Sunday, August 17, 2008

Intrepid Birders Bird in Both Bad and Balmy Weather

It has been raining cats and dogs for three days, including yesterday on our birdwalk at DeWeese Lake. Some called to cancel, but my neighbors and I went up anyway. At 5:30 am we were in the middle of yet another thunder-boomer and heavy rain, so we had no idea what an hour north would be like…but thankfully they’re adventurous, too and off we went!

We met one of the Intrepid Birders; Brandon, an excellent birder, and began watching birds before 8 am. It was dry for the moment, while looked at various birds Brandon spotted with his scope for us, but as nearly 15 more folks arrived, it began raining in earnest.

We moved around the lake to a spot where we would be closer to the shore, but here the storm picked up again. I have to admit, I was a bit anxious walking around in a thunder-storm. We nearly thought we were going to be rained out…and we got pretty wet in just a few minutes. But…we persevered, thankfully. When we went down towards the dam, we ran into another 5 or more folks who meant to join our group; so I think we had over 20 folks out there in the rain. I have a solid idea of what intrepid means now…and why the word is often applied to birders. Our group included one from as far north as Loveland, a few visitors from Kansas and the three of us from La Veta…as well as several other regular AVAS members from around the Arkansas Valley.

We got a total of 107 birds for the day; though of course I didn't see them all. My personal highlights were: Black Terns, a Prairie Falcon (while I did spot it, Leon had to tell me what it was), and a young Williamson's Sapsucker! It was an adorable and very cooperative youngster with a fluffy yellow belly; I got to watch it for several minutes. (I swear, I'm going to get serious and start carrying paper for my own list!) There were also Great Blue Heron, American White Pelicans (which for some odd reason I called penguins!) and I got to watch a pack of White-faced Ibis through a scope, too. The sun was shining just then, so thanks to Leon, I got to see their green-satin backs; beautifully iridescent in that light.

We also watched Least and Baird’s Sandpipers; I remember Pectoral Sandpipers, Stilt Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Plovers, Killdeer, California and Ring-billed Gulls, Wilson’s Phalarope, Northern Shoveler, Blue-winged Teal and a sweet little albino swallow of some sort; a small blur of solid white, flashing above the water with all the other swallows.

I also enjoyed seeing the larger Olive-sided Flycatcher which I believe I’ve seen in my yard (it's song is a whistled "quick, three beers!"), nailing the call of the Western Wood-Pewee (at last; I got a pro to confirm that call!) and watching an adult Pewee land on a tiny, little nest and seeing three big mouths pop-up, wide open…all the while Pygmy Nuthatches crawled around the same branch. The nest was such a tiny thing; smaller than a child's tea-cup and made of grasses and lichen attached with mud to a horizontal tree branch, not far from the tree-trunk.

I just love the Corvidae, so even having the chance to watch a Clark’s Nutcracker was a joy; they're such flashy birds. And I saw my first Plumbeous Vireo, a neat bird (if only to say it's Polly pointed out!) that showed off for several minutes at a fairly close range. I also spotted a Lark Sparrow, though it was Polly again who told me what it was! [sigh] Both were yet more firsts for me.

We had a discussion regarding the Cassin's Kingbird vs Western Kingbird, but oddly the new Smithsonian doesn't mention what we and Sibley discussed as good field markers (Cassin lacking white feathers at sides of the dark tail). Anyway, I can add a Cassin's Kingbird to my list; we saw them plus Western and Eastern Kingbirds along one short stretch of road.

While I got to watch the Pygmy Nuthatches that a great young birder, Cole, pointed out for us, I have no idea what is the difference between them and White-breasted Nuthatches was, other than I know they are 2/3 the size. I'm not sure I like to 'count' seeing a bird if I don't understand what about it makes it what I'm seeing. Still...I had a blast! I’ll tell ya; birders are great people!

We saw Red-tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, several American Kestrels, watched a Northern Harrier hunt along the mudflats, saw lots of huge Ravens, Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Say’s Phoebe, a Loggerhead Shrike, several species of Swallow, White-breasted Nuthatch, someone saw a Red-breasted, too…and a Brown Creeper which I didn’t get to catch but for a second and don’t want to say I really saw it. Oh, and several of us watched a whole bunch of Western Bluebirds and some saw Mountain ones too. We heard an American Pipit, but I never saw it, though some did. And a Calliope hummer female followed us for awhile. Dave heard and then pointed out a Cedar Waxwing, but while I saw it fly…I could not have ID-ed it, but I have seen them before.

Yes, I’d say the walk was a tremendous success. I’ll append this post, and add the entire list when I get it…and maybe I can talk Paul into letting me post a picture or two of birds actually seen on the trip. All photos currently on this post are from Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia.

As promised, here is the complete list:

Canada Goose, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Eared Grebe, Western Grebe, American White Pelican, Great Blue Heron, White-faced Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, Swainson’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Golden Eagle, American Kestrel, Prairie Falcon, American Coot, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Long-billed Curlew, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Wilson’s Phalarope, Ring-billed Gull, California Gull, Black Tern, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Mourning Dove, Common Nighthawk, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Calliope Hummingbird, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Williamson’s Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Wood Pewee, Dusky Flycatcher, Say’s Phoebe, Cassin’s Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Loggerhead Shrike, Plumbeous Vireo, Steller’s Jay, Clark’s Nutcracker, Black-billed Magpie, American Crow, Common Raven, Tree Swallow, Violet-green Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Bank Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Barn Swallow, swallow sp. - albino, Black-capped Chickadee, Mountain Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Pygmy Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Rock Wren, House Wren, Western Bluebird, Mountain Bluebird, American Robin, Sage Thrasher, European Starling, American Pipit, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow Warbler , Yellow-rumped Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Green-tailed Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, , Lark Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Black-headed Grosbeak, Red-winged Blackbird, Western Meadowlark, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Brewer’s Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Bullock’s Oriole, House Finch, Pine Siskin , Lesser Goldfinch, House Sparrow.


Bosque Bill said...

It's so confusing, speaking of Kingbirds. Sibley and Nat'l Geo both comment on lack of white on outer tail feathers. Yet, the new Smithsonian has a photo of what is clearly a Cassin's (judging by the contrasting, white malar stripe) showing white on the outer tail feathers.

Beverly said...

I noticed that too and looked it up on the BONA-online:

Western Kingbird closely resembles congeneric Cassin's (species overlap and nest in the same tree while Cassin's won't nest with other Cassin's). Western Kingbird distinguished by white outer edge on outer rectrices (noticeable if plumage in good condition) and is slightly smaller than Cassin's.

Cassin's (and some other kingbirds) have conspicuous pale edgings on wing-coverts that produce a scalloped appearance lacking in the plain wing of the Western Kingbird.

Cassin's Kingbird further distinguished by darker gray on head, back and breast, white or pale gray on tips of rectrices and more contrasting white throat.

That the Western Kingbird has a blackish tail with white outer webs on lateral rectrices.

And then they show this picture labeled: Adult Cassin's Kingbird:

Go figure... blue?