Saturday, September 27, 2008

Playin' Hooky!

I've been pretty busy at work and on Wednesday took advantage of some "extra hours" I had accumulated. What better way to spend those hours than to take the morning off to do some birding at Presque Isle State Park:) The weather was great, much more like summer than fall. I stuck around the east end of the park and saw some pretty weird things in the first hour or so.
First, I found this plastic skeleton that someone had wire-tied to one of those fold up canvas chairs. Ok, so I embellished the photo a little.

Then I came across this "attractive" fish. This is what happens when you let your "friends" bury you in the sand!
OK, that's it for the weird stuff! I continued down the beach toward Thompson Bay and saw a small flock of shore birds flying in. I panned my binos with their flight and they were headed straight for me!! It was a group of 4 lovely immature sanderlings.By this time it was time to head back to civilization and work. On my way out of the park I ran into Brian from the DCNR as well as Jerry and Linda McWilliams and their friend, Mary Ann, from Iowa. They are lucky to be on the park much more often than I. I better start playing the Powerball, because with the economy the way it is now I might not get to retire until I'm 70! For now, I'll settle for the few hours a week I am able to get to PISP and relish every minute. Like last Sunday when I got to sneak away from home for a short while to try and get some shots of the warblers we had seen in Jerry's class on Saturday. The light was pretty harsh but the birds didn't seem to care that backlighting is the worst possible photographic challenge!

I believe this is an immature common yellow-throat.
Black-throated Green Warbler female
A very handsome black-throated blue warbler
I love my job and my home, but it sure is nice to get away and play some hooky once in awhile!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sanderling Sunday

I took these shots of a young sanderling last Saturday during a bird identification class I am taking. I had never seen a sanderling before and was surprised that it approached us as closely and nonchalantly as it did. According to my birding instructor, Jerry McWilliams, however, this is not an uncommon behavior for sanderlings. Sanderlings are pretty small sandpipers, 7-8 inches with a wingspan of 14 inches. They weigh only about 1.4-3.5 oz! That has always amazed me about birds but it shouldn't seeing how they have to be able to fly:)I thought these images would be sharper than they are given his proximity but maybe it was the light mist of the day. At any rate, it was a beautiful bird to see and add to my life list, that is if I kept a list. I really need to start writing these things down:)According to Cornell's All About Birds Bird Guide on-line the sanderling is one of the most widespread wintering shorebirds in the world. It breeds in extreme northern Canada, parts of Alaska, and in parts of northern Greenland, Russia and Norway. The sanderling winters on all coasts from southern Alaska and Nova Scotia and southward to southern Chile and Argentina. Its range is quite incredible.

I wonder where this guy is now. Maybe a quick stop over in Florida, then onto the balmy shores of Argentina. Aaah, the good life.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Put-In Bay, Chapter Trois

Aaaaah, the Frosty Bar, probably hubby's favorite place at Put-In Bay, maybe on Earth:) We stopped there to cool off after the Butterfly House which is kept fairly humid for the butterflies. We sat down and ordered up a couple frosty ones and watched some of the Olympic beach volleyball event. We were also entertained by some "well-frosted" 20-somethings arguing about a variety of inane topics including whether or not the bald volleyball player' s goggles had lenses in them. Oh, to be young and all-knowing again:)

After the Frosty bar we headed back to the mainland where we were staying in Sandusky, Ohio. The next morning we decided to head to Middle Bass Island to see how things were progressing there and also because we had heard that there was an active Bald Eagle nest on the island. We had seen the bald eagles flying around when we were up in the Perry Memorial Monument the day before. When we had been to Middle Bass a few years before and it was just starting to be built up. It is definitely less touristy than South Bass Island, where Put-In Bay is, but is starting to take off.

In order to get to Middle Bass Island we had to take a boat or kayak over ourselves as we had done two years ago. Since hubby did not feel like getting wet we headed over to the dock and bought a ride on the Sonny S. While waiting for the boat we were entertained by a few of the local birds including grackles, red-winged blackbirds and a few sparrows.
"Ok, someone told me Leonardo DiCaprio was going to be here!"

"Now get up on that other fence post and do exactly as I do."
"That's more like it!"
Middle Bass should really attract more tourist when the marina they are building is completed next year. We rented a couple of bikes and toured the island but, alas, were not able to find the eagles nor the nest. We stopped back at J.F. Walleyes where we had rented the bikes and had a bite to eat and chatted with the owner who filled us in on the progress of the marina. They've recently sunk a lot of money into the place and the back outside bar/pool area is awesome. If you didn't know any better you might think you were in the Caribbean.
Back to the mainland then and planning a day trip to the Toledo Zoo for our last full day of vacation. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What in the World is THIS? Wednesday!!

Live from the basement at Six Mile Studios...Welcome to the premier of "What in the World is THIS?" Each week we'll be bringing you, our brilliant and esteemed audience, a new photo. It is your challenge to identify the object in the photo from the very small snippet provided.

