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Monday, May 25, 2015

The Finder!

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All Hail Bruce Mactavish...finder of rare birds! In two short weeks, Bruce has found a trilogy of rare birds: A Garganey, Little Egret and now... a Glossy Ibis.
 He has an uncanny ability to sniff them out based, I guess, on his years of experience of the yield of location, winds and calendar. Thanks to his skills, we have all been able to enjoy the fruit of his labour. Hot on his heels is Alvan Buckley who has also found numerous great birds for all of us to enjoy.
 Well, my day started when I sat down with my morning coffee and turned on my computer. What? A Glossy Ibis nearby? Not one, but TWO. Well, the coffee quickly came out of the usual cup and was tossed into a travel mug, and I was off.
These birds were really far away, and the wind was gusting up to 60 km, and the grass was high. No one said it was going to be easy to see these two great birds. The harder it is, the sweeter the reward.
It took a little time for both birds to step out in the open, but they both did. One was feeling frisky and put on a show with every short flight.
 The size of this bird surprised me. It was really big. Of course, it would have to be to support the weight of that beak.
I wonder how long they will stay. Will they move closer to the viewing area? Will I get a really good look at them before they vanish?
 The color of the ibis shows best when it is in flight.
The carnival is setting up across the way. I wonder if it will expedite the departure of these two. Now, the added bonus at this location is a Ruff spotted by Brendan Kelly while looking at the Glossy Ibis. These high winds just keep on giving.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


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 Some say the grouse is a pretty stunned creature, not even smart enough to flee from danger. That may be more the case with the Spruce Grouse than this Ruffed Grouse..
 When a Ruffed Grouse senses danger, it will scurry off and disappear in the woods very quickly. In the meantime, this one sensed no danger from me sitting in my car not five feet from it. So maybe the Ruffed Grouse is only half-stunned.
When I arrived it was eating weeds on the side of the road. It only hesitating for a moment when I stopped, it returned to its meal and even came closer to me.
 Hmmm...maybe I need a dozen of these to mow down the weeds in my yard and a few Pine Grosbeaks for good measure!
Ruffed Grouse are most frequently seen by the side of the road in the early morning hours and following a rain shower. Apparently, they don't like getting wet walking around in the woods, so they move into more open areas. Having said that, I must also say I have seen Ruffed Grouse in the heat of the day taking a dust bath in the middle of a gravel road. Wherever or whenever, I always enjoy watching them.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Possible Hybrid Swallow

When I think of Barn Swallow, I think of this: A rusty breast and under tail,  dark rusty throat and chin, and a swallow-tail with white spots.
When I think of a Bank Swallow, I think of this middle bird flanked by two Bark Swallows (boasting bright cinnamon color on the neck and throat and above the beak, and a blue-black color above.) The Bank has a brown back with a dark band around the lower neck that seems to trickle down its breast, and a notched tail.
 Then, along comes this bird pictured to the right of the Tree Swallow. It defies the standard description of either a Bank or a Barn Swallow. First, I considered the size: The Tree Swallow is 5" to 6"; the Bank Swallow is 4½" to 5½"; and the Barn Swallow is 6" to 7½". Basically, the Bank Swallow is smaller than a Tree Swallow. The bird on the right in this image seems to be closer to the same size as the Tree.
 The mystery swallow on the right has white undertail coverts, and the tail looks notched, not typical of a swallow-tail.
 The upper part of this swallow are not blue. It is brown which shows up better in one of the flight shots below. However, here is where it gets confusing. There are signs of a rusty color on the throat, but none above the beak. The breast shows white. There also appears to be a light colored patch on the lower back. That doesn't fit either species.
Then, the bird turns around revealing a dark, wide band or collar around its neck, wider than a typical Bank Swallow. Yet, the tail in this photo shows more of the typical swallow-tail.
 The collar seems to meet in the front and extend downward like a Bank Swallow.
This feature is better seen in this shot. However, also visible, is the white marking in the tail which is typical of a Barn Swallow.
Nevertheless, the tail is not as long as the typical Barn Swallow, and the hint of rust on the neck is understated. It is clear in this shot: There is no rusty spot above the beak.
With the roar of a passing truck, the bird lifted off revealing its underside. The underwing is more typical of a Bank Swallow with lighter markings on the underwing lining whereas the Barn Swallow has the reverse....darker markings on the underwing lining. Yet, note the tail in this shot. There is no evidence of the trailing swallow-tail.
 After the truck passed, I was able to pick up the distant bird briefly. In this shot, there is no doubt this bird is brown, has a light patch on its lower back and does not show the trailing tail.
The last image, again, shows the odd color on the lower back, but also shows the swallow-tail, just not a long one. So what the heck is this? Is it a Bank/Barn hybrid? If so, which is more predominant? It would seem to be the Bank. If this is a hybrid, it would be unusual. When scouring the "net" for a similar rendition to this bird, I only found one example of a Barn crossbreed. There is always a bird waiting to confound the learning birder.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Reclusive American Bittern

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 The American Bittern was heard at Bidgood Park about ten days ago, but not seen. Then, the noise stopped for several days.
 Well, this week that all changed. This recluse returned and couldn't stop bellowing. Often, the bittern would be within feet of me, but I couldn't see it.
 Finally, on two occasions, it stepped out into the open where it continuously created a deep guttural sound.
Conan Doyle described it this way in the The Hound of the Baskervilles:  "A long, low moan, indescribably sad, swept over the moor. It filled the whole air, and yet it was impossible to say whence it came. From a dull murmur it swelled into a deep roar, and then sank back into a melancholy, throbbing murmur once again." He was referring to the Eurasian Bittern, but it aptly describes the sounds emitted from our local American Bitterns.
The sound starts with a couple of clicks followed by a deep-reaching expulsion of air. The bird's head jerks upward as it releases the booming sound. It is a remarkable display.
The adult bittern has the black stripe shown in the photo. It is thought to be the male that constantly booms or pumps to attract a female. Since this member of the heron family is so difficult to see, even by its own kind, he makes a noise that rumbles for long distances in search of the perfect female or several as this bird is known to not be monogamous. This is the best time of the year to get a look at one of these seldom-seen birds.