Posted by: 3pomjaeger3 | 18 August 2013

18 August: Aerial plankton!

ImageCommon Green Darner (Anax junius) drifting past the upper deck of the tower this afternoon during a period of intense aerial plankton.  All photographs are copyright by Tony Leukering 18 August 2013.

At least three times today, visibility at distance was greatly hampered by the aerial plankton.  This is a term coined, as far as I’m aware, in Cape May, NJ, by (I believe) the 1987-1988 hawk counter, Jeff Bouton.  Aerial plankton is a term used to indicate the small fry that gets in the way of searching for speck raptors.  You know, those seemingly-distant things that, once you realize that it’s not that far away, must be a swallow.  Or a dragonfly.  Or… whatever.  Not a raptor.  I believe that one of these periods was even captured on Nexrad, as some large areas of green coincided temporally with the last period of swarming, and there certainly was no rain in the neighborhood!  The Bird of the Day, then, was dragonflies!

dragons-smithpoint-8-18-13-tl-1-screen-lowresNo, there’s not dust on my camera sensor, those are all dragonflies!

The raptor show was, in a word, disappointing, today.  Again, I was expecting kites, and again, we got kites, but danged few.  Ron Weeks spent some four hours scanning behind me, hoping to snag a Swallow-tailed Kite in Galveston County air space, but the only one that we saw was in front heading ENE.  It may very well have come off the Bay, thus been in Galveston air space, but we did not see it there.  This bird exemplified today’s flight:  we saw few raptors on a typical flight line — that is, heading west down the point from east of us.  Most of the raptors that we saw, like yesterday, were heading north coming off the Bay.  Raptors seen, but not counted, included a smattering of Black and Turkey vultures, the continuing juvenile Cooper’s Hawks (I believe one female, one male), three juvenile and one adult Broad-winged Hawks, and two each juvenile Swainson’s and Red-tailed hawks.  One raptor remains in limbo as of this writing, as I’ve sent pictures of it out for review:  An adult(ish) accipiter that is either the most Sharp-shinned-like male Cooper’s Hawk I’ve ever seen, or a very early Sharp-shinned with the posture of a Cooper’s Hawk.  I was leaning toward the former when I was watching and photographing it, but I’m more on the fence now.  Ain’t digital SLRs grand?!  In the old days, we would have had to put it down as an unidentified accipiter and wait perhaps a month or more to get the slide back, send it out for review, and get responses back.  I’ll post about this bird once I get some second opinions.

miki-juv-smithpoint-8-18-13-tl-1-cropscreen-lowresOne of the 11 Mississippi Kites counted today, this one a juvenile.

Raptors counted:

  • Swallow-tailed Kite – 1
  • Mississippi Kite – 11
  • Broad-winged Hawk – 7 (all juveniles)
  • Swainson’s Hawk – 11 (all juveniles)
  • Total – 30

Big waterbirds:  The show from this category was a mixed bag, with a good number of Wood Storks in six sometimes-wandering flocks (118 individuals), but with just 184 White Ibis (17 flocks; 131 adults).  Oddly, Anhinga trounced White Ibis for high count, with a couple large flocks (173 heading W, 190 heading E) and a total of 424.  The Tricolored Heron show continued, with 16 counted today, all but one of which were headed W.

wfib-smithpoint-8-18-13-tl-1-cropscreen-lowresWhen I see dark ibis from the tower, they are usually fairly far and do not permit separation of Glossy from White-faced, thus I record them as Plegadis sp.  However, the single flock today (of 38) flew right by the tower heading NNW, so I got some good pix for later ID purposes.  Perusing the pictures at my leisure at home, quite a few were identifiable, including the above seven, due to various features, but usually to the red eyes that one can just make out on each of these birds.  Of course, the really white-faced bird is easy.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher tally:  97

If it weren’t for the Polioptilans, the migrant-passerine show would have been abysmal, but the 97 of these sprites made for an excellent count.  However, a near-passerine provided a brief hit of excitement when a Pileated Woodpecker called once from the E motte.

Today’s eBird checklist

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