Tuesday, March 16, 2010

2010-03-15 Holland Ponds - sitting herons and more!

2010-03-15 Holland Ponds: 3:45-5:45 pm, sunny, mid-50 degrees

Judy and I went to Holland Ponds enroute to a grocery store we learned had a special hopper machine for recycling aluminum cans. Cool! We dropped in a bag, and it fed them through a machine and gave a receipt! Much faster and less messy for us than the normal single-feed machines! (Hollywood Market on Auburn in Shelby Twp). They also have a great "chicken meatloaf" (that no one makes meatloaf from) in the meat department  - just fry up some patties! Good stuff!

Anyway, on to birding. (Pics to be posted later, story now...)

The best catch at Holland Ponds today was getting great pics of Ring-necked Ducks. A first for here! There were four pair on "Waterfowl Pond".

When we saw the nesting Great Blue Herons (GBH) today, there were seven (six standing) on the nests. We had observed another fly off as we approached. Maybe the same eight we saw last time (reported on the birders list on 3/6/2010). After a few minutes of watching, all of the birds except one dropped down into the nests with only their heads visible. So the big question is: are they sitting on eggs already, or did they just get tired of standing? I suspect the former. Today there were birds on all five of the larger nests where we saw the most activity last year. The nests look like they survived the winter intact! These birds are amazing architects and engineers - especially considering that they only have long bills (and "bird brains") as the implements to design, procure and build things!!! These nests have withstood winter's ravages of snow, ice, and unbuffered high winds! Forget the Army Corps of Engineers - hire a GBH!

Species list:
Kingfisher - 1 (Busy - rattling around Waterfowl Pond and flying through forest areas east and west)
Red-winged Blackbirds - at least 6
Robin - at least 2
Mallards (mostly paired) - 14
Canada Geese - 12 (honking, pairing, claiming the good spots - a wonderful noise!) Last year and now I always think of the starting words of Steinbeck's Cannery Row! This excitement will only get louder and more wonderfully noisy for awhile! John Steinbeck began his story this way: "Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light... a nostalgia, a dream."  (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1252560)
(BTW, I was fortunate in patterning my life after "Doc" and actually living it in California for a decade or more! Yes! I miss the ocean!)

Blue Jays - Several
Crow (H)
Starlings - 7
Goldfinch - 1 seen, others heard
Mourning Dove - 1
Ring-Billed Ducks - four pairs in "Waterfowl Pond" -a  first at Holland for us!

As we were leaving Holland Ponds, we met John and his wife with an amazing dog "Dingo" (yes, on a leash! - so many Holland Pond visitors think it is their God-given right - or something - to allow dogs to run free -impacting not only us humans with their crap but also greatly disturbing the nature park residents!). He introduced himself to me as John, and I replied "Bob". He asked if I were "Dr. Bob". "Yes". Well, it "made" Judy's day! (OK, mine as well...). Judy is just fascinated that people we do not know seem to know me through my blog and postings on the birder's list! It's just fun! She always writes down the encounters in her journal!
I was so impressed with the markings and behavior of John's dog (Australian Blue Heeler, Australian Cattle Dog) I looked it up. The best pic matching the dog we saw is at :

"Dingo" is a lovely coarse-haired, beautifully-colored dog (including some underside "rufus" coloring I normally associate only with birds) and Dingo was perfectly wonderful  - even when an unleashed dog and owner went by. Well trained!  Yes, a dog is what the owners train it to be! I am not a "dog person", but encounters like this make me wonder if I could be. Judy loves most dogs but in our condo it would be a great injustice for a dog like this!

Oh, am I rambling? Well I guess you probably knew that this is what I do before you clicked the link!

John mentioned that he had shot a pair of Hooded Mergansers and (significantly!) a pair of "courting" Kingfishers at Waterfowl Pond recently this year. He observed the Kingfishers together in two places at the pond. (Geez! It is hard to see one, much less two together! Cool!)

Yes! We love Holland Ponds. They are close for a spur of the moment trip to get outdoors, and we started watching them last year thanks to Jan and the birders list. And, I think it is really important to watch a few specific sites through the whole year to really understand them. We have met several birders who do this at different spots. Please continue to do so and share your insights!
No Tree Swallows or Bluebirds or warblers yet. They will come soon!

Ah, spring!

"Dr. Bob"

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

3/09/2010 Flying Goldeneyes are in town. Scaup! Scaup!

