Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Gulls Galore

Every winter hoards of Gizzard Shad congregate around the warm water outflows of the power plant at East 72nd Street. This southern fish probably arrived from the Ohio River via the Ohio-Erie canal and end up dying in massive numbers as the temperature drops. However, if you’re looking for gulls, this is a perfect opportunity. If the lake freezes over, expect gulls in your face because the immediate water near the power plant remains open.
Even though the lake didn’t freeze over yet, I spent most of yesterday scanning through the hoards of gulls. I was joined by Gabe Leidy, Jim and Bret McCarty, Gary Meszaros and Ryan Steiner and had nine species of gulls. Highlights were:
California Gull - 2 (1st & 3rd)
Thayer's Gull - 2 (both 1st)
Iceland Gull - 6 (4 1st & 2 ad)
Glaucous Gull - 4 (3 1st & 1 ad)

Two 1st-cycle Glaucous Gulls

1st-cycle Glaucous Gull in flight

1st-cycle Iceland Gull

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Lakewood CBC

Today I joined Paula Lozano, Bob Finkelstein, Larry Rosche and Jim McCarty on the Lakewood Christmas Bird Count. Our team covered the Lake Erie lakefront between Rocky River and Edgewater Park. It was 60° Ferinheight when I left my house and by the time I arrived at our first destination, it dropped twenty degrees.

This is what the morning looked like; cold, cloudy and very windy. I believe at some point wind gusts were reaching 60mph which kept birds inactive. Through much perseverance we still had some birds including a decent movement of waterfowl. Two Long-tailed Ducks, three Surf Scoters, a juvenile Glaucous Gull and good numbers of Northern Pintail were among the highlights. According to Kenn Kaufman, there has recently been a large movement of pintails on Lake Erie and this is generally not common in mid-winter.

Here’s Bob, Paula and Jim towards the end of the day as we were finishing up the lakefront; of course this is when the weather improved…

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Milpe Bird Sanctuary/Los Bancos (Day 4)

Day four of our trip took us to Milpe Bird Sanctuary, located in an Important Bird Area. Part of the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation, Milpe consists of 155 acres in a steep, forested valley ranging between 1020-1150m (3350-3770ft) elevation.

This is what the trails around Milpe look like. They are well maintained and even has stairs cut out into the dirt.

Here’s Brad and I looking through our scopes up into the canopy while Nick Athanas watches and laughs. No, we weren't goofing off but were looking at a…

Broad-billed Motmot. The photo isn’t that great but believe it or not, I took it through the scope with my Canon Rebel SLR. Who knew SLRs are able to do that…

Some of the highlights around Milpe include: Blue-fronted Parrotlet, Pale-mandibled Aracari, Chocó Toucan, Chestnut-mandibled Aracari, Esmeraldas Antbird, Tawny-breasted Flycatcher, Club-winged and Golden-winged Manakins, Chocó Warbler and this Green-crowned Woodnymph.

Green-crowned Woodnymph (Photo courtesy John Wilkinson)
Our next stop was Mirador de Rio Blanco in Los Bancos. This restaurant has an incredible fruit feeding station that attracts tanagers by the dozens. While sitting back drinking native fruit drinks, we watched the feeders and took advantage of the easy photography. Here are a few of my best:

Flame-faced Tanager

Guira Tanager (female)

Palm Tanager

Golden Tanager

Silver-throated Tanager

Lemon-rumped Tanager (male)

Thick-billed Euphonia

Green Thorntail (male)

Green Thorntail (female)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager

Not only does Tandayapa Bird Lodge maintain several hummingbird feeders; they also lay out fruit for tanagers and other birds that pass by the balcony. Here is a shot I took of one of the frequent Blue-winged Mountain-Tanagers that took advantage of the fruit. I could watch these guys all day…

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ecuador - Day 3 (Lower Tandayapa Valley)

We began the day with a visit to the lodge’s blind before sunrise; this offered an excellent close-up encounter with a pair of White-throated Quail-Doves as well as a Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch and Streak-capped Treehunter.

John Wilkinson at the blind interance

After a quick breakfast, we continued up the trails into the lush cloudforest reserve surrounding the lodge. We searched for a calling Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl but only one or two of us got a quick glimpse. We continued on adding Powerful Woodpecker, Olivaceous Piha, Immaculate Antbird, Golden-headed Quetzal and a perched Wedge-billed Hummingbird.

