Monday, February 23, 2009

Gulls in the light, and a 700 clubber

I was privileged to bird with Bob Stites from Portland saturday, along with my mentor/best friend Dan Casey.

The first spot we hit was the landfill, or Gullery. Bob got to see the Iceland Gull last Monday, and was a lifer for him, and later I found out his ABA list is over 700!! Through out the day, he told me stories of birding in Arizona, Alaska, and California and the whole time, I was planning trips off to these famous places. With the sun bright and shinning, without a cloud is the sky, we hopped for good photo opts at the landfill. Arriving, we saw many birds, and picked through the birds, and found 2 first year Glaucous Gulls, and a Thayer's Gull. The Iceland was not seen...yet. We drove to a new vantage point, but there were no gulls to be seen. We hung out a while as the birds slowly filtered our way, to a more photography-friendly area. Finally the Iceland Gull showed up, and along with the 3 Gaucous Gulls, showed very well. I was hoping to get at least one year bird at the dump, and with Dans help on persistent searching, California Gull was my new year bird, and now I am at 81 for ABA for 2009.

(above 2 photos) One of the 3 Gaucous Gulls present. They have been sun-bleached and now are very white.

(above 2 photos) The Iceland Gull that Pete Smith and I originally discovered in early December, and still present!!! Fantastic!!!!

(above 3 photos) Glaucous Gulls

(above) my record shot of the California Gull. They aren't terribly common in the dead of winter, but as march gets nearer, we get hundreds.

(above) Record shot of the small Thayer's Gull that has been present for some time now. Notice the light wingtips, and bicolored panelling in the primaries.

Also, a large flock of Wild Turkeys joined the gull and starlings at the dump, and this big tom gave me a few good shoots.

We birded down to Evergreen, 7 miles south of the landfill, and looking for White-winged Crossbills, but never saw any. In Evergreen, we got to hear, not see, a Blue Jay proclaiming his territory. They have been advancing westward, and got here a couple decades ago, and now are quite common. The bird we heard actually was in the tree that the first few Jay nests were recorded in so many years ago.

We wandered over to a large cattle/horse feed lot looking for blackbirds, but missed them, all 200+ birds. We stopped at Egan School to see a few beautiful male Pine Grosbeaks, and I snapped a few shots as they let me get quite close. This is one of the better shots I have of male Pine Grosbeaks, even though I took many hundreds this winter.

We then birded down to Bigfork, stopping at a boat launch on the Flathead River, and scopped the many hundred of diving ducks: such as Canvasbacks, Redheads, Common Goldeneye, and Scaup of both species. We tried for flocks of waxwings and grosbeaks in Bigfork, but dipped on those. We next tried for Gray Partridge in the "Lower Valley" just right north of Flathead Lake, and south of Kalispell. We missed Gray Partridge, but did see a really beautiful "Harlan's" Red-tailed Hawk. This birds was very colorful, and without the article in the latest "Birding" magazine, Dan would have thought otherwise about the birds subspecies. Entering Somers, as small shoreline town on Flathead lake (where Dan lives) we got great looks at an Eurasian Collared Dove (below). This bird species lives where its name suggests, and was introduced to Cuba a hundred years ago or more. It has spread greatly, but apparently it has no negative effect on native bird/plant/insect species. Maybe it would tip the predator-prey scale as the small, bird eating hawks eat Collared-Doves as well as the native species.

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