31 March 2009

Franklin's - 30 Mar. 2009

Yep, Franklin's Gulls are now back in central Iowa.  Here are a couple shots from below Saylorville Dam, Polk County.

29 March 2009

Sunday Birding - 29 Mar 2009

Ashley and I went out birding today around Story County.  The most unexpected bird today was a LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE that we found in NE Story County (it actually flew across the road into Marshall County as well).  See Ashley's photo below:

Some of the wetlands around Colo provided some waterfowl including all (5) usual geese species:

Snow Goose (20)
Ross's Goose (20)
Cackling Goose (2)
Canada Goose (10)
Greater White-fronted Goose (~300)
Ring-necked Duck
Green-winged Teal
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
American Coot
Pie-billed Grebe

The below Pie-billed Grebe also stayed still while Ashley got to photograph it (or maybe it was frozen stiff?  The windchill this morning was about 10 degrees).

We also found several Wilson's Snipe near Colo.  Later in the day, one posed nicely (see Ashley's photo below):

We came across several enormous flocks of LAPLAND LONGSPURS throughout the day.  The day total would easily be a couple thousand.

We also found RUSTY BLACKBIRDS in several locations today which as a treat.  Thinking back, I think it has been several years since I've come across some...

Good Birding,
Cory Gregory & Ashley Casey

16 March 2009

Mexico Overview

It was a very enjoyable week spent in west Mexico at the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Group meeting.  Such a nice venue and lots of nice people as well.

The birding was great too!  I tallied about 170 species including several Mexican endemics.  Of the 170 species, I managed to photograph about 80 of them.

Can't wait until I can visit Mexico again!

Mazatlan - 14 Mar. 2009

Today was our last day in Mexico.  However, our shuttle didn't come until after noon!   Hence, one last chance at new birds!  Nathan and I headed 20 minutes north in a taxi until we stopped at a coastal lagoon.

The early morning was rather dampened by RAIN of all things.  It was the first rain I had seen the entire week and it happened to fall while we were out birding.  Alas, it didn't last all that long and we were still able to bird a bit.

The actual lagoon had hundreds of shorebirds and a good variety of gulls, terns, waterfowl, etc.  I must admit, I feel a tad obligated to post a picture of a Long-billed Curlew!!  Although I don't work with them on the wintering grounds, it'll be a matter of weeks before I see them on the breeding grounds in Nebraska.  Here is a female:

We heard a curious bunch of scolding birds and after tracing it all down, we found the source, a Colima Pygmy-Owl!  It was obscured by brush but I managed this quick photo before it flew on:

We came upon a tree with several Black-throated Magpie-Jays, a northwest Mexican endemic.  These jays with their incredibly long tails were a treat to both see and photograph:

Last but not least, the Sinaloa Crow was a common species during our stay in Mexico.  Flocks were constantly beeing seen along the road.  I snapped a quick shot in flight:

Overall, we had great luck, even picking up a flock of Elegant Quail along one of the roads!  Unfortunately, I had to quickly return to pack and get ready for the shuttle to arrive. 

The day yielded the following new trip birds:

(*) = Mexican endemic

Beardless-Tyrannulet, Northern 
Bunting, Varied
Cardinal, Northern 
* Chachalaca, Rufous-bellied 
Curlew, Long-billed 
Dove, Mourning 
Egret, Reddish 
Flycatcher, Brown-crested 
Flycatcher, Pacific-slope 
Gadwall Godwit, Marbled 
Grassquit, Blue-black 
Grebe, Eared 
Hawk, Gray 
Heron, Little Blue 
Kingfisher, Belted 
Night-Heron, Yellow-crowned 
Pintail, Northern 
Plover, Black-bellied 
Plover, Semipalmated 
* Pygmy-Owl, Colima 
* Quail, Elegant 
Sandpiper, Western 
Sparrow, Lincoln's 
Tern, Royal 
Titmouse, Bridled 
* Trogon, Citreoline 
Vireo, Warbling 
Warbler, Virginia's 
* Woodpecker, Golden-cheeked 
Woodpecker, Ladder-backed 
* Wren, Happy

Mazatlan - 13 Mar. 2009

Today was a slow day for birding. 

Early on I decided to finally photograph some swallows from my patio.  Below is a Northern Rough-winged Swallow:

Later in the afternoon, some of us decided to bird the city park further south in town.  Many of the same species were there but we did manage a couple new species.  Overall, I added the following species to the trip list today:

Ibis, White 
Scaup, Lesser 
Tanager, Western 
Thrush, Rufous-backed

Mazatlan - 12 Mar. 2009

Since we were back in the meetings today, we didn't get out birding all that much.  However, I tried to make time in the afternoon to see what I could see.

