Sunday, November 20, 2016

Photo Journal 2016: September

September brought new changes to my 2016 Nature Plots (3 spots I visit and photograph each week). Fall flowers bloomed, leaves held fast, and the weather remained pleasant.

Enjoy these images of the progress of my photo journal. It can also be viewed week by week and in greater detail on my Little Bird Nerd Facebook page.

September, Spot 1

Spot 1: September 2016, Weeks 36-39

September, Spot 2

Spot 2: September 2016, Weeks 36-39

September, Spot 3

Spot 3: September 2016, Weeks 36-39

Life Birds:

Just like August, September was a 5 "lifer" month (meaning, I saw 5 new birds I'd never seen before)!

The Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriwa) was my most expensive life bird to-date! This amazing bird, whose normal range typically tops off around Southern Texas, happened to get blown way off course, and ended up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The bird arrived months ago, but I needed to wait until my semester was over to be able to spend the time and money on this trip. Luckily, the bird hung around (and as of now, mid-November, is still there) long enough for me to make it up there! After renting a car and driving over 7 hours to a small paper factory in the little town of Munising, Jason and I were able to spot the bird within about 30-45 minutes of scanning the grounds. The bird appeared to be casually foraging for worms in a field adjacent to the paper factory. Standing over two feet high, it struck us as some strange hybrid between falcon, vulture, and chicken. The rest of the trip was spent exploring northern Michigan, but in this first hour of reaching our destination, the feelings that flooded me were indescribable.
Crested Caracara in Munising, Michigan
Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera): This bird, unlike the Caracara, came unexpectedly and close-to-home. As I was making my way through the woods of my favorite local park, searching for a Gray-cheeked Thrush which had been sighted recently, quick movement at the top of a tree caught my attention. Lifting binos up to my eyes, I knew immediately that this was a Golden-winged Warbler. Even without having ever seen this bird, and not having it on my immediate "radar", there was no mistaking this striking little warbler. The black eye mask and throat, yellow cap, golden wingbars, and plain belly were classic identifiers. I felt like I'd been graced by the presence of a little bird fairy! And just as quickly as it flashed into view, it was gone. A sight for my memory only.

Gray-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus): As I made my way back out of the woods, giddy from the sighting of the Golden-winged Warbler, I was clued in by fellow birder Andy about a Gray-cheeked Thrush who appeared to be injured, sitting on the side of the path. I hated for my first sighting of this species to be of an injured bird, but it was cool to be able to get up-close shots of a bird which is commonly mistaken for other types of thrushes. Having these photos is an amazing educational tool for later study. And later, I passed by the bird once again and it flushed, flying deeper into the woods. Perhaps there was hope for it yet.
Gray-cheeked Thrush
The next two life birds, Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) and Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus), were both found along the Shiawassee wildlife drive. The Ibis was awesome because it's normally a bird found much further south. It's always a treat to be able to get a faraway bird close to home. The dowitchers were awesome because they present such a difficult ID challenge (compared to Short-billed Dowitchers). In this case, we had Long and Short-billeds together, so it was cool to be able to see them side by side.
Glossy Ibis and Ring-billed Gulls

Long-billed Dowitchers
Last year's January through September total species count: 202
This year's January through September total species count: 233

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