11 June 2015

16 photos of June

It would be an understatement to say that it's been a busy last couple weeks of guiding.  As you might guess, I've had little chance to blog.  I assume that'll change at some point but until then, here's another post devoted to the interesting sightings from the last 11 days.  Because there is a wide mix of stuff, I'll just tackle them in taxonomic order.  Here goes....

It's hard getting closer to the beginning of the ABA checklist than TUNDRA BEAN-GOOSE.  Indeed, the goose fairy has returned bringing with it more ugly bean-geese.  Here's a mostly-TUNDRA-looking-thing from Tonki Point Wetlands; we're thinking there's a decent chance it's a different bird from the other two bean-geese we've had in this first month of the season:
Another highlight from the local waterfowl realm was this COMMON MERGANSER on Salt Lagoon.  This is actually a GOOSANDER (Eurasian race of Common Merganser) which was the first I'd ever seen.  Here's a pretty horrible digiscoped picture from like 1/2 mile away:
Another new species for my island list came in the form of this ARCTIC LOON at Marunich.  It was particularly satisfying watching this bird diving repeatedly but ALWAYS showing crazy amounts of white on the flanks when swimming.  Solid bird.  I like.
Much less exciting for most normal people was this DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT that hung out on the cliffs at Ridge Wall for a bit.  Of the three cormorant species found on St. Paul, this one is by far the rarest.  I was struck by how big DCCOs really are; their wingspans are half a foot bigger than the local RFCOs.  Here's the dark beastie on the cliff:
... and sometimes you see rare birds when you least expect to.  For example, I was at a cliff checking out nesting seabirds with a group when a COMMON SANDPIPER materialized on the cliffs below us!  And no, they're NOT common here in the New World!  This was a way better view than the one from May of last year:
This COMMON GREENSHANK showed up on the Salt Lagoon yesterday.  Although this is the second COMG of the season on St. Paul, it doesn't matter, I'm not sick of them one bit:
We had quite a few WOOD SANDPIPERS around for a while including these two around the Gate Pond area.  One even started displaying to the other (which these will often do if there are multiples around).  Here's a picture with both sandpipers on the edge of Webster Lake:
The worst picture you'll see today is of this "SIBERIAN" WHIMBREL that I had late one night near Pumphouse Lake.  You can see the curved bill and the white wedge up the back... but that's about it:
In terms of species that St. Paul birders missed last year, BLACK-HEADED GULL was one of the surprises.  So one would deduce that it wasn't that surprising that one eventually showed up here this spring.  It's been somewhat reliable on Big Lake:
So far this spring we've seen two different MEW GULLS on St. Paul Island.  However, these aren't the short-billed doodaddies we're all used to from the West Coast.  These have been of the "KAMCHATKA" race of Mew Gull.  Here's a picture showing the long bill (among other things):
Moving right along, the next highlight was lucky to come about.  A group and I were eagerly watching some Bank Swallows (which are uncommon here) when we noticed that one of the birders that had wandered off was running towards us.  We figured he wanted a look at the swallows.  Nope.  Instead, he notified all of us, between heavy breaths, that a COMMON CUCKOO had flown right behind everyone and was continuing down the beach!  We reconvened, loaded in the van, and headed that direction.  A short while later, we managed to relocate the bird:
It's been a while since the first SIBERIAN RUBYTHROAT of the season was found... but that was in the quarry.  The problem was that it was so incredibly skulky that not very many people got satisfactory looks.  Take this photo, for example.  A chunky brown bird zipping between boulders.  Maddening:
So imagine the relief when word reached us of a tame, male SIBERIAN RUBYTHROAT right next to the airport!  We convened, relocated the bird, and were amazed at how freaking awesome these are when seen well!
We followed it around a bit and got to watch it confidently walking through grasses and perching up from time to time.  What a stunner!
Another recent rarity this week came on one of our daily checks of Polovina Hill.  In the lower cut, this distant EYEBROWED THRUSH was hanging out and enjoying a break from the strong north winds:
Only 4 spots from the end of the ABA checklist is a rare, large finch from the Old World.  It just so happens that we had a fun surprise on a foggy morning when we visited Hutch Hill.  Although we weren't expecting to find anything, there was this HAWFINCH sitting quietly on the backside of the hill:
Anyway, that's all for now.  Hopefully I'll be updating this before another two weeks slip away.

Also, I'm trying to remember to include my email address in case anyone has any questions: