Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ross's Goose at Lake Mayer - Nov. 25, 2015

Larry Carlile called me about 3 pm on Wednesday, Nov. 25th. He had found what he believed to be a Ross's Goose at Lake Mayer. I was at work at Wild Birds Unlimited, but thanks to the co-operation of my co-worker Nicole, I dashed over for a look.

It was definitely petite - much smaller than nearby Canada geese and mallards. The head was all white and rounded, neck short, and bill small. However, it did seem to have more of a grin than Ross's is supposed to show and there is a bit of a curve visible particularly on right side of margin between beak and head. The top and sides of upper bill are covered with warty growths - caruncles - which I read are typical of older male Ross's geese.

Here are photos.
Ross's Goose in front of Canada geese

Ross's Goose 11/25/15 Lake Mayer Savannah

In this view, I see a bit of a curve and longer looking beak. Neck short.

Short neck, rounded head, warty growths on beak point to Ross's Goose

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tybee & Fort Pulaski - Nov. 10, 2015

Well, finally it stopped raining and this morning I hit the beach early. I didn't find any Franklin's Gulls but there is always something interesting to look at. This morning the Sanderlings, Willets, and Ruddy Turnstone were frantically feeding on something - perhaps a horseshoe crab nest?
Skies were overcast early but still fun to see this behavior.

What's for Breakfast? Willet and Sanderlings are chowing down!
Ruddy Turnstone, Willet & Sanderling
Steve Calver showed up and we were studying the birds when four ducks flew over - flapping fast!
I put the camera up and got off a couple of shots. My first thought was Hooded Mergansers.
When I looked at the photos, there were three mergansers and one different duck with a rounded bill.
Steve's first thought was Black Scoter but on inspecting the photos, I noticed that there wasn't any light color on the face, the belly was light, and there seemed to be white patches on the trailing edge of the wings. What do you think? Female bufflehead? Female common golden-eye?
Three Hooded Mergansers and a Mystery Duck

Four duck silhouettes - view two

After lunch, Brenda Brannen, Sandy Beasley and I went to Fort Pulaski looking for Brown Creepers and Sedge Wrens and anything else we could find. In the pine grove at the picnic area things were hopping with Eastern Bluebirds, Brown-headed Nuthatches, Pine Warblers, sapsuckers and more. We kept hearing a high-pitched call and finally found a couple of Golden-crowned Kinglets actively feeding in the pines.

When we went over to the field behind the Fort to look for sedge wrens, we spied a brown bird walking in the grass. Our first thought was Eastern Meadowlark. However, when we got closer, it turned out to be an American Pipit! Unlike the meadowlarks, it allowed me to walk close for photos!

American Pipit

American Pipit - View Two
Standing on the dike, we could hear at least two Sedge Wrens calling but they were being very elusive. Next, we had a long walk with few birds. Sandy and Brenda left but I kept birding, continuing on the path behind the Visitor's Center. At the end of the path, I started pishing in the wet area where I had previously found Sedge Wrens. This time, the wren that popped up was a Marsh Wren.
Marsh Wren
Walking back along the path, I glanced up and saw a small flock of Cedar Waxwings - my first of the season. It was fun to see a streaky juvenile in with the group. They were dropping down into a yaupon holly that was loaded with berries.
Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing Juvenile

Of course, the local mockingbird did not want any other bird messing with its berries!
Mockingbird defends its territory.
Next, I made one more long walk back out to Sedge Wren territory. I flushed a Wilson's Snipe, and the American Pipit was still where we had left it. This time, the Sedge Wren responded to pishing and to its call, coming out to pose for photos!
Sedge Wren

Sedge Wren - Take Two
All in all, it was a fine day of birding! Great to have sunshine after two days of rain.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Hudsonian Godwit & Two Ruffs

Onslow Island was Birder Central this morning as folks from far and wide flocked there hoping that the Ruff and Hudsonian Godwit found there last Wednesday had stayed the week until the area was once again open to the public on the following Wednesday.

Mark McShane was once again on site early and posted that both birds had been relocated and that the one Ruff and become two - male and female.

Thanks to my co-worker Nicole and my boss Craig, I was able to switch days and get there a bit before nine. Folks were looking at the Hudsonian Godwit so all I had to do was walk up to a scope and take a look. The bird was actively feeding, flew a couple of times, and ended up feeding near a flock of dunlin. My photos are not great.
Hudsonian Godwit lands

Hudsonian Godwit near flock of Dunlin

The Ruff and Reeve had been quite close when the group arrived early,  but could not be located when I arrived. After a while, we walked to the right along the dike to search for them. At this time, the godwit flew and some saw it go across the dike and towards the river. By mid-afternoon, it had not been relocated.

We had better luck with the Ruff. First we found the female feeding near the edge of the water. She flew closer in company with a Lesser Yellowlegs.
Lesser Yellowlegs flies in with female Ruff (Reeve)
Lesser Yellowlegs & Reeve

Lesser Yellowlegs and Reeve
Reeve (left) and Lesser Yellowlegs - note difference in bill length, marbling on back of Reeve, buffy breast.
Later, others in the group located the male Ruff back where it had been earlier in the morning. Then it
flew over to join the Reeve and gave me a good look at the signature U pattern of white on the rump.
Ruff raises wings and shows U pattern of white on upper tail.

Note the white "U" on the upper tail
Eventually, both birds returned to feed together near the front dike. The light wasn't great but it was fabulous to see them side by side and in the company of yellowlegs and avocets.

Reeve (left) and Ruff

Lesser Yellowlegs (left) Reeve (center) and Ruff (right)
Of course, I had to sneak in a few shots of the avocets since they were being very co-operative.
American Avocet with Refection
Thanks again to the folks who found these birds - Joel Vos, Mary Lou Dixon, and James Fleullan.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Franklin's Gull on Tybee North Beach Nov. 2 2015

I went to the beach at high tide hoping to find a large group of oystercatchers. No luck! In fact, the beach seemed almost empty of birds except for a small flock of sanderlings. Finally, after I walked all the way around the point and headed in the direction of the lighthouse, I found a smallish flock of gulls and terns. I was scanning the group and counting when I spied a slightly different looking gull.

I see Franklin's Gulls so rarely that I worry I won't recognize one when I see it. This bird was slightly smaller than the adjacent laughing gulls, had a more defined partial hood, large white eye crescents, and a more petite bill. Bingo! I quickly took photos.
Who's that hiding behind those Laughing Gulls?  
Ah! There it is! The Franklin's Gull
After I had taken about ten photos, along came a pair of walkers and flushed all the birds. The Franklin's flew over my head several times and let me get a number of photos.

Note partial hood, white crescents, and dark wing tips.

Almost white underwings with dark wing tips

Lovely from underneath!
 It did not rejoin the flock on the beach, though I looked for quite a while.