This Gila Woodpecker was easy to photograph from my patio deck:

I took a stroll down the beach to check out the rocks.  On the way there, this Willet posed nicely:

Also on the way to the rocks, this Bonaparte's Gull came in and seemed to enjoy my company.  It was quite tame and even flew up to me once:

The rocks down the beach were hosting a couple American Oystercatchers when I arrived.  I got to sit and watch these birds at close range for several minutes.  What neat birds!

Late in the afternoon back at the hotel, Crested Caracaras were zooming overhead every couple seconds.  The nice lighting made for some great photos:

Oddly, I didn't see any new species today.  We'll see what tomorrow holds....

Field trip - 11 Mar. 2009

Today was our fieldtrip!  Starting early this morning, we piled into 2 vans to head up into the hills.  Our destination was the Tufted Jay Preserve, about a 2.5 hour drive up and away from Mazatlan.

Even the foothills provided some interesting birds during a couple brief stops.  However, the real fun began once we started hiking through the Tufted Jay preserve.  At around 6,000 ft in elevation, the forest was primarily a pine/oak mix.

One of the target birds was pretty easy to find, the below White-striped Woodcreeper, an endemic of west Mexico:

A bird all of us eagerly hoped to see was the Red Warbler, an endemic species of the humid montane forests of Mexico.  Indeed, halfway through our walk, one had been spotted.  The below individual was nice enough to even pose for a second!

Another warbler, the Slate-throated Redstart, was very common.  Photographed below is a redstart that (kind of) stayed still long enough to be photographed:

Another species we encountered several times was the montane-endemic Mountain Trogon.  Below is a female:

Several species of Brush-Finches were also present although somewhat hard to see.  These skulkers would prefer foraging in the understory.  Below is a Mexican endemic, the Rufous-capped Brush-Finch:

Another species of Brush-Finch also freqented the area, the Green-striped Brush-Finch.  This endemic species was quite hard to find on the trip hence a very poor quality photo.  However, I was thrilled to find at least a couple:

A special treat was seeing 2 Stygian Owls!  This owl is a rather local species that prefers pine and pine-oak forests:

Tracking down a series of "pip-pip-pip" notes yielded this Greater Pewee:

Of course, weighing in on all our minds was the fact that we hadn't seen Tufted Jays yet!!   The Tufted Jay is a very local species and is endemic to a small area of mountains in NW Mexico.   We were actually getting quite worried towards the end of our trip that we would miss it!  However, it all paid off when we eventually found a group of Tufted Jays (and making a nest, no less!!). However, the jays stayed quite high up in the trees (see below):

All relieved that we had found the jays, we headed back down the mountain.  We pulled off on a small road to look for some other foothill species.  It wasn't long before I heard parrot-like screeching overhead.  Looking up, I was excited to find that they were the uncommon and local Military Macaws!  Nine in total (group of 5 & group of 4), the high-flying flocks flew overhead and out of view:

All in all, a great day of birding up in the mountains of west Mexico.  Below is a list of the new trip species:

(*) = Mexican endemic

* Brush-Finch, Green-striped 
* Brush-Finch, Rufous-capped 
Cacique, Yellow-winged 
Chickadee, Mexican 
Cowbird, Bronzed 
Creeper, Brown 
Flycatcher, Dusky-capped 
Flycatcher, Tufted 
Grosbeak, Yellow 
Hawk, Red-tailed 
Hawk, Sharp-shinned 
Hummingbird, White-eared 
Jay, Steller's 
* Jay, Tufted 
Junco, Yellow-eyed 
Kingbird, Thick-billed 
Kinglet, Ruby-crowned 
* Macaw, Military 
* Magpie-Jay, Black-throated 
* Mockingbird, Blue 
* Nightingale-Thrush, Russet 
Owl, Stygian 
Pewee, Greater 
Pigeon, Band-tailed 
Pygmy-Owl, Northern 
Raven, Common 
Redstart, Painted 
Redstart, Slate-throated 
Solitaire, Brown-backed 
Tanager, Hepatic 
* Tanager, Red-headed 
Thrush, Hermit 
Towee, Spotted 
Trogon, Mountain 
Vireo, Plumbeous 
Warbler, Crescent-chested 
Warbler, Golden-browed 
Warbler, Grace's 
Warbler, Hermit 
Warbler, MacGillivray's 
* Warbler, Red 
Warbler, Red-faced 
Warbler, Townsend's 
* Woodcreeper, White-striped 
Woodpecker, Arizona 
Wren, Canyon

Mazatlan - 10 Mar. 2009

We went birding first thing in the morning today.  We checked out some of the lagoons further south and were greeted by many new species for the trip.  Considering my new camera gear and the fact that I didn't really wanted to get robbed, I decided NOT to haul it through the city hence the lack of photos from the morning.