**The first audience member to correctly identify the image will win an all expense paid trip to...Sao Paulo, Brazil! There you'll spend a fun-filled week that includes a guided tour to see how the Purple Martins live during the winter.

In case you hadn't guessed the picture at the top of the page is this week's WITWIT snippet! If no one has guessed correctly by Wednesday evening a clue will be provided. So come on, take a guess, don't be afraid. Remember, there are no dumb ans... Oops! That's questions. Oh, what the heck--GOOD LUCK!

**Contestants who are relatives of any staff member of Six Mile Studios and/or its affiliates, residents of any state whose name contains an "i" or "e", people who are not registered to vote, and those with opposable thumbs are ineligible for the grand prize.

09/12/08 Update Here is a photo of the blue headed green frog. Click on the image to see it in its entirety.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Purple Martin Show!

In the waning weeks of August, as dusk draws nigh, a show begins unlike any show most have ever experienced. The show runs nightly into the first week or two of September. One of the best places to see and experience this marvelous spectacle is at the foot of Sommerheim Drive in Erie, PA, on the Waterworks property. The show is incredible and the fact that more people don't attend the show is nearly as incredible. "Who", you may ask, "stars in this show?"...why...the Purple Martins, of course. It is here that the Purple Martins gather to roost each night in a large cattail bed so significant that it has been designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the National Audubon Society . The martins fly in from all over this and nearby counties swooping, skimming and swirling in a spectacular avian ballet before slipping into the cattail bed for the night. The martins gather at roosts such as this prior to and during migration. It is believed these roosts are used by these highly social birds because they provide protection from predators, as well as a setting that is warmer and less windy than inland roosts. I was amazed to read that one of the largest PM roosts is in Lake Murray, SC and housed an estimated 703, 000 PMs!

There may still be a few days left for you to get down to see The Purple Martin Show, so I encourage you to grab your binoculars and get down to the "theater". My friend, Julie, listens to the calls of the circling Purple Martins.This is an example of a slow shutter speed and fast birds. I thought is was cool anyway.A female PM in flight directly above my head!

A great egret that decided to get in on the act.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Wild Weekend!

Hah! Bet you thought this post was a continuation of my Put-In Bay (PIB) adventure. Nope! I took advantage of the beautiful weather to spend some time outdoors with my family and friends (double bonus!) But , speaking of PIB, I must let you know that I got an e-mail from Carolyn M. of the Butterfly House on PIB (see last post) who received my blog photos from someone who apparently read my last blog entry. Carolyn M. of The Butterfly House wrote me the following assuring me that overcrowding is not an issue:

One thing I did want to make you aware of is that when you see butterflies that are moving slowly or appear to have wings that are very worn at the edges, it is not due to overcrowding. The lifespan of a butterfly is only a couple of weeks. The butterflies that you described are at the end of their life cycle and their wings begin to show some wear.

So there you have it. Thanks for the clarification, Carolyn.
Back to this weekend. On Saturday I took my mom down to Presque Isle. We stopped and met Desiree, Fallon and Don who were working the nets at the banding station. It was about 11:30 a.m. when we arrived there and as of then they had gotten a few catbirds but no migrants for the day. I was impressed by Desiree's enthusiasm and energy and the interest demonstrated by her crew. It was a slow bird day for me also as my mom and I walked along Side Walk Trail with nary a bird in sight. We did hear some goldfinch and catbirds calling but that was about it. What we did see were lots of dragonflies and damsel flies. The most numerous were red dragonflies which I am not able to ID, yet. I imagine they are fairly common as they were sooo numerous. Dragonflies, definitely my next field guide.
On Sunday my husband, grandson and I went with some friends (Barb & Ed, Rick, Christine, Inga & Will and oh, yeah, Zena the wonder dog!) pontooning on Pymatuning. We had a great and relaxing time. The weather was absolutely perfect:). I never thought I'd get my first sunburn of the year the last day in August! It was sunny and warm but the breeze was nice. Towards the end of the trip we pontooned to the spillway where the big carp are. On our way there I caught sight of this osprey that was doing some fishing. As I said, it was quite sunny and midday so all of these shots suffer from some exposure problems for which I was unable to compensate. It's funny that people who aren't into photography think that "the sunnier the better" for photography when pretty much the opposite is true. Early morning and just before dusk, the best light for photography by far.

Among the other birds we saw was a belted kingfisher fishing with a green heron nearby on the shore. My binoculars got passed around for that one so anyone interested could get a nice look at these very pretty birds. I got a few shots of these guys but nothing worth posting. These Caspian terns and double-crested cormorants were in a better position as far as light goes. On the way back to the marina we saw an immature bald eagle flying high over us and soon after a pair of bald eagles flying on the horizon. Very cool!

So it's now Monday and I have the day off and here I spend it on the computer processing photos and blogging. I definitely have to get outside before this day is done.