My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Archive for February, 2019

Vesper Sparrow, Pooecetes gramineus

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

  

Vesper Sparrow, Pooecetes gramineus

The vesper sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus) is a medium-sized American sparrow. It is the only member of the genus Pooecetes.

Adults have light brown upperparts and light underparts, both with darker streaking. They have a white eye ring and a long dark brown tail which shows white outer feathers in flight.

Their breeding habitat is open grassy areas across most of North America. The nest is an open cup on the ground under a clump of grass.

These birds migrate to the southern and central United States and Mexico.

These birds forage on the ground, mainly eating insects and seeds. Outside the nesting season they often feed in small flocks.

The male sings from a higher perch, such as a shrub or fencepost, which indicates his ownership of the nesting territory. The musical song begins with two pairs of repeated whistled notes and ends in a series of trills, somewhat similar to that of the song sparrow.

This bird’s numbers are declining in the eastern parts of its range due to habitat loss.

 

On to my photos:

These photos were in May of 2015, near Muskegon, Michigan.

Vesper Sparrow, Pooecetes gramineus

 

Vesper Sparrow, Pooecetes gramineus

 

Vesper Sparrow, Pooecetes gramineus

 

Vesper Sparrow, Pooecetes gramineus

 

Vesper Sparrow, Pooecetes gramineus

 

Vesper Sparrow, Pooecetes gramineus

 

Vesper Sparrow, Pooecetes gramineus

 

Vesper Sparrow, Pooecetes gramineus

 

 

This is number 212 in my photo life list, only 138 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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Franklin’s Gull, Leucophaeus pipixcan

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

  

Franklin’s Gull, Leucophaeus pipixcan

The Franklin’s gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan) is a small (length 12.6–14.2 in, 32–36 cm) gull. The genus name Leucophaeus is from Ancient Greek leukos, “white”, and phaios, “dusky”. The specific pipixcan is a Nahuatl name for a type of gull.

It breeds in central provinces of Canada and adjacent states of the northern United States. It is a migratory bird, wintering in Argentina, the Caribbean, Chile, and Peru.

The summer adult’s body is white and its back and wings are much darker grey than all other gulls of similar size except the larger laughing gull. The wings have black tips with an adjacent white band. The bill and legs are red. The black hood of the breeding adult is mostly lost in winter.

Young birds are similar to the adult but have less developed hoods and lack the white wing band. They take three years to reach maturity.

Although the bird is uncommon on the coasts of North America, it occurs as a rare vagrant to northwest Europe, south and west Africa, Australia and Japan, with a single record from Eilat, Israel, in 2011 (Smith 2011), and a single record from Larnaca, Cyprus, July 2006.At the beginning of 2017 has been observed also in Southern Romania, southeast Europe.

They are omnivores like most gulls, and they will scavenge as well as seeking suitable small prey. In the spring, on rivers such as the Bow River large groups will float with the current, sipping the emerging insect hatch. The behaviour includes floating through a particular stretch and returning repeatedly to the same section.

The birds breed in colonies near prairie lakes with the nest constructed on the ground, or sometimes floating. The two or three eggs are incubated for about three weeks.

The bird was named after the Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin, who led an 1823 expedition in which the first specimen of Franklin’s gull was taken.

 

On to my photos:

These photos were shot last spring, 2018, as ice out occurred, but on a typically cloudy day here in Michigan

Franklin’s Gull, Leucophaeus pipixcan

 

Franklin’s Gull, Leucophaeus pipixcan

 

Franklin’s Gull, Leucophaeus pipixcan

 

Franklin’s Gull, Leucophaeus pipixcan in flight

 

Franklin’s Gull, Leucophaeus pipixcan in flight

 

Franklin’s Gull, Leucophaeus pipixcan in flight

 

 

This is number 212 in my photo life list, only 138 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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Evening Grosbeak, Coccothraustes vespertinus

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

  

Evening Grosbeak, Coccothraustes vespertinus

The evening grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus) is a passerine bird in the finch family Fringillidae found in North America.

The evening grosbeak ranges in length from 16 to 22 cm (6.3 to 8.7 in) and spans 30 to 36 cm (12 to 14 in) across the wings. In a large sampling of grosbeaks in Pennsylvania during winter, males weighed from 38.7 to 86.1 g (1.37 to 3.04 oz), with an average of 60 g (2.1 oz), while females weighed from 43.2 to 73.5 g (1.52 to 2.59 oz), with an average of 58.7 g (2.07 oz). Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 10.45 to 11.6 cm (4.11 to 4.57 in), the tail is 6 to 6.95 cm (2.36 to 2.74 in), the bill is 1.6 to 2 cm (0.63 to 0.79 in) and the tarsus is 1.95 to 2.2 cm (0.77 to 0.87 in). The adult has a short black tail, black wings and a large pale bill. The adult male has a bright yellow forehead and body; its head is brown and there is a large white patch in the wing. The adult female is mainly olive-brown, greyer on the underparts and with white patches in the wings.

The breeding habitat is coniferous and mixed forest across Canada and the western mountainous areas of the United States and Mexico. It is an extremely rare vagrant to the British Isles, with just two records so far. The nest is built on a horizontal branch or in a fork of a tree.

The migration of this bird is variable; in some winters, it may wander as far south as the southern U.S.

These birds forage in trees and bushes, sometimes on the ground. They mainly eat seeds, berries, and insects. Outside of the nesting season they often feed in flocks. Sometimes, they will swallow fine gravel.

