Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ninepipes CBC with a bit a rust around the the edges

The Ninepipes National Wildlife Refuge is a great spot for birds, large and small. It is a man-made lake, that has hundreds of breeding gulls, ducks, geese, and shorebirds. It is surrounded by farms, and pothole prairieland for miles. This whole area is refered to by the locals as "ninepipes"

The Ninepipes Christmas Bird Count has the highest number of raptors for all CBC in the nation. So from the start I knew I would have wonderful opertunities for photographing raptors.

Dan and Susannah Casey invited me to join them on the Ninepipes CBC on the 27th. Our first stop was to get out and walk a good sized juniper tree shelterbelt. See, most groups don't get as many birds, because they don't know, or want to search EVERYWHERE for birds.
In this shelterbelt, I got some good pictures of Northern Flickers. Most of the time, they are fairly skiddish, but this one female was very cooperative, and just sat there eating berries as I snapped almost 50 pictures of her. I take so many, because, only a few will be really good.
We continued to search the shelterbelt for owls. Specifically, Long-eared Owls. We saw many of them in the same area last year, but we didn't encounter one. We did, however, find 2 Great Horned Owls.
We left for a new area, which held a large hedgerow, and a nice batch of feeders around a few houses. There, we encountered the largest group of Bohemian Waxwings.

After viewing the waxwings, he went to see what birds we could find at the stream at the base of the dam at Ninepipes Reservoir. We saw a Great Blue Heron, and a Kingfisher. Driving slowly by, I noticed a blackbird down on the little edge of ice, poking aroung in the water. In the back of my mind, I already ID the bird based purely on the birds habits, and location. My consious mind still needed the simple, and basic factors of field marks to ID the bird. Once I brought my binoculars up to the bird, I knew I was right. "RUSTY BLACKBIRD!!!!" I yelled in extreme excitment.

The Rusty Blackbird is a GREAT find in this part of the world. A lifer for both Susannah and I. The bird was too far for a good picture from my Canon, but Dan Casey did get a few great digiscope pictures.

After the Rusty Blackbird, everything was a bit downhill. I did get great looks at various hawks, and sparrows. Sparrows are one of my favorite groups of birds, and the American Tree Sparrow is one of my favorite sparrows, if not the my very favorite. So, I was very pleased to get some great pictures if tree sparrows.

I also got a few good pictures of Rough-legged Hawks. Speaking of hawks, and raptors, we got usual counts for Red-tailed Hawks, and Rough-legged Hawk. OUt counts would seem really high for anywhere else, but ninepipes. We got about 26 Red-tailed Hawks, and about 25 Rough-legged Hawks.

One really great bird that we saw was 5 or so Long-eared Owls!!! We found them in one of our areas great shelterbelts. They stayed perched just long enough for me to manually focus on them, then they flushed. It was still great to see them, but it would have a bit better if I got to get a picture of one.

The pictures aren't the best, due to my newness to SLRs and the horrible lighting contitions, so I am a bit rusty. I loved watching the Rusty Blackbird walking on the edge of the ice, with his rusty edges glossy black body feathers.
Good Luck Birding!!!

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