  Olivaceous Piha

Around midday we drove down the valley birding along the way adding Squirrel Cuckoo, Red-headed Barbet, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Tawny-bellied Hermit and a Torrent Tyrannulet hunting in a stream. We then searched for a distant Black-and-chestnut Eagle nest up on a mountainside. It took us a while but we soon had two eagles souring along the ridge.

Birding along the road in the Tandayapa Valley
(Photo courtesy by John Wilkinson)

We continued birding along the road finding Golden-olive Woodpecker, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Pacific Hornero, Red-billed Parrots and beautiful, Beautiful Jays. Once it got dark, Nick Athanas took us to a Lyre-tailed Nightjar stake-out and after a little bit of searching, we found an amazing, long-tailed male. That was a fantastic ending to a great day of birding.

Sorry for the lack of bird pictures, more will come.

Addition birds added to our trip list:
Black-and-chestnut Eagle
Rock Pigeon
White-throated Quail-Dove
Red-billed Parrot
Squirrel Cuckoo
Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl
Lyre-tailed Nightjar
White-tipped Swift
Tawny-bellied Hermit
Purple-bibbed Whitetip
Wedge-billed Hummingbird
Golden-headed Quetzal
Red-headed Barbet
Toucan Barbet
Crimson-rumped Toucanet
Golden-olive Woodpecker
Smoky-brown Woodpecker
Pacific Hornero
Red-faced Spinetail
Spotted Barbtail
Lineated Foliage-Gleaner
Streak-capped Treehunter
Montane Woodcreeper
Uniform Antshrike
Immaculate Antbird
Chestnut-crowned Antpitta
Nariño Tapaculo
White-tailed Tyrannulet
Torrent Tyrannulet
Flavescent Flycatcher
Smoke-colored Pewee
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Rusty-margined Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Scaled Fruiteater
Olivaceous Piha
Golden-winged Manakin
Beautiful Jay
Red-eyed Vireo
Brown-capped Vireo
Andean Solitaire
Ecuadorian Thrush
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
House Wren
Tropical Parula
Olive-crowned Yellowthroat
Slate-throated Whitestart
Three-striped Warbler
Fawn-breasted Tanager
Orange-bellied Euphonia
Golden Tanager
Golden-naped Tanager
Metallic-green Tanager
Black-capped Tanager
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager
Lemon-rumped Tanager
Buff-throated Saltator
Black-winged Saltator
Variable Seedeater
Yellow-bellied Seedeater
Tricolored Bush-Finch
White-winged Bush-Finch
Chestnut-capped Bush-Finch

Monday, December 8, 2008

Headlands - Purple Sandpiper

Purple Sandpiper (one of two present), November 18, 2008
Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve, Lake County, Ohio

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Two-barred Crossbills!

I went to the Holden Arboretum (Lake County) to look for crossbills in their huge conifer collection today. This is near the corner of Sperry and Kirtland-Chardon Roads. I knew it was going to be a good day when I stepped out of my car and immediately had 3 White-winged Crossbills (or Two-barred Crossbill as the Brits call them) fly over heading south. After a little bit of searching I found a nice flock of 12 WWCR in one of the spruce trees. They occasionally switched trees and eventually flew south. This was seconds before Jim and Bret McCarty showed up. It turned out alright since the next 2 hours yielded over 50 more WWCR allowing fantastic views. At one point a small flock landed in the spruce tree that we were standing next to. Here is a breakdown on the flocks:

7:45am - 3 (flying south)
8:00am - 12 (mostly males; feeding in tree and then headed south)
8:45am - 1 (single male landed on top of a spruce and continued south)
9:40am - 21 (two flocks - landed, fed for a while and headed south)
10:00am - 25 (one flock - landed for a couple seconds and continued south)
10:13am - 1 (flying south)

This is what the conifer section looks like from Google Earth
They occupied the spruce tops, feeding for the majority 
of time. There are at least 8 individuals in this photo.
Finally, here is a poor shot of a male that teed up for a minute.
Now where can I find some Red Crossbills...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ecuador - Days 1-2

Last July I spent two weeks birding in Ecuador with Brad, John and Judy Wilkinson. We were on a tour through Tropical Birding spending a week in the northwest and another in the eastern lowlands.

We arrived in Quito on the 16th and stayed the night at Hotel Sebastian. Since it was practically in the middle of the night, it was easy to fall asleep knowing we weren’t missing any birds.

The following morning came early and we were met by our guide – Nick Athanas and local driver Vladimir. We were soon on our way to Yanacocha Reserve on the slopes of Volcan Pichincha. Our first bird came before light – a Great Thrush walking down a sidewalk, which was soon followed by multiple Rufous-collared Sparrows. Both of these birds are considered ‘trash’ birds to most.