3/09/2010 Beaudette Park, Pontiac, Oakland County, Michigan
2:15-3:15 pm, very light overcast, temps in mid-50s! Outstanding March day!!!

There was still some snow and ice left, but I think it has reached the time of year when we laugh at snow! If it comes now, it will go soon! Ha!

Judy and I took a brief interlude and had a wonderful early spring day at Beaudette Park. We saw more wonderful ducks than ever before! Literally hundreds! They blanketed the water in many places! Well maybe not a blanket, more of a quilt, but there were lots and lots of ducks! I am here making a blog separately from my newly created Beaudette blog because I want to insert some pics and I am inspired to write a longer story.

I love the title I gave to my blog - The Flying Goldeneyes! It suggests a name for a family of trapeze artists! It recalls wonderful memories of the traveling amusements that mesmerized cities before reality shows! I initially considered it might have been a good name for a new rock band, but realized it was certainly not "heavy" enough for today's tastes! I guess I am still more into the Sargent Pepper days. Like who today would go see Flying Goldeneyes when you could see a 9 Inch Nail (huh?) or a bunch of Bare Naked Ladies who are all men? Forget rock bands!
This is a wonderfully lucky photo. I heard and saw them coming. Shoot Shoot! Shoot! Fortunately a couple of pics were in focus! Yes. This is much better than my previous flying Hooded Merganser shot! Hey, Jerry! I'm getting better! (Or is it just more lucky this time?)

The Flying Goldeneyes

Another very lucky shot of flight happened when I heard the birds that always seem to need oil in their wing pits - Mute Swans. They may not talk much, but you always know when they are flying around! I took several shots as they headed toward me. Most of them amazingly turned out! This pic gives a bit a of the crowd scene on the water behind.

Silent Swan a'Swinging

I just love the sound of the word "scaup" and the feeling as it issues forth! It is a wonderful exclamation of joy! Scaup! Scaup! We saw our first scaup at Beaudette. I think it is a Greater Scaup. Yes?

Scaup! Scaup!

I am going to drop in a couple of "crowd shots" of the bird quilt at Beaudette for my own memories and also for Colleen and the Macomb Audubon Society to generate some excitement about the field trip this coming Saturday. No guarantees, Colleen - these darn flappy things are so flighty (sic)! but we sure love this place, are we are looking forward to a great Chinese lunch afterwards! Dim sum, perhaps?
(Click on Field Trips 2010, go to number 4. If Dawson's Mill Pond or Beaudette Park does not appear on the map, zoom out or scroll slightly left until you see its marker...)

I am throwing out a few "crowd shots" - not great pics, but you can get the idea of abundance!

Crowd Shot with Bufflehead, Canvasbacks and Redheads

Dam crowd shot - these represent maybe 1/4 of the total population on the pond

Crowd shot with at least five species - look in your books and get ready

Yes, scopes would be fantastic, but here you only need binocs or even 300 mm camera telephotos (as you see). Hope for the dogs on the opposite bank to help keep the birds on our side - but even if they do not, the distance is not too far!
Species list:
Canvasbacks - at least 200 hundred!!!
Redheads - dozens
Goldeneyes - dozens
Buffleheads - a few - less than half a dozen
Ring-Necked Ducks - ca. two dozen (Why are they not called ring-billed ducks???)
Mute Swans - 7 (about half as many as usual)
No black-billed swans seen...
Mallards - many fewer than usual for this normally dominant species - interesting! Maybe only a dozen or so.
Hooded Mergansers - only 2 (m/f)
Greater (?) Scaup - first seen (Scaup! Scaup!)
Canada Geese - 11 (most seen there for a month)
Herring Gull - 1
Ring-Billed Gull - 2
Cardinal - 1f
Crow -2
Why do I count in dozens?
1) I guess it is much easier than taking the time to actually count them. I would rather shoot hundreds of pics and hope something is worth printing than go "1,2,3... birds on the lake" (sound like a good song for "going up north" with kids in the car...). Judy and I get more pleasure at present from reviewing our pics together than from actual numbers of birds seen. Just seeing the bird as being present is enough! One bird pic in hand is worth far more than a missed opportunity. Of course, if I go to posting results on e-bird (after going out with Ed Lewandowski, I am actually thinking about it), I might be pushed into more accurate counts...
2) It is a good "gestalt". I have seen many egg cartons in my life. I know whether there are more or less than a dozen.
3) It seems appropriate - like what's in an egg carton anyway but an uncounted bird?
4) Oh. I did shoot a panorama for reference (ala Jerry J.) but have no idea how to put it together yet and wonder if it would be meaningful to me to count the birds if I did take the days to do so. (Hey! I am only entering my second year of birding!) Yet, Jerry's pics were just so fantastically amazing I must try it - even if I do not bother to count the birds!
5) I normally use my own vocabulary for abundance. It goes something like: a few, several, many, lots, abundant, dominant, or I use a specific number for those species with less than 6 or so. Actually I have calibrated and tested my qualitative scale for consistency with a range of numbers to substantiate my assessment. It seems fairly consistent. For this trip there were just so darn many birds I had to move the scale up a notch to the next power! Rather than going with the scientifically-copasetic metric, I reverted to the familiar English (?) system.
I hope you enjoyed my story! Enjoy spring birding!!!
" Dr. Bob"

