Posted by: 3pomjaeger3 | 5 September 2013

5 September: Herons, not many passerines

ImageI was greeted this morning by this Great Horned Owl in the East Motte, hooting away with his companion somewhere else.  All photos are copyright 5 September 2013 by Tony Leukering.  Click on image(s) to view larger version(s).

I arrived again at 6:45 this morning to a very different scenario than yesterday’s.  With the early-morning NE winds, I was expecting some reasonable echo of yesterday’s spectacular landbird flight.  However, I met herons moving before sunrise:  Great and Snowy egrets and White Ibis.  And virtually no landbirds.  Quite odd, I thought.  I scored just over 10% of yesterday’s Blue-gray Gnatcatcher total, though while scanning for high speck raptors, I did find two flocks of very high gnatcatchers (11 and 7), so I could easily have missed quite a few more.  Also high today was the swallow flight, with much of it invisible to the naked eye, but causing problems for finding speck raptors!

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher tally:  80 (bringing the season total to 2601!)

upsa-smithpoint-9-05-13-tl-01-cropscreen-lowresThis Upland Sandpiper made up one of the three “flocks” of Uppies that I actually slapped eyeballs on today, and was the closest fly-by of the tower by the species that I’ve seen in two seasons.  The other two flocks that I found were of four and six, illustrating nicely the importance of actually finding the calling bird(s), rather than just counting a calling bird as one.

crca-juv-smithpoint-9-05-13-tl-01-cropscreen-lowresAnother early morning fly-by was this juvenile Crested Caracara, one of two that have been cavorting about of late.

The raptor flight started right about on time and started building quickly, with the half-blue sky and very warm temps driving some apparently powerful thermals.  Unfortunately, I spent the day searching unsuccessfully for the primary elevator, the one that got birds high in order to glide off toward the point.  Finding that elevator can be critical to finding the birds, so I spent the day scanning clouds and blue sky for speck raptors, every once in a while finding one or a few.  Undoubtedly, many flew by undetected by me.  Despite the conditions, I almost got to count as a migrant a species that I’ve never counted so before.  I found a Crested Caracara very high in front, hauling crissum to the west.  I watched it fly west and thought, “I’m going to get to count this beast as a migrant!”  It got past the point where I typically “count” raptors and I “counted” it, only to have it join a second bird that had apparently gone behind me and the both of them turn around and come back east.  Ah, well.

crca-smithpoint-9-05-13-tl-01-cropscreen-lowresThe first view of the perambulating Crested Caracara that I almost “counted.”

Today did wind up marking a highlight for me:  my highest count of migrating Swallow-tailed Kites.  Two birds came by overhead, high overhead, fairly early on and kept going south.  Later in the day, I found a singleton way west and very high, then even later I found another duo in about the same place as the singleton; both singleton and duo headed west and out of sight.  I thus designate Swallow-tailed Kite as The Bird of the Day!

stki-smithpoint-9-05-13-tl-1-cropscreen-lowresThe first duo of Swallow-tailed Kites recorded today.

Raptors counted:

  • Northern Harrier – 1 (adult male; found behind me crossing the Bay [!] by John Tharp)
  • Swallow-tailed Kite – 5
  • Mississippi Kite – 5
  • Cooper’s Hawk – 2 (juveniles)
  • Broad-winged Hawk – 28 (juveniles)
  • Swainson’s Hawk – 2 (juveniles; a local adult was seen, distantly, carrying a rat!)
  • White-tailed Hawk – 2 (juvenile, adult)
  • American Kestrel – 1 (male)
  • Total – 46

Today’s eBird checklist

Quiz photos, old and new — In a couple of previous posts, I posted ostensible quiz photos for potential waterbird counters, here and here.  The answers to the quizzes are:

1) Four each Wood Storks and American White Pelicans; the two are readily separated by action within a flock:  Wood Storks don’t follow the leader very well at all, while the pelicans are nearly as good at synchronized flying as are Anhingas.  However, we cannot see that action here, and can go only on plumage and structure.  Note that the innermost flight feathers on the pelicans are white, while those on the storks are black, thus bringing the dark trailing edge of the wing on the storks all the way to the body, where it ends before the body on the pelicans.

2) Four Snowy Egrets and one juvenile Little Blue Heron, the latter of which is discerned by the dark tips to the outer primaries that are amazingly visible on birds in flight.  The heron is essentially the same size as the Snowies, and without those primary tips, picking one out of a flock of Snowies, particularly of juvenile Snowies, can be quite tricky.

Now, for the new quiz photo.  Take a stab at it.  It’s not a waterbird.




  1. White-winged dove….

  2. Zenaida asiatica

  3. Eurasian collared or African collared dove

  4. White Winged Dove

  5. […] past and present:  The quiz picture provided in the 5 September post is of a dove flying directly overhead.  The white tip and black base to the tail should eliminate […]

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