Friday, July 16, 2010

2010-06-27 Wetzel SRA, Macomb County - Dragonflies and Birds

2010-06-27 Wetzel SRA, Macomb County, 10:00 am - 12:00 noon. Overcast, incredibly humid! Mid 70 degrees.

We had the great fortune to "bird" with Darrin O'Brien today at Wetzel. Well  - it was partly about birds. Darrin had his net for collecting dragonflies which are plentiful at Wetzel. He was looking for new Macomb County records. To put the "punch line" up front, I got fewer birds than I usually see at Wetzel. I was looking for dragonflies! If it flaps and flies, it draws my attention and I want to shoot it! And, of course, if I shoot it, I need to learn its name!

This was an incredible learning opportunity! In looking at my notes and comparing my birds with those Darrin saw, listed and shared with me on eBird, I again learned that I tend to see what I look for! I was out with a dragonfly expert and wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity! How did I miss some of those birds I normally recognize? Well, I was looking in my immediate vicinity, and looking closer to the ground. Focus and you will see!

In this pic, Darrin has caught a dragonfly and is comparing it with his "credit card".

Darrin O'Brien  - "Stylurus"

Here is a closer image so you can see the size of the bug body.

I am astounded with the technology available to us these days! Actually Darrin is using an iPod Touch and looking at pics of the male claspers of a bluet to compare with the dragonfly in hand. On a "credit card"! Back in the old days, you would have to physically collect the specimen, then spend possibly weeks pouring over the old journals to find a match! With the new technologies, collecting is not really necessary unless it is for a special study or documents a new record. So cool! However, I should also note that anyone expecting a positive ID from just a photo (like I did in the past) needs to consult the recent great article by Nannothemis at the southeastern Michigan dragonfly site:

I did well! I think most of my dragonflies are "lifers" for me. It was not a great day for diversity of dragonflies overall. I learned that d'flies are more active in full sunlight. But for my d'fly pic-taking, the overcast made it much better than usual. When we saw them, they were less spooky and tended to stay on something longer.

There will be more d'fly pics in this blog than birds. Here's a neat one!

I got three lifer birds as well! We saw a Ring-necked Pheasant on Werderman Road as we were driving in. Well, maybe not too exciting for many, but it was new for us after over a year of active birding (actually I do not EVER recall seeing one in the field!) - fantastic! No pics - it quickly cruised off into the brush, but it sure was not a turkey!

The "coolest" bird was the Eastern Towhee! I finally know the "Drink Your Tea" song! It's nothing like I had imagined from the words in bird books!!! It is unmistakable. Drink – brief pause – Your (lower – maybe an octave?)- brief pause –Teeeeeeeeee (vibrating - higher - same pitch as Drink ). It turns out that the words in bird books need to be tempered with pitch and cadence to make sense (to be the subject of another blog ). We encountered this bird at least three times.

Eastern Towhee (Lifer)

Here are two Eastern Towhees together

Below is the bird species list copied from the confirming eBird email (Hey, eBird makes it so easy to drop a species list into a blog!). I should note that Darrin had about this many more species in the shared list, but the ones below are what I saw personally. I again refer to "focus and you will see" as a partial explanation.

Oh yes, regarding list discrepancies, there also is the "one small thing" that Darrin is a great birder, similar to Chris and Ed with whom we had the fortune to bird Wetzel before and with similar double-digit discrepancies between what they saw and what I saw. Heck! Darrin is out for bugs, and still doubles my bird list! Maybe some day I'll get there. I do know I am learning all of the time, and have been blessed to have such great mentors!

Location: Wetzel SP
Observation date: 6/27/10
Number of species: 23

Canada Goose 50 - Communal gosling raising! This must be the main orphanage!
Mute Swan 14 - Includes many "kids"!
Ring-necked Pheasant 1 - On Werderman Road between 27 and 28 Mile Roads - Lifer (no pic)
Pied-billed Grebe 3
Great Egret 3
Mourning Dove 2
Northern Flicker 2
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 3
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Marsh Wren 4
American Robin 6
Gray Catbird 2 - Heard only
Cedar Waxwing 3
Common Yellowthroat 3 - Heard only
Eastern Towhee 7 - Lifer! Photos.
Field Sparrow 5 - Lifer! Photos.
Savannah Sparrow 8
Song Sparrow 4
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 20
Brown-headed Cowbird 2
American Goldfinch 2

Field Sparrow (Lifer)

I shot better pics of the Field Sparrow on a subsequent trip to Wetzel, but I take them as I get them! Well, I gotta put in some more d'flies since these are mostly what I shot.

Calico Pennant


Just to close with birds, I offer a couple more pics and a few questions.These birds are not very exciting as records, but we continue to be fascinated with their life style.

"Communal Goosers"

I find it fascinating that Canada Geese are able to pass their offspring off to other geese to raise! We see this every year! No child support problems here! What's the story? What are the relieved parents doing? Are they making new families?  What is the species survival gene here - is it in the "passers" or the foster parents? I guess the kids get "passer genes" ("orphan genes"?) and will probably continue the habit with their own offspring, but why would the foster parents just take them on? Do the kids help defend the foster parents? What is the advantage to the new parents?

Goose School
("Follow me. Snake your neck and eat weeds! Stay in formation lest you eat pre-processed weeds!")

And I gotta add a new butterfly for us. It flaps and flies, and doesn't bite, so it counts! I did not shoot any other butterflies today, but we normally see many species at Wetzel.

Common Wood Nymph

A Wetzel map is on the Hiking Michigan site. Wetzel is a great place! Prepare for a few ticks if you get off the maintained trails, but go "bird" - or go "d'fly" or "b'fly" (lots of flappy things!) or just enjoy the walk! Enjoy the outdoors when you can!

Well maybe it might be better when it is not quite so hot and humid! Most times today I could shoot only a couple of pics before my glasses fogged up. I guess I can handle dripping sweat, but fogged glasses while trying to focus (there is that word again!) is too much! It is good that the camera has auto-focus!

On a different subject, I have a cute thing to share. Judy loves the American Gothic painting by Grant Wood. She has a whole album dedicated to similar pics. It is amazing how many celebs, politicians, cartoon characters, and just regular people have done something similar. Judy and I even made a few ourselves. Anyway, after Judy saw the photo of Darrin and myself that she had taken, she immediately added it to her American Gothic album! Fun!