at all.  Probably he has spent some time on Florida golf courses.

My kayak kept creeping up the little channel closer and closer.  I reasoned that getting my paddle out would be even more disruptive.

I ended up with the bow of my kayak within 5 feet of the bird and he still was not worried in the least.  Luckily the water was shallow at this point and my forward progress stopped.  I just sat there watching him/her and he/she did the same with some time spent preening.

How do I know the bird was not phased?  Well unless this scratch was a nervous tick, he seemed to not be worried at all.

I had better looks at this Limpkin than any I have seen in Florida.

Apparently Limpkins are so limp they can corkscrew 360 degrees.

Finally I had the courage to un-stow my paddle and start a backwards paddle away from this beautiful creature.  He surprisingly just sat there watching.

I know these pictures all look alike but I am like a kid in a candy store.

The paddle back was long and hot but I was on cloud 9 and the drive home seemed much shorter than the drive in.

Great times.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Duck a l'orange (19Jul2015)

Hello birders.  Success was mine yesterday.  It was my beautiful wife's birthday and I was busy spending some quality time when Sam C called.  Over the past 6 months I have come to understand a call from Sam means he is looking at a rare bird.  So I was a little hesitant picking up the phone because I knew it had the potential for a chase and subsequent disappointment from my wife.  However, my fears were allayed when I found that Sam was looking at three Black-bellied Whistling Ducks at Twin Lakes in Sunset Beach. My wife loves Sunset Beach! Perfect.  I proposed my plan to my wife and she agreed.... I wish it was always this easy.

Once we finally made it to Twin Lakes (it did not take long but knowing the birds could fly any moment made every minute an eternity), I set up my scope and found the ducks within a minute. However, they were so far I knew I was going to have trouble getting a photo good enough to document the sighting.  So I drove onto a side road with access to the golf course and took my chances walking in without walking on any greens.  I found a vantage point where I could get the below identifiable photo, but that just was not good enough either.

So I decided to find the house from the road and knock on the occupant's door to see if they would be ok with me getting a better shot.

Gray Fox Squirrel - we don't get too many of these in NC.

I found the house and saw a Giant's sticker on their vehicle so I decided to introduce myself and use my New Yorker accent to endear them to my plight.  The nice lady answering the door looked at me like I was some kind of weirdo which is probably appropriate but she took me inside and opened the back door for me.  Bingo!  Three BBWDs hanging out on her little lawn.  They were definitely wary of humans and looked as though they might fly so I stayed only 1 minute and managed to snap some pics.  By the way, she said she would not want a repeat of people knocking on her door to see the ducks, so please don't do the same.

Some people have been calling the bill color pink and some "coral" but to me it just looks orange.  Now the legs are definitely pink.

I was not really paying attention at the time, but I don't see any bands on the ducks.

I hope they establish themselves in NC.  We could use them.

The orange is really pronounced on the upper part of the bill (culmen).  Look at the "nail" on that bill!

After that we went to the beach and really enjoyed swimming in the tidal pools and cooling off in general.  I did find a huge gull roost with what I thought was a Lesser Black-backed Gull but I did not have bins or my camera.

Great times.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Twin Lakes and ILM (15-18July2015)

A report of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks at Twin Lakes in Sunset Beach, NC had me chasing something for the first time in a while (month?).  Or at least it seems like it.  I need to move somewhere where the summer birding is good too.

I will spare you the suspense, I did not find the ducks.  It seems this year there has been quite a few sightings of BBWDs but none of them stayed for more than 24 hours.

Finally Wood Storks have moved in.

It was early so the lighting was bad. This picture was with my camera.  I got a better picture with my digiscoping set up but having trouble uploading it.

Saturday I decided to spend an hour looking for Upland Sandpiper at ILM. It was 3pm and hot, so I was not surprised that I did not find anything good.

Cattle Egret - this bird was really snazzy.

ILM is the most reliable place I know of in Wilmington to see Loggerhead Shrike.

I can't wait for fall migration.  Also, a surf trip to Costa Rica in early August will probably get me a few birds too.  Hopefully my buddy will not be frustrated with my frequent birding forays.  The great thing about Costa Rica is I can bird if the waves stink, whereas my friend will probably just drink beer. Hmm... Maybe I can drink beer and bird at the same time.  Pure Vida.

