Monday, January 18, 2010

I guess we skipped February, and went straight into March!

Today, for the first time in my life, you got Martin Luther King Jr Day off of school! With this extra day, I went out birding for the first time in a while to track down some yearbirds.

The last week has been really warm, and everything is melting. The fields are filled with mud and water and hundreds of waterfowl have collected in these fields, just like what happens in March with the migration!! Most if the fields that aren't full of water, are only 10-20% covered with snow, just as in March. I even caught myself looking for the first swallows and bluebirds!!!! They don't arrive until mid-March!! This weather could have fooled me!

I headed south, almost to Bigfork and turned onto Riverside Rd. Off of Riverside Rd. is Ranchette Rd. or something like that. There is a boat ramp on the Flathead River here, and that was my first designated stop - in search of Red-breasted Mergansers.

The ice at the waters edge was very attractive today, and I got a few shots of it.
The "steps" descending into the abyss . . . .
On the river, was about 15 Common Goldeneyes, 6 Common Mergansers, 6 Mallards, and about 4oo RING-NECKED DUCKS!!!! They aren't uncommon or anything, but the first Yearbird for the day! Also, I have never seen so many Ring-necked Ducks in one spot at one time. It was pretty cool. Also around was a Northern Flicker that seemed to be a "red-shafted" but with yellow-orange feathers, not the more true orange of the ever-present "red-shafted"s. It still had a red mustache, but its wing and tail feather color was off. Maybe a hybrid backcross with a "red"? On my way out, I ran into a flock of chickadees with some GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS with them. Not a bad bird to find, and another yearbird! I missed Red-breasted Merganser on the river :( Maybe next time.
Further down Riverside Rd, I found a WILSON'S SNIPE on a creek! Not the place I would expect one. Slower, more boggy stuff is where I would think this guy would have been. Another Yearbird.

On the big "feed lot" off of Egan Slough Rd, I had a group of BREWER'S BLACKBIRDS, really common in summer, but mostly gone in winter. Some always hang out with the cows though. Yearbird number 4 for the day.

That was about the extent of the birding I did today. Not much, but some good birds. Hundreds of Mallards and Canada Geese in various fields around the area. No bluebirds yet!

4 yearbirds brings me to 60 for the year. Tied with Dan Casey

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Drawing of the Day

This is not a daily thing, but I will try to crank out a piece every month.

Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Kalispell Christmas Bird Count

Today was the Kalispell Christmas Bird Count, and the last on of the count season for me. This time I got to do my own section again, and my mom joined me also.

Breakfast at Finnegan's Restaurant was great, and lots of people showed along with Byron and Maggie Butler from Bozeman. Shane Hatfield and I unofficially split the area, my mom and I did the north end while he started at the south end of our section of Evergreen.

After breakfast my mom and I drove north to the top of our section, and on the way I was NOT watching the road while driving but I DID spot a large flock of something flying around the north end of the Kalispell international airport. I stopped and scanned with the scope. SUSPICIONS CONFIRMED! There was a flock of something way the heck over there! They did look VERY much like Snow Buntings but closer inspection should reveal maybe another species in the mix. We drove to a road that got much closer and WHOA! My first look at perched SNOW BUNTINGS!!!!!! All others were flying! They were still quite far but I got to see the great color and detailed wing and face patterns! Fantastic!!!!!

After that, my mom and I check all the spots, working south meticulously, finding every bird possible. We got a few American Goldfinches, Harlan's Hawk, Bald Eagles, Mountain and Black-capped Chickadees.

We even came to a Great Blue Heron along a little bayou. On Bayou Rd, we had a Merlin attacking a large flock of House Finches and the like.

Feeders are always a good find while on a CBC. People feed birds, more birds see birds feeding, they come, and so on. At this on house, I got 2 year birds at the feeders, Hairy and Pileated Woodpecker!

About halfway down our area, we ran into Shane, discussed the birds so far, and went south the the bottom of our area to work our way up through Evergreen to see if we could find something that Shane might have missed.

At the very southeastern corner of our area, is a RV park along the Flathead River, and here I got some great shots of a Mountain Chickadee as/after is was bathing in a puddle on a large rock.

