A Trip for the Book – Adak Pelagic – 2019

I left Ottawa June 7th at 6:30am for my flight to Anchorage (via a milk run of Edmonton, Vancouver) with Air Canada, arriving at 4:30pm in Anchorage.
Irented my car and went off in search of the Falcated Duck at Potter’s Marsh, thinking of how easy a tick for my list this would be.  Boy, was I wrong. Over the next 7 hours many people, including myself, had 2 very brief looks and a 5 second look through our scopes at 9:30pm. The duck just never came out in the open, allowing any of us a chance of a photo that day.  Many other good birds to see made up for it.

4-Spot Skimmer

Orange-crowned Warbler

Aleutian Cackling Goose

Tree Swallow

Gadwall

Trumpeter Swan’s

Arctic Terns

Boardwalk

Potter’s Marsh

Red-necked Grebe Family

Arctic Tern

Ring-necked Duck

Hudsonian Whiteface

Lesser Canada’s

Red-necked Grebe

I also met up with a Edie (one of our Adak Pelagic group member), who moments before I arrived took this lovely photo of the duck in the first pond at about 40 feet. Back of camera copy.

Back to the hotel I went, for a much needed sleep and I was back at Potter’s Marsh the next morning, the duck again managed to evade may eyes and after 5 hours, I had to leave in order to make my flight to Adak.

Fast forward to that afternoon, after a 3 hour flight, with great scenery from the windows.

We landed in Adak at 5:15pm and were met by our tour operator John Puschock, who runs Zugunruhe (german compund word meaning “anxious behavior in migratory animals, especially bird”) Birding Tours. He offers many fine tours at:

http://www.zbirdtours.com

As we were arriving at the airport, I had a few moments to chat with friends Chris Feeney who was birding Adak for a week and Herb Fechter, Barb Dewitt and John Weigel, who is doing a big year for the ABA, and they had just returned from the Attu.

We  met up with our tour guides Neil Hayward and Christian Hagenlocher, tour memebers Edie, John, Jason, Miles, John and Bill.

We headed out with two vehicles and birded Adak for 3 hours before boarding the boat for our trip out.

Juvenile Bald Eagle

The Adak National Forest

Seawatch

 

Harbour Entrance

Pigeon Guillemot

Clam Lagoon

Common Teal

A nice surprise was seeing Common Snipe a life bird for me, also Lapland Longspurs and Gray-crowned Rosy-finch (griseonucha sub-species).

Common Snipe

Female Lapland Longspur

Gray-crowned Rosy-finch

Parasitic Jaeger

Male Lapland Longspur

We were ferried out to the boat, the Pu-kuk (photo from website) a lovely 72-foot boat built by the Captain Bill.

Met by Captain Billy Choate, Mr. Happy.

The crew, Max and Zandra.

We stowed our gear, had a wonderful supper and then the task of trying on our survival suits.

The suit fittings were fun and we had a few laughs but I am sure everyone aboard hoped we’d never have to use them.

The boat left the harbour, early the next morning and headed out for3 days of birding on the water, with the soothing sounds of the diesal engine, I got a few more minutes of sleep but was soon on deck, scanning the sea for birds. The birds did not disappoint over the course of the trip we had:

Laysan Albatross – 260+

Black-footed Albatross – 50+

Whiskered Auklet – 1,000’s

Northern Fulmar – 25,000+

Short-tailed Shearwater – 1,000’s

Crested Auklet – 100’s

Ancient Murrelet – 1,000’s

Parakeet Auklet – 100’s

Cassin’s Auklet – 100’s

Glaucous-winged Gulls – 1,000’s

Long-tailed Jaegers – 3

Thick-billed Murre’s – many

Both Horned and Tufted Puffins -100’s

Killer Whales- 50+

The food was awesome and aplenty, the crew were fantastic and they did everything to make our stay aboard, as pleasant as possible.

Lots of great scenery during this pelagic.

 

 

Both Neil and Christian were great spotters and we all tried to find a Short-tailed Albatross, which was called out on the horizon and the boat turned in that direction for quite a while but the bird never showed again.  Enough for me to say I think I saw the bird they called but not enough to count it for my life list.

The Pu-kuk was extremely stable due to it’s advanced electronic-hydraulic stabilization system which enables the boat to ride more comfortably in rough weather but if you are prone to motion sickness, take your medication, your trip will be much more enjoyable. I thought I’d be tough and not take anything and my stomach got a bit touchy one day but that was my fault.  There were two heads equipped with showers aboard and sleeping quarters for all.