However, like yesterday, most of the time today was spent going to talks for the conference.  However, I continued to bird the gardens at the hotel in addition to walking some on the beach.  

About 1/4 mile south of the hotel was a rocky outcropping of rocks along the beach.  These rocks provided numerous shorebird species throughout the week.  Pictured below are Surfbirds.  Initially there were a couple, then 8, and then over 50!  

Back at the hotel, I finally caught up to a Cinnamon Hummingbird, pictured below:

Along the beach at the hotel, gulls were never hard to find.  The below Heerman's Gull was one of the species that would frequent the area:

By far the most common species at the hotel, White-winged Doves were easy to photograph:

A little less common than the White-winged Doves but still quite common, Ruddy Ground-Doves would frequent the feeders at the hotel:

With the early morning birding we were able to squeeze in, today yielded many new species for the trip:

(*) = west Mexico endemic

Ani, Groove-billed 
Avocet, American 
Chat, Yellow-breasted 
Coot, American 
Dove, Inca 
Dowitcher, Long-billed 
Duck, Ruddy 
Egret, Snowy 
Flycatcher, Vermilion 
Gnatcatcher, Blue-gray 
Grebe, Least 
Grebe, Pie-billed 
Grosbeak, Blue 
Ground-Dove, Common 
Gull, Bonaparte's 
Gull, Herring 
Gull, Laughing 
Heron, Green 
Heron, Tricolored 
Ibis, White-faced 
Mockingbird, Northern 
Moorhen, Common 
Night-Heron, Black-crowned 
Oriole, Hooded 
Oystercatcher, American 
Saltator, Grayish 
Sandpiper, Least 
Shoveler, Northern 
Sparrow, Lark 
Spoonbill, Roseate 
Swallow, Mangrove 
Swallow, Northern Rough-winged 
Tanager, Summer 
Tattler, Wandering 
Teal, Blue-winged 
Teal, Green-winged 
Vireo, Bell's 
Warbler, Wilson's 
* Wren, Sinaloa 
Yellowlegs, Greater 
Yellowthroat, Common

Mazatlan - 9 Mar. 2009

Today was spent mostly in the meetings of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Group there at the Playa Mazatlan.  Granted, I was still able to visit the gardens at the hotel with my bincs and camera to see what I could find.

Below is an Orange-crowned Warbler, the most common warbler species I encountered:

One very neat species put on a show every morning and evening from the gardens.  The Mexian Parrotlet, a west Mexico endemic, apparently roosts in the trees at the hotel:

Orchard Orioles were very common in the gardens, this female posed for a picture:

I took a picture of a distant oriole on a palm from my room patio.  Turns out, it was a Streak-backed Oriole.  This species was fairly common throughout our stay:

There was one hummingbird feeder at the hotel.  This Broad-billed Hummingbird was one of the usual birds that visisted:

It doesn't take long to realize that having a hotel on the beach has its perks.  For example, hardly a minute went by that a Magnificent Frigatebird wasn't in view:  

Below is a list of the new trip species:

(*) = west Mexico endemic

Booby, Brown 
Finch, House 
Hummingbird, Broad-billed 
Hummingbird, Cinnamon 
Kingbird, Tropical 
Oriole, Streak-backed 
* Parrotlet, Mexican 
Stilt, Black-necked 
Warbler, Yellow 
Warbler, Yellow-rumped 
Woodpecker, Gila

Mazatlan - 8 Mar. 2009

Leaving Ames at about 5:00 AM this morning, we drove through the rain down to the airport.  Before we knew it, we had landed in Mazatlan, Mexico!  

Below is a photo of the beach in front of our hotel, the Playa Mazatlan:

Here is a view from one side of the hotel:

It didn't take long to start tallying some fun tropical birds.  For example, the below picture is a Great Kiskadee on the hotel grounds:

Somewhat similar, the below bird is a Social Flycatcher:

We started our trip list as soon as our plane had landed.   Before the day was over, I had tallied the following species:

(*) = Endemic to Mexico

Blackbird, Red-winged 
Caracara, Crested 
Cormorant, Neotropic 
* Crow, Sinaloa 
Dove, White-winged 
Egret, Cattle 
Egret, Great 
Flycatcher, Social 
Frigatebird, Magnificent 
Grackle, Great-tailed 
Ground-Dove, Ruddy 
Gull, Heerman's 
Gull, Ring-billed 
Heron, Great Blue 
Kestrel, American 
Kiskadee, Great 
Oriole, Orchard 
Pelican, Brown 
Pigeon, Rock 
Sandpiper, Spotted 
Seedeater, White-collared 
Sparrow, House 
Swallow, Barn 
Tern, Caspian
Vulture, Black
Vulture, Turkey
Warbler, Orange-crowned