The range of this bird has expanded far to the east in historical times, possibly due to plantings of Manitoba maples and other maples and shrubs around farms and the availability of bird feeders in winter.

 

On to my photos:

These photos were shot several years ago at Hartwick Pines State Park near Grayling, Michigan. While this is a common species during the winter in Michigan, they seek out and stay near bird feeders for the most part, so it’s harder to find them in a natural setting than you may think. They were also shot with my old camera and lens, so the quality of these are not up to my current standards, but they will do for now.

Male Evening Grosbeak, Coccothraustes vespertinus

 

Male Evening Grosbeak, Coccothraustes vespertinus

 

Male Evening Grosbeak, Coccothraustes vespertinus

 

Male Evening Grosbeak, Coccothraustes vespertinus

 

Male Evening Grosbeak, Coccothraustes vespertinus

 

Male Evening Grosbeak, Coccothraustes vespertinus

 

Female Evening Grosbeak, Coccothraustes vespertinus

 

This is number 211 in my photo life list, only 139 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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Connecticut Warbler, Oporornis agilis

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

 

Connecticut Warbler, Oporornis agilis

The Connecticut warbler (Oporornis agilis) is a small songbird of the New World warbler family.

These medium-sized warblers measure 13–15 cm (5.1–5.9 in) in length, with a 22–23 cm (8.7–9.1 in) wingspan. Connecticut warblers weigh 10 g (0.35 oz) when they fledge, attaining an average weight of around 15 g (0.53 oz) as adults. However, birds preparing for migration pack on more weigh to survive the strenuous journey and can weigh up to 25 g (0.88 oz). This species has light yellow underparts and olive upper-parts; they have a light eye ring, pink legs, a long tail, pale wing bars and a thin pointed bill. Males have a grey hood; female and immatures are more brown and have a whitish throat.

hey forage on the ground, picking among dead leaves, or hop along branches. Like most warblers, these birds mainly eat insects and similar small invertebrates. Specifically, they eat spiders, snails and caterpillars. They will also supplement their diet occasionally with seeds and berries.They are “skulking” birds that usually spend their time foraging within dense, low vegetation. Such behavior often renders them difficult to see well.

Despite its name, this bird only rarely visits Connecticut during migration. It was named by Alexander Wilson who observed the first classified specimen. They are fairly elusive birds, but it appears that their numbers may be declining due to loss of winter habitat.

Their breeding habitat is bogs or open deciduous woods near water, especially with poplar, spruce, tamarack or aspen, in central Canada and states bordering the Great Lakes. These habitats tend to be in rather remote areas that are hard to access for fieldwork; therefore, there is little data available on this species of birds. The nest is an open cup well-concealed in moss or a clump of grass. It is made of “dry grasses, stalk of weeds and horsehairs”.

Courtship begins right after the migrants arrive on their breeding grounds. It correlates with the time when males start to sing as this is how they court females. Couples have one brood per season. Connecticut warblers like to nest in thick understory where their young are protected from predators. Most lay in mid-June, though some populations have been observed to lay in July. Their eggs have a creamy color and they are speckled and blotched with chestnut and bay. Only females incubate. Fledglings are observed in late July and at the latest at the end of August. Both parents feed their young caterpillars, larvae, moth and berries.

It walks on the ground to forage insects and other sources of food. Its tail bobs up and down, which is reminiscent of wren and sandpiper behavior. When it comes to sociability, the Connecticut warbler is a solitary species; however, groups of about twenty-five will come together in the fall before migration. It also will join other species, such as Blackpoll warblers, to feed during the fall.

As mentioned earlier, the Connecticut warbler is an elusive species. Little is known about it outside of the breeding season as to this date, less than 25,000 individuals have been banded. These birds migrate to the Amazon Basin in South America in winter. Specimens have been observed in Colombia (north & southeast), Venezuela (northeast & interior), Guyana (at the border), and Peru (South). Connecticut warblers undertake different migratory routes in spring and in fall, an atypical behavior. In spring, they normally pass through the Midwest and only rarely migrate to the East coast, but in fall, larger numbers of migrating birds move through the East coast. Recently, the use of small tracking devices have enabled scientists to gather more data on the warbler’s migration routes. They have discovered some individuals fly over open water like the Blackpoll warbler. More specifically, they recorded a previously undocumented two day flight over the Caribbean to the Antillean islands. This correlates with sightings of Connecticut warblers that have occurred in Bermuda, St Thomas and St Martin. The island of Hispaniola is also a popular stop as it is rather remote due to past humanitarian crises. There, they make a minimum of 48 hour stop (it usually lasts 5–7 days) in the Caribbean. This long migration over open water calls for strong selective pressures. A comparative study between the Connecticut warbler and the Blackpoll warbler could help determine what selective pressures are present in these two species. This kind of migration also demands large reserves of fuel and this is why fat Connecticut warblers can be found on the East coast in early fall. It’s also the reason why they make several stopovers on their way South.

 

On to my photos:

So far, I have managed to shoot just three useable, but poor photos, of this species, in part, due to its elusive nature and the fact that it prefers dense growth to forage in. They were shot in May of 2016 while I was on vacation near Alpena, Michigan.

 

Connecticut Warbler, Oporornis agilis

 

Connecticut Warbler, Oporornis agilis

 

Connecticut Warbler, Oporornis agilis

 

This is number 211 in my photo life list, only 139 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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