We spent the whole morning walking down the road at Yanacocha getting a taste of our first South American birds Including Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Blue-backed and Cinereous Conebills, Smoky-bush Tyrant and this Tawny Antpitta.

As we approached the hummingbird feeders, it became apparent that feeders in Ecuador are fantastic. We had ten species including:

Buff-winged Starfrontlet

Great Sapphirewing

Shining Sunbeam

And this Sword-billed Hummingbird

Besides hummingbirds, the area around the feeders were also great for other birds including Ocellated Tapaculo, Streaked Tuftedcheak, Rufous-naped and Stripe-headed Brush-Finches, Bar-bellied Woodpecker and this Barred Fruiteater.

After a quick lunch we headed off to Tandayapa Bird Lodge, our lodging for the next few nights. Along the way we continued adding birds to our list including Turquoise Jay, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Sickle-winged Guan, Western Hemispingus and lekking Andean Cock-of-the Rocks.
We eventually arrived and were automatically glued to the feeders. Tandayapa Bird Lodge probably has the world’s greatest hummingbird feeders, but that will be another blog post…

Here was our list for the day:

Tawny-breasted Tinamou
Curve-billed Tinamou
Turkey Vulture
Variable Hawk
Sickle-winged Guan
Band-tailed Pigeon
White-tipped Dove
White-capped Parrot
White-necked Jacobin
Brown Violet-ear
Green Violet-ear
Sparkling Violet-ear
Western Emerald
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Andean Emerald
Fawn-breasted Brilliant
Shining Sunbeam
Mountain Velvetbreast
Great Sapphirewing
Collared Inca
Buff-winged Starfrontlet
Sword-billed Hummingbird
Buff-tailed Coronet
Sapphire-vented Puffleg
Golden-breasted Puffleg
Booted Racket-tail
Black-tailed Trainbearer
Tyrian Metaltail
Violet-tailed SylphPurple-throated Woodstar
Rainbow-bearded Thornbill
Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan
Crimson-mantled Woodpecker
Bar-bellied Woodpecker
Powerful Woodpecker
Azara’s Spinetail
White-browed Spinetail
Streaked Tuftedcheak
Rufous Antpitta
Tawny Antpitta
Unicolored Tapaculo
Ocellated Tapaculo
White-throated Tyrannulet
White-banded Tyrannulet
Tufted Tit-tyrant
Black Phoebe
Rufous-breasted Chat-tyrant
Smoky Bush-tyrant
Golden-crowned Flycatcher
Red-crested Cotinga
Barred Fruiteater
Andean Cock-of-the-Rock
Turquoise Jay
Great Thrush
Brown-bellied Swallow
Blue-and-white Swallow
Rufous Wren
Plain-tailed Wren
Gray-breasted Wood-wren
Spectacled Whitestart
Cinereous Conebill
Blue-backed Conebill
Masked Flowerpiercer
Glossy Flowerpiercer
Black Flowerpiercer
Blue-and-black Tanager
Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager
Hooded Mountain-Tanager
Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager
Superciliaried Hemispingus
Western Hemispingus
Southern Yellow-Grosbeak
Plain-colored Seedeater
Rufous-naped Brush-Finch
Stripe-headed Brush-Finch
Rufous-collared Sparrow

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Burke Snowy Owls

Burke Lakefront Airport is probably the most reliable spot in Ohio for Snowy Owls. This winter has been an exceptional year for this particularly nomadic owl with at least nine individuals discovered so far; two of these at Burke. Birders can sometimes get a glimpse of this large, white owl along Marginal Road, which runs parallel to I-90; just east of downtown Cleveland.

Occasionally though, birders will dip on finding these owls and the reason for that is because they will sometimes settle on the other side of the airport - out of view.

Last Sunday, I was fortunate to board the Holiday; a charter boat that drops off Browns fans at the stadium. During the game, the captain took a group of birders along the Lake Erie coast in search of rarities.

This is the view of lakeside Burke with the Cleveland Skyline in the background.

In case you didn't notice it in the previous picture, an immature Snowy Owl was perched on the wooden stairs.

It was great viewing the owl up close from the boat rather than peering through a fence 250 yards away.

Other notable birds we had during the trip include Harlequin Duck, Paregrine Falcon, Merlin, four Lesser Black-backed Gulls and fifty-four Black-crowned Night Herons along the Cuyahoga River.