Thursday, May 9, 2013

Biggest Week and Beginning Birders

Wednesday morning was bright and beautiful along Lake Erie.  We are visiting with friends and meeting folks at the Biggest Week in American Birding.  Les Payton and I must have pulled the lucky straw, as we were offered one of the best gigs around: the beginning birders' trip.

A "Birds and Blooms" moment with Blue Jay.
Too often we long-time birders forget to enjoy the "common" birds.  It is wonderful to spend time with folks who are happy to look at the real stunners, like a Blue Jay.              

Les Payton (wearing gold guide's hat) and our group of birders.
 We started off at Pearson Park's window on wildlife.  Les gave a little information on binoculars and we started looking at everyday birds: Northern Cardinals, Black-capped Chickadees, and Blue Jays.  We got lucky with some unusual birds: Eastern Phoebes, White-crowned Sparrows and Purple Finches.

A female Purple Finch gives us a modeling session.
 There were a number of  female Purple Finches coming into the feeder and this apple tree.  This was an excellent opportunity to note the white eye-line that most easily sets them apart from the more common House Finch.

A Pheasant Back fungus. 
Next we walked the trails of Pearson Park, which offered a wonderful wildflower display, and we also enjoyed a bird of another sort- a Pheasant Back fungus.

Weedpicker Cheryl drives the BSBO bus.
 We loaded up the troops and headed to Pearson Park's wetland area to get a good look at a few other species.
Female (left) and male Red-winged Blackbirds
Unpredictably, the most difficult bird to get for the group was the female Red-winged Blackbird!  The males were numerous and conspicuous, but the females were quite shy.  Perhaps they were already tending to nesting chores.  We tried (and failed) to get the females in spotting scopes, but finally this pair came out to wave good-bye as we left the marsh.  Go figure.

 Off again to Metzger Marsh, where we studied two egrets, the Great and the Snowy Egret.

Snowy Egret dancing in the marsh.
 Les commented on the feeding differences between Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets.  Snowys hop and dip, chasing about in a frenzied manner.  The Great Egrets hunt with more dignity and reserve.

 This is Les.  No he is not hiding from our group, he was trying to get enough shade on his cell phone screen to file a twitter report on the Snowy Egret.

Thanks to all the great guides, and support staff (Rob Ripma, Kim Kaufman, Delores Cole, and Ryan Steiner) who make these trips possible.  The new and old birders alike are enjoying the Biggest Week in American Birding.  Thanks to Black Swamp Birding Observatory in their efforts to educate and conserve birds.  They are doing incredible work!

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