Saturday, September 10, 2022

Fall bird banding for 2022 has begun

Results, and photo highlights, from the beginnings of fall banding at Lake St. Clair Metropark, Macomb County, Michigan, can be found by clicking on the "Bird Banding Blog" above, or by using this direct link:

Thursday, August 4, 2022

An Old Hummingbird

I don't often post about my summer hummingbird banding, as I visit each of about 15 or more private residences three times from mid-June to early September. There are occasionally some highlights of movements or returns that I report in my annual hummingbird banding report, but this week an adult female Ruby-throated Hummingbird was recaptured that ties the longevity record of the species.

In July, at the residence of Jim and Nancy Summers in St. Joseph County, Michigan, our team of banders and banding assistants banded a total of 161 "new" Ruby-throats and recaptured an additional 68 returning from previous years. Among them was a female that was banded at this site in July 2014, as an adult (after hatch-year). Using the standard method that the Bird Banding Lab uses for calculating age, it is assumed she hatched in June 2013 or earlier. That made her at least 9 years 1 month old, which was one month short of tying the record. 

Then, on August 3, among 63 more "new" banded and 96 recaptures, we recaptured her again, making her now at least 9 years 2 months old. She is in the photo below.

Here, bander Brenda Keith shows our elderly hummingbird to proud "father" Jim Summers.

And here, Jim and Nancy say bon voyage to our record-tying hummingbird as we release her, and hope for a record-breaking recapture next year!









Monday, June 27, 2022

Back to Gander, Newfoundland

Today we had to make the 3 1/2 hour drive from Corner Brook back to Gander to make an 11:30 a.m. appointment at a medical clinic to get a certified COVID test before flying home tomorrow. We had seen news reports that the U.S had lifted testing requirements for entry by air as of June 12th, but we figured that it was better to be safe than sorry even though we were flying out on the 16th. That turned out to be a good decision, because Canada had not lifted testing requirements to travel between provinces, so we needed them to travel through Toronto on our way home.

After lunch, we headed out a few miles west of Gander to a dirt road going north of the Trans-Canada Highway where an American Three-toed Woodpecker had been reported recently. It was 15 kilometers in, and off on a side road, but it was a reasonably good dirt road by Newfoundland standards. I managed some good photos of a few warblers, including the very common Northern Waterthrush and fairly common Magnolia Warbler.

Northern Waterthrush

Northern Waterthrush

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Another warbler that I had really wanted to see and photograph was the Palm Warbler of the "Yellow" subspecies that is a rare vagrant to the Great Lakes (though most of those I have banded have had a variable number of yellow belly feathers). Terra Nova National Park was supposed to be a good place for them, but we missed them there. Along this road, there were several and I did manage a few photos. What surprised me is that their song was a lot like a Chipping Sparrow and not much like the songs we hear from migrants in Michigan.

"Yellow" Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum hypochrysea)

"Yellow" Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum hypochrysea)

A few insects were out along this road, including a dragonfly that I have tentatively identified as a Muskeg Emerald.

Muskeg Emerald (Somatochlora septentrionalis)

Once we got in to the sideroad where the woodpecker had been reported, it had to be walked as it was rutted and probably impassible with our rental car. It was only about 1/4 mile to the dead end where lots of spruces were on both sides of the road. But the only woodpecker was a flyover that went unidentified, but looked like a Downy. There were tons of Moose tracks in this road, so we were vigilant. There were also a few Tiger Beetles hunting the road surface that I have tentatively identified as Boreal Long-lipped Tiger Beetle.

Boreal Long-lipped Tiger Beetle (Cicindela longilabris)

Also in the road was the first amphibian seen on the trip. We had heard American Toads and Green Frogs in a few places, but there are NO native frogs, salamanders, snakes, or lizards in Newfoundland. All four species of frog have been introduced. But it was still nice to see an American Toad in the road.

American Toad

On the way back to the Trans-Canada Highway, a couple of sparrow-sized birds flew up into a spruce, and stayed in view. They were White-winged Crossbills. Although we had seen then nearly every day, almost always they were flying over in small groups or larger flocks, rarely perching. So it was nice to finally get a chance for photos.

White-winged Crossbill

White-winged Crossbill

White-winged Crossbill

It was now mid-afternoon, so we decided to head back to the road where a Black-backed Woodpecker had been reported, where we had seen a lot of warblers four days ago. We only went in 6 kilometers to the woodpecker spot, but it was very quiet. So, we drove back out and to our motel in Gander where we had dinner, and got everything ready to fly out tomorrow.

The next morning, Thursday the 16th, we left Gander at 6 a.m. for the 3 1/2 hour drive back to St. John's for our 12:15 flight. It was a very eventful day, and not in a good way, dealing with delayed flights and crowded airports, and we arrived home at 10 p.m., about two hours later than we had planned.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Gros Morne, Newfoundland

The objective today was to explore as much of Gros Morne National Park as possible. Two or three days might have been better if we wanted to walk more trails and take the boat tour into the fjords. The Black Fly on the lens of this first photo near the southern entrance to the park was a sign that spring was certainly progressing.

Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

Even so, there was still a fair bit of snow on some of the "mountains" in the park.

Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

At an overlook of Bras East Arm, we ran into a local Newfoundlander who told us that we were looking at a saltwater fjord, and during July and August he regularly sees Minke Whales there.

Bras East Arm, Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

And on top of one of the spruces was a male Pine Grosbeak, the only one that was seen well enough to be photographed.

