Thursday, June 30, 2016

Caving In (29Jun2016)

So I have decided that pictures of some species are just too damn difficult, so I am going to bend my rules a little and allow video/audio of a few select nocturnal species.  So far I have 3 species that I have already seen or heard that I have not added to my Big Year 2016 list: Northern Bobwhite, Chuck-will's-widow and Whip-poor-will.  I also have 3 more that I should be able to get audio on before the year is done: Black Rail, Barn Owl and Saw-whet Owl.

So for Chucks, I headed down to CB State Park last night and scored with some crappy video, but the cool thing was a calling juvie Great Horned Owl.  First up is the owl, then the Chucks.  I hope this works as I have not tried posting iPhone videos before.  Turn up your volume all the way!

Here is the Chucks, sound kind of weak, I will try for a better audio soon.

Here is some pics of the same owl.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Miami and Surrounding Areas (23-24Jun2016)

A quick work trip to Miami allowed me a couple hours over two days to search for some South Florida specialties.  It was brutally hot and humid but I made the most of it. Upon landing in Miami I quickly headed 10 minutes North of the airport in a neighborhood called Miami Springs which is known for some of the South Florida exotic species including my primary target the Spot-breasted Oriole.

I believe these were Mitred Parakeets but many of these exotics are interbreeding and getting difficult to ID.

No luck on the Orioles and it was too damn hot so I moved on.

Next stop was Markham Park which is famous for several rarities although none of them are currently being seen. The park is huge and has a shooting range, some ponds, campgrounds and even a model airplane field.  There were probably about 4-5 guys flying their model airplanes over this field and then I noticed the field was chock full of Burrowing Owls.  I was not expecting that.

Back by the campground were some Monk Parakeets.

Last stop for the evening for sunset was Loxahatchee NWR.  This is a beautiful spot at the edge of the everglades.  My quarry was the Smooth-billed Anis that have been seen here over the past couple months.


Finally just before sunset, I found the bugger.  I had him very close but he was skittish and flew across a canal before I could get a decent pic.

Smooth-billed Ani

My ISO was cranked up when this Roseate Spoonbill flew by.

The one thing I do miss about Florida is the sunsets.

Friday was a work day but I managed to head over to Miami Springs again because I had about 45 minutes before I had to be at the airport.

Muscovy Duck - these feral birds are actually countable.  This particular pair was getting nasty.

Then just as I was about to pack it in, I was blessed with this pair of lovelies.

Spot-breasted Oriole - I snapped over 100 photos and tries to boil them down to a handful.  Hard to do when you get some cooperative lifers.

Goodbye by Southern Florida friends.  I hope to see you again under cooler conditions.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Father's Day Presents (19-20Jun2016)

What more could I ask for Father's Day than a 24 hour bird hunt.  I will skip to specifics of why my hunt started in Raleigh, but that is where I left from on Sunday afternoon.  First order of business was to finally get Horned Lark off my list.  It did not take long once I got to Mayo Farm Rd.

Horned Lark

I did not linger long as I had an appointment with a crested confidant in Buxton on the OBX.  Luckily my fine crested friend was right on schedule and showed nicely on arrival at about 6:30 pm.

Crested Caracara - first NC record with photographic evidence.  This immature bird was easy to find due to the legions of Grackles that were making his stay a little uncomfortable.  Look at those legs!!

The evening light was not helping especially with the sun behind him but I managed a few decent shots.

Since it was so late and I was not about to drive all the way home after driving all the way there, I got a room in the reliable Cape Pines Motel.  Did you watch that Cleveland/Oakland NBA Finals game?  It was exactly what a Finals game should be like.  Monday morning I headed bright and early to the Caracara and got some more pictures although again the light was not ideal.

So I killed some time by going surfing not 100 yards from the Caracara.  It was really nice to get wet again.  I have been neglecting surfing for way too long.

Have you ever seen anything so darn cute?

A couple teleconferences later I was ready to try for the Caracara again in better light.

Ahhh that's better.

By this time JFuss and some friends showed up and we watched this majestic bird for a good while.

I called Harry and he was only 20 minutes away so when the bird switched to another tree I stayed on it so I could make sure Harry would get it.  Harry has the most species of birds photographed in a life time in NC and Caracara would be a nice addition.

By this time Harry joined us and had his pictures and I could tell the bird was done preening and was getting ready to fly so I stayed locked in.

Bingo!  The flight shots I was waiting for.

This Grackle thought he would take a free ride.

How satisfying..... but wait..... the streak was not done yet.  On the way home I decided to take the Ocracoke Ferry and try for the Reddish Egret that has been seen on the spoil island just outside Ocracoke harbor.

I might have to start a lighthouse list.

Once we started motoring past the spoil island, it did not take long to find the Reddish Egret although it was a long way off.

Uncropped photo with the Reddish Egret being the little dark dot in the middle of the frame.

Heavily cropped photo showing nicely a dark slate colored wader with reddish head and neck.

In this shot you can even see the bicolored bill.

Really crappy shots but good to get this monkey off my back so early in the year.  Now I can work on improving the shots without feeling the need to chase.

Glossy Ibis - Over on the Cedar Island side of the ferry it made sense to walk the beach where so many vagrants have been found.  Jfuss has had at least one Ruff and a White Wagtail at this spot.

Snowy Egret

A Glossy Ibis has so many different colors to show when the light hits just right.

Almost stepped on this guy.  Any herpers out there can ID this?

Even cows need a day at the beach sometimes.

Black-necked Stilt

At this point I started to feel very hungry, not sure why.  However, I still had some work to do.  It was almost time for Black Rails!  JFuss gave me the location of where he heard calling Black Rails in the Cedar Island marsh so I posted up and waited for the sun to set.  The forecast was for light winds and a full moon.  In fact a "Strawberry" moon which is a type of harvest moon.  This boded well for Black Rails.

Cedar Island marsh is lousy with singing Seaside Sparrows.

Horrible photo due to failing light, but this small rail was a Virginia Rail.  I was not totally convinced but then he let loose with his grunting clown laugh.  When I blow the picture up and add some color I can see the bill is nice and red in color instead of the orange on other rails and his neck was a nice rich rufous color fading into the gray face.  I was expecting a longer more slender bill for Virginia but unless a Virginia was calling from the grass right next to him this should be good.  Of course I am always ready for dissenters.  Size is always tricky when a bird is by itself and especially in the middle of a grassy area.

The sunset was awesome.

No filters applied, this is really what it looked like through my 400mm lens.

Then to top it all off, after the sun set and it began to get dark, the strawberry moon started to rise.  I think the name comes from the fact that it signifies the time to start harvesting strawberries, not the color of the moon.

Unfortunately my camera did not do this justice.  It was spectacular.

As the moon climbed it lost more and more color and appeared to shrink.  The mosquitos were getting bad but I was determined to hear a Black Rail.  I waited until it was as dark as it would get, probably about 9:30pm and then I had to throw in the towel or risk falling asleep on the road home.  Black Rails, I will get you before the year is done.  Mark my words.....

What's next?  Hmmm I don't know.  Work trip to Miami today and tomorrow.  I might try and get me a Spot-breasted Oriole if I can get away for an hour or two.  Keep any good NC birds on ice for me until my return.