Monday, July 13, 2015

I'm not Bittern (12-13Jul2015)

After 3 weeks without any real birding, I was finally able to get out for a full day on Sunday.  my main target was to get a picture of a Least Bittern since I missed my opportunity earlier this year at Mackay Island.  Since John and crew have been getting Least Bitterns galore at Cedar Island, I decided to make the trip up.  With a 6am start time that meant getting up at 2am so I could have my coffee and do my morning rituals before getting on the road.  

We started at North River Farms and had a Dickcissel and some other usual birds.  At the Cedar Island causeway, we stopped 3-4 times coming up empty and I was starting to get really worried.  But at the 5th stop we started to see and hear the Least Bitterns.  That being said, they were not posing for me.

Flushed Least Bittern - note dark back and rufous head/neck with black cap.  I took many photos but none were any good.  Diagnostic anyhow.

Another Least Bittern shot.

Seaside Sparrow - bad photo, but I wanted to post it to illustrate that juvenile birds can look quite light colored.  There has been quite a few Nelson's or Saltmarsh Sparrows this summer, but I am fairly certain they have been mistaken Seasides.

The large horse and cow herd at Cedar Island making the inlet crossing.

Glossy Ibis

Although the birding was good, we had nothing really rare and somehow I made it back home without falling asleep at the wheel.

Today I went for a quick trip to the airport to look for some Upland Sandpipers that have been reported.  As luck would have it, they were mowing...ARGHh..

To continue the theme of confusing juveniles, these Eastern Kingbird juveniles almost looked like Bank Swallows!

I have been messing around with my digiscoping rig, never in ideal conditions but I am still impressed with the possibilities.

This Ruby-Throated Hummingbird was digiscoped from my front porch.

Here is a photo from last week when I saw the Black Terns.

I can't wait to get this set up more dialed in.  Will be useful for that uber rarity that is sitting a mile away.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Black is Beautiful (06Jul2015)

Apologies for the prolonged blog silence.  A combination of work, family, garden and summer doldrums has kept me from birding.  I will start out with some random pics that have sat on my camera for a couple weeks.

Early morning Boat-tailed Grackle at North Topsail.

One of the two Great Cormorants that have been hanging out on the pilings at North Topsail.  Note the blocky head, whitish throat and dark lores.  One of the poor birds had a big fishing lure imbedded in his belly and foot.  However he was not letting anyone get close.

Barn Swallow from I don't even know where.

Over the weekend I got away for several hours and went down to Twin Lakes to find a Wood Stork. If you told me last year I would have trouble getting Wood Stork I would not have believed you.  Yet I dipped hard.  I even went to Indigo Farms on the border of SC/NC.  I saw a pretty tame one there last year but no luck.  I did see many Red-necked Carolinians though.  A strange species.  Many were flying the battle flag not even realizing what it means.  Or maybe they do know and that is even worse than ignorance.  All it takes is a little homework to know that the flag represents secession from the United States and that the secession was documented very well.  In almost all the documents filed by States seceding from the union they stated the reason they were seceding was the threat to the institution of slavery.  None of them cited state's rights. I wish people would just do a little research instead of watching Fox News.  One idiot I saw was flying a Confederate Flag and an American Flag at the same time.  How does that make sense?  If the Confederacy won there would be no USA. It's ok to admit your ancestors were wrong and move on.  Hell my ancestors probably raped and pillaged all the time.

Helmeted Guinea Fowl?  Lots of strange barnyard birds including a Hybrid Barnacle looking Goose.  I didn't bother with a pic.

Loggerhead Shrike

A little bird let me know yesterday of a flock of Black Terns at the South end of Wrightsville. I was busy watching the Women's World Cup (GO USA!!!) so I waited until this evening to head down.  I am on kid detail while my wife helps her sister with some health issues, so I brought the boys with me.  Unfortunately this meant no getting close to the Black Terns.  My boys were yelling and running around preventing any birds from roosting anywhere near us.  However, I did get good fly by looks and some scope views.

Juvenile Black Tern.

Adult Black Tern.

It was good to get out and see something new for the year.  I hope it doesn't take another two weeks for the next bird.