Pine Grosbeak, Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

We walked a short (700 meters each way) "easy" trail to Southeast Brook Falls, which turned out to be strewn with rocks and roots, so not what we'd call easy especially as one of us is visually impaired.

Southeast Brook Falls, Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

Only the top half of the falls were visible from the overlook, with the rest falling below us into a ravine. Along the trail there were some flowers blooming, including Trailing Arbutus, some of which were pink while most were white.

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens)

At another short trail, memorializing a native guide in the region, I heard what sounded like a Red-eyed Vireo close by. But when I located it, not too far up in an Aspen tree, it turned out to be a Philadelphia Vireo, which is an uncommon breeding species in Newfoundland.

Philadelphia Vireo in Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

A bit farther north was the scenic overlook for Gros Morne, the mountain for which the park was named. It is the highest peak in the park at 806 meters (2644 feet).

Gros Morne Mountain (left), Newfoundland

A small group of very tame Pine Siskins were feeding low in the vegetation at this overlook.

Pine Siskin in Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

Our next stop was at the appropriately named Rocky Harbor, where we saw distant Iceland, Glaucous, and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. It is a townsite and not within the National Park boundaries, but it was scenic nonetheless.

Rocky Harbor, Newfoundland

North of there, a very interesting geological site was Green Point.

Green Point, Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

There are many strange formations in this area, including lots of strata that are tilted nearly vertically, and another slab that looks like a fossilized stream bed, but also oriented vertically. And lots of round boulders in the waters nearby.

Green Point, Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

Green Point, Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

A birding stop north of Green Point was Broom Point, where there was a raft of Common Eiders that were fairly far out with their recently hatched broods.

Broom Point, Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

In the grass on the headlands, there were some wildflowers blooming including Marsh Marigold and a regional endemic, Laurentian Primrose.

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)

Laurentian (Bird's-eye) Primrose (Primula laurentiana)

We continued north out of the park to Arches Provincial Park to see the sea arches there. Unfortunately, a busload of tourists had just arrived so I had to wait about 20 minutes for them to leave, to get photos of the arches without 50 people scurrying all around (and under them) in the shot.

Arches Provincial Park, Newfoundland

Arches Provincial Park, Newfoundland

The plants here, other than the ubiquitous dandelions, were low-growing. Silverweed is found uncommonly along Great Lakes shorelines and was blooming here.

Silverweed (Argentina anserina)

And growing right on the boulders was some of the smallest Roseroot that I've ever seen.

Roseroot (Rhodiola rosea)

We returned back south to the National Park and went to the most crowded part of the park, Western Brook Pond. There is a boat tour of the fjords here, but there is a 4 kilometer round-trip walk to and from the boat dock. We waited until afternoon because of the orientation of the geography, which would have put the sun low in the photos if we'd come in the morning. The trail was very nice, and easy walking, but Nancy wasn't feeling well so I walked it alone. The views from the start of the trail were fairly nice though so she didn't miss out too much.

Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

There were lots of flowers in bloom along the walk (open space the whole way, with no shade), including Pale Bog Laurel and Buckbean.

Pale Bog (Swamp) Laurel (Kalmia polifolia)

Bogbean (Buckbean) (Menyanthes trifoliata)

The closer I got to the boat dock, the better the views got.

Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

At the boat dock at the end of the trail, it was hard to get a photo without the dock in the frame, but I think I managed it by taking a narrower trail a short distance north of the dock.

Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

There were  few birds along the way, although the patches of stunted spruce were the most productive and were few and far between. Apparently, I cannot resist taking a photo of any cooperative Wilson's Warbler. Maybe because they are not easy during migration in Michigan. But anyway, here's yet another photo of a Wilson's.

Wilson's Warbler at Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

One surprise was a very cooperative Tennessee Warbler. Not much of a looker as far as warblers go, but this is another one that is sometimes difficult to get good views, and photos of in migration in Michigan.

Tennessee Warbler at Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

On the way back to the parking area, I heard an odd begging sound that I thought sounded like baby woodpeckers. I stopped and right next to me was a mostly dead spruce that was maybe 15 feet tall, with several holes in it. My hope was that it was a Black-backed Woodpecker. When the female came in to feed the young, only a few yards away from me, I could clearly see that it was a Hairy Woodpecker.

Hairy Woodpecker at nest, Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

The subspecies in Newfoundland seems to have fewer white spots on their wings than Michigan birds do.

Hairy Woodpecker near nest, Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

It was getting late, but there was still one last classic scenic area to visit in the park, but it was about 50 kilometers away to the south. We stopped back at Rocky Harbor and got a couple of cheeseburgers to go from a local pub, and continued on to the Tablelands part of the park. As we got close, there was a nice view of Bonne Bay and the adjacent flat-topped mountains (the Tablelands).

Bonne Bay near Woody Point, Newfoundland

Bonne Bay near Woody Point, Newfoundland

The Tablelands area, Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

The trail was about a mile in, and straight back out. It was a very interesting landscape, but with very few birds and very little vegetation. I thought it looked a bit like the surface of Mars!

Tablelands Trail, Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

Tablelands Trail, Gros Morne NP, Newfoundland

I managed to get back to the car while the sun was still up, covering the 2-mile round-trip on the trail in about 45 minutes, and we had some daylight left for the approximately hour-long drive back to motel in Corner Brook. Despite the abundant Moose crossing signs all over Newfoundland, and the warnings from Jared to be very careful driving at night (we never did), we had not seen one the entire time we had been here. Until now. Two females were right alongside the road at one point. They didn't wander into the road, thankfully, but were also in a situation that made stopping for photos impossible.