20 December 2009

CBC's, etc - 20 Dec. 09

Again, it's been quite a while since my last blog update. With finishing up the semester, I haven't had too much time to bird. Regardless, here are a few pictures from the last week or two.

In driving some backroads, LAPLAND LONGSPURS were pretty easy to come by. We easily tallied over 150+ birds. Here is a distant shot of one on the ground:

... and it flying away:

Also on that drive, we found a COOPER'S HAWK munching on what-was-left of a starling. Here is the hawk taking the meal somewhere else:

Torre and I hit up the Red Rock CBC on the 19th. It was a fun count despite no record-breaking numbers or unusual birds. Some of our personal highlights included:

2 Barred Owls
2 Eastern Screech-Owls
2 Common Grackles
6+ Red-breasted Nuthatches
500+ Dark-eyed Juncos. Yes, 500!

Some notable misses for us in our area included Golden-crowned Kinglet, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Shrike, Rough-legged Hawk, Horned Lark, etc.

On the 20th, Ashley and I participated in the Saylorville CBC. Again, it was a fun morning out with quite an interesting variety of birds. Some highlights for us included:

1 Eastern Screech-Owl (with visual)
6 American Robins (1 came early when we freaked it out while owling)
100+ Cedar Waxwings
1 Pileated Woodpecker (a rather tough bird in this area)
5+ Brown Creepers
1 Common Grackle
1 Gray Catbird:

Another good bird for the count included this RED-SHOULDERED HAWK sitting conveniently along a road during a snowy part of the morning:
Some notable misses in our area this morning included Long-eared Owl, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Purple Finch, and Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Ash and I will be headed to the northeast for the holidays. Perhaps you'll see a post from there next!

12 December 2009

Saturday birding

Torre and I headed out for some birding today. Not too much to report except for 2 different NORTHERN SHRIKES:

This intermediate RED-TAILED HAWK caught our attention as well:

... and then there is this junco at my feeders in Ames. Approaching "Oregon"?

09 December 2009

Sea ducks

I recently made a quick run to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to check out some previously reported diving ducks. I wasn't disappointed! It was a chilly morning (my hands stopped working pretty quickly) with poor light but I tried to make the best of it.


... and a BLACK SCOTER:

... and a SURF SCOTER:

Here is the SURF SCOTER diving:

... and getting feisty towards one of the Mallards:

I was thinking back... and I'm sure that haven't been closer to these 3 species as I was that morning! It was a real treat.

29 November 2009


I had 3 TUNDRA SWANS this morning on Little Wall Lake:

MO to IA

I snapped a few pictures down in Missouri over the weekend, including this TUFTED TITMOUSE with a shelled sunflower seed:

... and this female PURPLE FINCH:

Then driving back through Iowa, I was so desperate to photograph something that I actually took a picture of a BALD EAGLE:

A main target was to find EURASIAN TREE SPARROWS in Iowa, which we found easily in Keokuk:

Last but not least, we barely made it to Neil Smith in time to see a SHORT-EARED OWL flying around at dusk. We didn't know any of the "reliable" spots there but we got lucky and made it happen. Two target state birds down, many more to go...

28 November 2009


Ashley and I made a quick trip to southwest Michigan on the 21st of November. It was a great 3 hours of birding before we made the drive back to Iowa!

There were plenty of BONAPARTE'S GULLS at Tiscornia combined with some beautiful morning light. Here is an adult nonbreeding bird:
... and a first-cycle:

Mixed in was this adult nonbreeding LITTLE GULL:

Grebes gave us a nice show as well. We had both a WESTERN and RED-NECKED GREBE from the tip of the pier. Ironically, this RED-NECKED GREBE was a county bird even though I lived in and birded this county for 7 years:

You can't forget the ducks either. Here are 4 BLACK SCOTERS that zipped by early that morning:

...and a quick-moving flock of BUFFLEHEAD:

However, the real target of our drive was to see a tiny seabird that belongs on the Pacific Ocean. This ANCIENT MURRELET was found a week before we made the drive to see it. It didn't take us more than an hour to find the little guy! What a fun bird:

20 November 2009


I thought I'd share a picture of an AMERICAN TREE SPARROW I snapped this morning. It's nothing crazy but it was a nice morning with good light. Oh well.

16 November 2009


Any thoughts on the species of this gull? THGU? HERG?

I apologize for the quality, they were taken at quite a distance....

15 November 2009

Western Grebe, Pac Loon

Highlights from Lake Red Rock this morning included the below Western Grebe:

We also had:
Greater Yellowlegs (1)
Snow Bunting (8)
Common Loon (80+)
Horned Grebe (10+)
American White Pelican (200+)

At Saylorville this afternoon, we counted 283 COMMON LOONS from one location! I'm sure there were more up the lake but we only counted from Cherry Glen...

Also, we had decent looks of the continuing PACIFIC LOON. It was all by itself between Oak Grove and Sandpiper Beach.

02 November 2009

Update - 2 Nov 09

It's been a while since I've updated my blog. My apologies!

We went back up to Kossuth County on our way to Minneapolis to see if any more Smith's Longspurs were around but alas, we only found 1500+ Lapland's. Perhaps the Smith's moved on?

Here are a couple pictures of the habitat the Smith's were in:

We also birded Clear Lake twice this weekend. Highlights included a WESTERN/CLARK'S GREBE and WHITE-WINGED SCOTER. I only managed one terrible digiscoped picture of the scoter before a boat flushed it:

Can you say Cackling Geese? These were along the shore of Clear Lake. Take your pick:

And not really bird related... but a couple days ago from the dam at Saylorville, apparently the Army thought it needed to practice water retrieval for fire safety. Or maybe it was training for new pilots? Either way, this helicopter was picking up water and dumping it along the shore on random things:

And lastly, who knew there was a National Hobo Museum? Well, we found one along our drive in northern Iowa!

24 October 2009

SMLO & CCLO - 24 Oct. 09

We made the drive up to Kossuth County this morning to look for Smith's Longspurs. The corner of 270th St. and 120th Ave, as Matt Kenne previously posted, was loaded with longspurs.

There were several large flocks of LAPLAND LONGSPURS, easily 300+. We also flushed several small flocks of SMITH'S LONGSPURS rather quickly. However, it took some time before seeing one perched! At least 50 were present.

However, 2 CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPURS were most notable. We first keyed onto these 2 birds by the distinctive flight call. I got a decent look at the tail pattern as they circled us a few times before joining a different flock of longspurs. We were unable to relocate them.

Here is a SMITH'S LONGSPUR in flight:

It took some patience, but I eventually saw this SMITH'S on the ground:

Other birds of interest included:

5 Gray Partridge
1 Le Conte's Sparrow

Also this rather late SEDGE WREN:

Lastly, there has been no sign of yesterday's SPOTTED TOWHEE in the yard.