22 April 2011

Recent birds...

A priority of mine this spring was to see some HUDSONIAN GODWITS and WHITE-FACED IBISES.  This was fairly easy down at Riverton in Fremont County.  We found 3 ibis and this flock of 14 HUDSONIAN GODWITS:

To add to our luck that day, we actually saw the elusive SNOWY EGRET at the interstate-pond that A. Brees previously found.

Another nice find by A. Brees was this CINNAMON TEAL at Dunbar Slough:

Dunbar Slough has provided in terms of SWAINSON'S HAWKS for me this spring.  My most recent trip over yielded three more.  Here is one:

Back on 9 April I stumbled on a great field for SMITH'S LONGSPURS at Dunbar Slough.  Initially, Ashley and I found 35-40 but the flock has now grown to 70-100.  Easier to photograph in flight than on the ground, here are a couple of Smith's:

If for some reason you were lazy and didn't try the really reliable SMLOs found by A. Brees down at Errington Marsh, you should give the Dunbar field a check.  The field is shaded in blue:
View SMLO field in a larger map

Another recent find at Dunbar Slough was this MARBLED GODWIT:

... and this very pale "KRIDER'S" RED-TAILED HAWK:

Some sightings from marshes closer to home like Snake Creek Marsh include BREWER'S BLACKBIRDS and this flock of 20 AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVERS:

We chased a report of a BLACK-NECKED STILT southeast of Des Moines.  It took a little bit of effort but it eventually paid off when the bird came into scope view.  Unfortunately, the photographs were too distant to prove anything.  If you look just above the main/middle grassline, 1/4 of the frame from the left side is the stilt.  It definitely requires some imagination:

Snowstorms in April offer a unique chance to find open-country birds pushed to roadsides.  This happened recently in northern Iowa and I decided to take advantage of it.  It was quickly evident that there were TONS of sparrows and things along the snowy shoulders.  In order from the most common to least common, here were some of the roadside sightings:

American Robin
Vesper Sparrow
Brewer's Blackbird
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lapland Longspur
Dark-eyed Junco
Rusty Blackbird

Here is part of a LAPLAND LONGSPUR flock, the males in attractive breeding plumage:

... and here is an uncomfortable-looking AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER probably wishing it didn't migrate so far north the night before:

So what came of all these neat birds?  Well, five state birds in two days!

16 April 2011

Yard birds and more...

We were lucky to manage two more yard birds within the last week.  First was a flock of fly-over DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS.  The next flock to fly over were new yard birds too; Ashley spotted this flock of 78 AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS:

Speaking of the yard, my feeders are under constant attack from EASTERN FOX SQUIRRELS.  Here is a photo I took of one enjoying the seed:

And no, I didn't flip the photo over or anything.  In fact, it was hanging clean-off the feeder.  If you wonder how a squirrel could do that... well:

Here is a SORA at a local marsh.  This denizen of thick, marsh vegetation has just arrived back in Iowa within the last week or two:

Even when a Sora is still essentially out in the open, it can be very well camouflaged:

Not all species are so obliging.  Here is bad light on an EASTERN TOWHEE:

Last but not least, we were spinning down the road when Ashley said "Hey, there was an owl back there".  Huh?!  Kicked it into reverse and sure enough, a BARRED OWL was looking at us from deep within the woods:

11 April 2011

More migrants

Taking advantage of the warm temperatures this afternoon, we checked out Emma McCarthy Lee Park here in Ames.

Most surprising to me was this LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH:

I don't keep track of county lists.... but this WAS the first time I've seen one in Story County.

Singing up a storm was this NORTHERN PARULA:

Other sightings consisted of:
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Winter Wren
Brown Creeper
Field Sparrow
Fox Sparrow

10 April 2011

Swainson's, Smith's, and swallows

We birded a couple of marshes in Boone, Greene, and Guthrie counties.

Among the usual suspects at Harrier Marsh, I had my first BARN SWALLOW of the spring.  Also, this NORTHERN SHOVELER among the many waterfowl species present:

At Snake Creek Marsh, this garter snake orgy (apparently they chose to ignore the charred body of a snake just to the left):

Also at Snake Creek Marsh was this LE CONTE'S SPARROW, my first spring LCSP in Iowa.  Unlike fall LCSPs, it was extremely wary and difficult to view:

Here is an AMERICAN WIGEON shortly after taking off:

In a burned area of Dunbar Slough, we found 18 AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVERS:

Also at Dunbar Slough were 35 SMITH'S LONGSPURS.  Here are some subpar photos of longspurs in flight:

We noticed several raptors riding the winds of the passing front.  We scoped for an hour or two and came up with:

Red-tailed Hawk (Eastern, Krider's, and Harlan's)
Northern Harrier
American Kestrel
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Bald Eagle
11 Swainson's Hawks (9 light-morph, 2 intermediate-morph)

Here is a pretty rough shot of a dark, adult HARLAN'S RED-TAILED HAWK:

Here are some various (and dark) looks of some of the SWHAs:


We kept an eye out for shorebirds throughout the day.  We ended the day with 9 species:

American Golden-Plover
Wilson's Snipe
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Pectoral Sandpiper
STILT SANDPIPER (2 at McCord's Pond)
Least Sandpiper
Baird's Sandpiper

Back at home, 63 days after its arrival, the local HARRIS'S SPARROW apparently decided it was time to move north.

We still are hosting several PINE SISKINS and just within the last couple of days, CHIPPING SPARROWS have made their obvious arrival (there are 7 in the yard as I type).

Last but not least, there was a FIELD SPARROW singing outside this morning representing my 107th yard bird.  Later in the day, it came within view:

08 April 2011

Did it spring?

You might ask yourself if it's spring when you see these on the forest floor:

It's been too long since I knew my wildflowers.  I would have guessed that the top ones were SPRING BEAUTIES and the bottom ones are a type of trillium.

The first flycatchers have been back here in Iowa for sometime already, the EASTERN PHOEBE:

What's a SNOW GOOSE still doing in Iowa?  From the looks of it, flying around:

Believe it or not, Iowa DOES have a small population of GREATER PRAIRIE-CHICKENS down in the southern part of the state (they were reintroduced, btw).  Here are two distant males facing off:

Before you get too excited about it being spring here, a reminder of winter was at my feeder today, a PINE SISKIN:

I don't often ask much of "my readers", but does anyone have a preference between the following two versions of the same photo????