Wednesday, February 25, 2009

UP Birding

Saturday morning, Ben Warner, Andy Newman, Heather Raymond and I ventured out of our motel in Sault Ste. Marie to begin a fantastic weekend in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. After cruising some back roads we eventually arrived at the Dunbar Forest feeders which hosted hundreds, maybe thousands of redpolls and siskins. After a few minutes of scanning we eventually found this Hoary Redpoll resting above the feeders.

There are two subspecies of Hoary Redpoll and there is no doubt this is the Greenland form, C. h. hornemanni.

They breed in the very high arctic of Greenland and Canada and differ from C. h. exilpes by being extremely pale.

When we were done scanning through the hoards of redpolls, siskins and Pine Grosbeaks we headed to Pickford to find one of the Northern Hawk-Owls that have been present. It didn’t take long until we found one along M-48 in someone’s front yard.

I wonder if the home owners have any idea just how lucky they are to have a Northern Hawk-Owl hanging around their yard.

After loads of pictures, we headed west to Hulbert Bog to look for Gray Jays and Boreal Chickadees. Among the dozen or so Black-capped Chickadees that came into our pishing, a single Boreal Chickadee came in briefly and vanished just as fast. No Gray Jays were found but constant flocks of White-winged Crossbills and a single Red Crossbill entertained us instead.

We headed back east to Rudyard where a few Snowy Owls have been present for most of the winter. Luck was still with us as we watched three Snowy’s from one spot including this one.

The rest of day was spent driving around adding a few more trip birds such as Northern Shrike and Merlin among others. At 5:30pm we drove to Hay Lake Road where a Great Gray Owl was recently discovered. Through moderate snow, Ben spotted the owl off in the distance just before it flew towards the road. Here is Ben’s shot of ‘the ghost’.

Sunday was spent birding the feeders at Dunbar Forest again. Besides two more Hoary Redpolls of the C. h. exilpes form we had this leucistic Pine Siskin:

Before I knew it, we had to start heading home from an awesome weekend of boreal birding. If you haven't been up to the upper peninsula yet, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Upper Peninsula

Mackinac Bridge - connecting the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan

I’m heading off to the upper peninsula of Michigan tomorrow and will return sometime Sunday. Target birds include Great Gray and Northern Hawk-Owls. Stay tuned for a trip report.

Friday, February 13, 2009

White-winged Crossbill invasdion of '08-'09

This winter has been the largest irruption of White-winged Crossbills in Ohio history. Nearly every conifer with cones cannot hide from these nomadic finches. At the beginning of winter, I decided to keep track of this invasion by maintaining the map below. Let me tell you, I had no idea I would be so busy keeping the map updated!

The numbers represent high counts for each county. As of today, White-winged Crossbills have been reported in 45 of the 88 counties in Ohio. I wouldn’t be surprised if every county had them by now. The map can be a little misleading since the majority of the empty areas represent sparsely populated areas of Ohio, which get very little coverage by birders.

If you’re interested in following the map for updates, go to and click on ‘Ohio Statewide’.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Plymouth, Mass - Ivory Gull

This past weekend was spent unsuccessfully chasing the Ivory Gull in Plymouth, Massachusetts. This was my second IVGU chase – the first was to southern Ontario three years ago. For a complete trip report, visit Jim McCarty’s article in the Plain Dealer. Here are a few pictures from the trip.

This is the harbor behind East Bay Grille where the Ivory Gull had been hanging around. I remember seeing birders from far and wide from Florida to South Dakota.

Common Eider

Since the Ivory Gull chose not to appear, my group birded some local spots including Manomet Point (above), Scituate and the Chiltonville area. Our highlight was probably the Barrow's Goldeneye that was at Scituate but it was also nice to see some coastal species such as Common Eiders, Great Cormorants, Razorbills and Black Guillemots.

Hopefully an Ivory Gull shows up along the Cleveland Lakefront...