Friday, March 5, 2010

Beaudette Park (Dawsons Mill Pond), Oakland County - Winter 2010 sightings

I am making a blog within a blog where I can add bird sightings at Beaudette Park (Dawsons Mill Pond) off Orchard Lake Road near Telegraph Road in Pontiac, Michigan. Judy and I have really enjoyed this park recently. It has open water in winter due to the fact that there is moving water that comes from Sylvan Lake through Dawsons Mill Pond at Beaudette Park, and down a dam into the Clinton River. It is a great place to see "fancy ducks" - the diving ducks - and also potentially three species of swans. I can now just edit this blog with new sightings as we record them. (Thanks to Ed Lewandowski for giving me the idea of a blog within a blog through his blog with birds reported by county by observation!) (You can go see Ed's blog by checking the blogs to which I subscribe).

You can see a Google map for Beaudette at:

4/01/2010 Too nice for ducks
3:00-3:30 pm Sunny, warm
A lovely day, but almost all ducks have left. It is so different than a couple of weeks ago! Several people were fishing today.
Mallards: 2 pair
Wood Ducks: one pair
Kingfisher (got a couple of decent photos)
American Black Duck - 1 female
Mute Swan - 1

3/09/2010 Flying Goldeneyes are in town. Scaup! Scaup!
2:15-3:15 pm, very light overcast, temps in mid-50s!
Judy and I had a wonderful early spring day at Beaudette Park. We saw more wonderful ducks than ever before! Literally hundreds! They blanketed the water in many places! Well maybe not a  blanket, more of a quilt. Please go see my separate blog for this date.

3/04/2010 12:45-1:30 pm, sunny, low 40s
Mallards - abundant, most common
Canvasbacks - lots
Redheads - lots
Goldeneye - many
Bufflehead - a few - both male & female
American Black Duck - 2
Mute Swan - a dozen
Trumpeter Swan - 1
Ring-billed Gulls - 2
Blue Jays - 2
American Crow - 2
Cardinal - 1 female
No "critters" (muskrats) observed today

Beaudette Park was again more interesting. It’s back to what we like to see!
21 Mute Swans
1 Trumpeter Swan (just sitting at the edge of the pond – an outcast no doubt)
Canvasbacks were back (lots)
Redheads (lots)
20 Goldeneye
2 Ring-necked Ducks
6 Hooded Mergansers
Mallards (lots)
Ring-billed Gull (oddly gulls seem to be unusual there)
Wood Duck - 1 female
Canada Geese - 3

Beaudette Park yielded only Mute Swans and Mallards, plus 5 Goldeneyes. Every day the variety diminishes. Yesterday we also saw many Redheads, a few Hooded Mergansers and 2 Black Ducks as well – still nothing like a week ago.

Mute Swans - 18
(no black-billed swans)
Hooded Mergansers - a few
Redheads - many
American Black Ducks - 2
Mallards - lots
Dark-eyed Juncos - 6
American Crows - 5

2/06/2010 3:00-3:20 pm, 24 degrees, medium wind (too freezing to stay out long!), sunny
Canvasbacks - lots
Redhead - several
Mallards - abundant - dominant
Mute Swans - about a dozen
Ring-Necked Ducks - 5 male
Hooded Mergansers - many - male and female
Bufflehead - 1 male
Goldeneye -  a few
American Black Duck - 1
Trumper Swan - one heard trumpeting out of sight around the wooded point
American Crow

See my illustrated blog posted on that date - this was our first visit. It was very exciting to find special birds so close to us in Oakland County! This will probably be our favorite winter "get away" = "staycation"!