Saturday, May 28, 2016


(click for a google maps location)

I've griped (to myself) for some time that I've never really found an exciting bird while randomly driving somewhere... I see reports of "oh, the Swallow-tailed Kite / Scissor-tailed Flycatcher / Baird's Sparrow just flew past my car", but despite driving tens of thousands of km's per year, it hadn't really happened to me. Then BAM.

Here's this dark duck in a farm pond with some Mallards.

I was *only* packing binoculars, so the views weren't great - but something wasn't quite right. Clearly a Mallard-clan bird, but it didn't seem dark enough, or large enough, for American Black Duck. It also had a very odd green/blue/yellowish bill... I did my best to snap some photos with my cell phone (through binoculars - above & below pics) and went on my merry way... 

After finishing up some work, and running a few errands - I had the chance to do some "Gulf coast Mottled Duck" searching and found a few images, that of course, looked pretty darn good for what I saw a few hours earlier:

SOO of course, I grabbed the scope and made the drive back. Fingers crossed the entire time it would still be there... (Nothing worse than driving somewhere to look at nothing). 

Darn thing was sleeping in the same spot when I got back. First looks in the scope:

Yes, it shows a MODU-like pattern to the body...
YES - those central tail feathers curl up a tiny bit...

So clearly it's not "pure" (tail feathers indicate some Mallard genes somewhere down the line)

Check out the rest of the pics: 

Overall plumage (secondaries, crown, cheek, bill colour, body pattern) are nearly spot-on for Mottled Duck... It also shows the little black gape spot, although somewhat small/poorly defined in some shots... 

The curled tail feathers (ever so slightly) and the pale tertials show that it has a bit of Mallard in it (and perhaps the small gape spot as well)... 

So at bare minimum, I'd say it's an F2 hybrid, (Mottled X Mallard, crossed back with a Mottled)... Possibly even an "impure" Mottled Duck, with Mallard occurring 3 or more generations ago...

I'm not quite sure how this compares to other hybrids - say seeing an F2 Lawrence's Warbler, compared to finding a Golden-winged Warbler with a tiny bit of Blue-winged in it... But overall I'm pretty excited by it! 

Onwards to the next cryptic/dull/plain unusual bird....

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Pelee Island Bird Photography - May 16, 2016

A cold morning at Lighthouse Point. Was happy to get some sunlight for photography... Didn't get anything I was super happy with, but these were ok:

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I'm surprised it took this long...

To find a bird that has some traits of Pacific Golden Plover... Today at Hillman Marsh shorebird cell:

Definitely a plover

Definitely golden

Lots of white on the sides

Mostly white undertail coverts? 

Seems to be a bit patchy still - I know PGPL molts earlier, but AGPL should be done by now, no? 

Seemed a bit "wingy" at times... 

It was never close... Great day (morning?) to be out... Had a chance to tie it in with some work, and I couldn't say no after looking at the weather maps... Tried to tweet a pic of the huge Black-bellied Plover flock present at the same time, but I'm not sure if it does it justice...

All photos (above) taken with the iphone/scope combo... Below is a "pano-mode" Iphone + Scope combo (panning with the scope)... Can't believe it worked as well as it did. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Crazy birding - May 11th, 2016 - Pelee Island

9 male Scarlet Tanagers within 50ft of me... Taken with my cell phone...

May 11th, 2016 was an absolute spectacle at Pelee Island. We casually strolled around Fish Point, on-and-off throughout the day... Not sure what it was like elsewhere on the island, but we didn't really care. Amazing numbers of warblers and other neotropic migrants were present. It's nearly impossible to document an event like this through photographs, but I've done my best to show off some views of Kingbirds and Scarlet Tanagers that were littering the point... 

Check them out below! And also check out the guess ebird checklist for Fish Point - for some rough tallies... Insane!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Hybrid Carolina X Black-capped Chickadee - Pelee Island

Had this funky Chickadee at Fish Point during my recent stay to the island. There were large numbers of Chickadee's around, and I'd guess I had 100-150 individuals during my visit. Two or three individuals stood out as having a number of Carolina-features, but not measuring up in all areas. Check it out:

Pro-Carolina features... Clockwise from lower left:

Grayish breast contrasts with white cheek
Relatively small and well defined bib
Relatively stubby/small bill
Low contrast flight features
Limited white edging on the tail
Overall grayscale colouration with limited/absent peach on sides

Some critical marks just didn't line up though.. Left to right:

Head often lacked the "circular/rounded" look
Greater coverts contrasting with back

This bird looked somewhat spot-on to "hybrid" Chickadees I found online after some rather extensive searching... The contrasting greater coverts seems like a particular key feature in separating these species and does seem quite intermediate in possible hybrids.
(Interestingly, the Long Point Carolina Chickadee is a little outside my comfort zone, but lets not go there)

Of my 2 or 3 observations, this one really jumped out at me. Interestingly, each one seemed to be a female... Something I can't really confirm with the bird shown in the photos here... But one sighting (also at Fish Point) involved a "normal" Black-capped feeding the suspected "hybrid" - so quite likely a female was involved... I didn't get any photos of that bird, and didn't get quite the same looks to really feel confident about anything - BUT - I was able to record some limited calling with my cell phone. Check it out:

Does it tell us much? I don't really know - I did some listening but it seems like they're capable of any range of calls/dee's/noises... I also worked a fair bit to get these calls out of a reluctant bird, so perhaps it's not an accurate representation of what it would normally do... 

Overall quite a bit of fun though! I'll finish this off with a few more looks at the original bird from Fish Point