Now this bird was puzzling, and quite interesting. This is the only photo I got. I was hoping it was as tame as the Mountain and would bath with my taking pictures but soon as the shutter went off so did the bird. I have read that some Black-capped Chickadees have a little white eyebrow, but I have also seen photos of hybrid birds. Body color and shape isn't right at all for Mountain or even half, so I am going with an odd Black-capped, though the flanks are a bit duller then the surrounding birds. Please, if you have any comments, share!
We then drove up and down every road in our section of Evergreen. Here in town there is a bunch of birds, I mean LOTS! We were looking for some good birds Shane missed, but instead found some he missed that we weren't really looking for. We had just one Song Sparrow, one White-breasted Nuthatch, and 7 Wild Turkeys in Evergreen. We saw about 10 Wood Ducks along Spring Creek but Shane had 15 in that same location so we went with his number.
After nit-picking Evergreen we went back north to work our way down one more time to look for owls, and I found a male American kestrel off of the highway! Another yearbird, along with WB Nuthatch, and Snow Bunting.
I grabbed this one semi-good-enough-to-be-called-crummy digiscoped shot of one of the 2 "normal" Red-tailed Hawks in our section.

We ended the day with 42 species for our area, I saw 40 and Shane had a Sharp-shinned Hawk and 3 Red-winged Blackbirds. I got 5 more Yearbirds to get me to 56 for the year! (I forgot to mention Hooded Merganser and American Coot from Jan, 1st)

Snow Buntings were the best bird, and my favorite too! You know, I have read that in Europe and the USA and places, Airports are great birding locations....... well now I can agree with my own personal sighting!

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Years Birding!!!

The new year is always fun for birders. Old birds yesterday are now "new" birds today and whole new lists are starting. Fun stuff!

For the 3rd year in a row, Dan Casey and I birded the valley starting our year lists. My first bird of the year 2010 was Great Horned Owl at about 1:20 am! I got the rest as I drove to Dan's house in the morning. My 2nd bird for 2010 was Red-tailed Hawk, 3rd was Rough-legged Hawk, and 4th was Bald Eagle. Now that is a way to start off the year!

As I pulled up to Dan's house, a Sharp-shinned Hawk flew over, another good bird! We got into the car, and started making to rounds through the lower valley. Got the usual suspects of Harlan's Hawk, European Starling, Black-capped Chickadee, Bohemain Waxwing and whatnot.

At Wiley Dike, we can to a large flock of Canada Geese, and Dan said "Let's just look over these birds to see if there is another species." I kid you not, almost as soon as I start scanning I find a much smaller goose, with a brown neck and no white cheek-patch.

This GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE was an amazing find, and showed us some good views, but the digiscoping distance and lighting was less then favorable. A fantastic bird to get on January 1st.

After the goose walked over a little rise in the field and disappeared, we went on. Dan had seen a Prairie Falcon down here before, and I was asking him about it, and thus we ran across one!!!! Another great bird for the valley.

Our only Northern Shrike of the day was very cooperative in letting me try to digiscope it. Of course, winter in Montana doesn't allow more then the allotted 8 or 10 days of sunny days (good photography weather) so that is what I am blaming the not-so-good photo quality.

It's hard to recount all the birds and all the spots we visited today, it was pretty fast paced. It's easier to remember the finer details if I have a picture, but I will try to tell about the day.
In Kalispell we had a possible "Prairie" Merlin, and a flock of about 4,000 Bohemian Waxwings! That was a sight! Also in Evergreen we had a few Wood Ducks, always a good bird.
On our way to the landfill, we came across a really birdy spot with House Finches, Chickadees, Cedar Waxwings and one Bohemain, Mourning Doves, Dark-eyed Juncos, Song Sparrow, Downy Woodpecker, and Evening Grosbeaks! The grosbeaks were the best birds at that spot, as they are declining in the area, and all over! I managed a digiscoped picture of a Mourning Dove and a ...... uh....regular? shot of a Cedar Waxwing.
We checked the landfill, and there was only a few hundred gulls, of the Herring and Ring-billed species. Not much this year in the way of gulls.
After a delicious and fattening meal from the golden arches we checked an almost always ice free, snipey, killdeery spot and found a Green-winged Teal. Another good waterfowl species (Horned Grebe on Flathead Lake, and Gadwall in the lower valley). Also at this spot in the west valley, we found a flock of 22 Eurasian-collared Doves!! The most I have seen in one spot! This last summer was a big year for the ECDOs. They certainly have reproduced and been successful this year.
On the way back to Dan's, I nabbed this shot of a Harlan's Hawk.

Leaving Somers on my way home, at the usual Somers location for Collared-Doves, I counted at least 21 birds on the telephone wires and in the trees!!! Now this location usually just has maybe 6!! This is crazy how many ECDOs are appearing in the valley!

I ended the day with 51 species! A good start to a hopefully great year!