We arrived back at Adak the morning of the 12th and Neil and Christian took us out for a mini tour of the island, picking up a lovely family of Gyrfalcon and local birds.

Aleutian Terns

Common Eider

Gyrfalcon

Harlequin Duck

Kittlitz Murrelet

Marbled Murrelet

Many Sea Otter’s

The wild flowers were starting to grow..

Nootka Lupine

Western Dwarf Dogwood

Western Buttercup

Some form of Daisy

Not Sure

The sun did poke its head out a few times over the course of the trip which really helped with the photography. I recommend nothing less than a 400mm lens and a fast shooting camera body. My D850 (full frame) and 500mm worked well and had it been sunnier, I’d probably have used my 1.4 teleconverter.

I like to thank John Puschock of Zugunrehe Tours for making it possible to get out in these waters, and I will get back out to Adak some day to bird the island.

I managed to see two birds that I needed to photograph for my Golden Guide Project, The Laysan Albatross and Whiskered Auklet.

Only 12 more birds to go.

Ciao for now.

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Winds of Change – That Didn’t Come

Chris and I both needed the European Golden Plover for our ABA life list and we took a chance going to Newfoundland in late April.  We needed a bit of help from Mother Nature to provide the easterly winds from the Atlantic Ocean that might push the birds to the coast.

We both arrived in St. John’s on the 5:30 flight from Halifax and because Enterprise closed at 5:30pm we couldn’t get a car (we rent from outside airport to avoid the 20% airport tax).  So we headed straight to the hotel.

Next morning we picked up the car and headed out for a few days with Jared Clarke to show us the best places to look for Plovers.

If you are interested in going to Newfoundland at any time of the year, Contact Jared Clarke at:  www. birdtherock.com

We had a great time over the next few days and saw lots of great year birds.

American Wigeon

Boreal Chickadee

Common Gull

Female Eurasian Wigeon

Male Eurasian Wigeon

Glaucous Gull

Greater Scaup

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Mink

Mute Swan Park Resident Year Round

Northern Goshawk and One Lucky Pigeon

Red Crossbill, Newfoundland Sub-species

Breeding Ring-billed Gull

Thick-billed Murre

Female Tufted Duck

Male Tufted Duck’s

We left the next day accompanied by friend’s of Chris’s as we headed north to a town where the Plovers had been seen in previous years and there was a  pair of Pink-footed Geese in the area.

It was a fun 400km drive north but admittedly not many bird but we must have seen at least 500 robins.

The area had a few surprises but no sign of the plovers, we headed to the area where the Geese had been seen and I managed to spot them in a far corner.

Pink-footed Geese

A new best photo for my files (the dates are when I first saw the bird, ever)

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful and we headed to Gander for the night.

First thing in the morning we headed to a nearby memorial to honor the people killed in a 1985 military plane crash. My friend Chris was supposed to be on that flight and knew many people aboard.

Along the coast we found many Icebergs, a new sighting for me.

A few new birds

Double Crested Cormorant

Great Black Backed Gull

Numerous House Sparrow’s

Chris and I

Lapland Longspur

White-winged Scoters

We got an alert that a Black-tailed Godwit had been seen in St. John’s , locally nothing much was happening and Chris needed this as a life bird, off we went.

When we arrived, Dave Brown was watching the bird.

Over the next 4 days we searched high and low for plovers but the winds or the birds just didn’t show up.

Here are a few more birds and beautiful scenery photos.

Black Duck

Black-headed Gull

Black-tailed Godwit in flight

Not Sure

Great Black-backed Gull

Herring Gull

Iceland Gull Adult

Drive to Cape Race Scenery, lovely place

Best Ever Northern Harrier

Northern Pintail

I would love to thank Jared Clarke and Family for treating us to a traditional Newfoundland meal of “Jiggs”, til next time buddy.

One last note, not only did I not get any plovers but Chris Feeney clobbered me, 14-7 in cards…the birds I understand.  Loosing at cards is too much.  Til next time, Ciao for now

 

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Augusta National Golf Course – The Masters – Bucket List 🗸

I’ve been a golf fan for over 45 years and when the opportunity came up in 2018 for me to attend a practice round at Augusta National, I was in golf heaven.  My doctor had other plans, I had to back out.

On January 3rd of this year my friend Chris called me and I thought he was calling to wish me a Happy Birthday but in fact he was calling because he’d been lucky again and gotten tickets for the Monday practice round at the Masters.

Sue and I left, late in the afternoon of April 5th for Augusta, Georgia, we planned to take our time and arrived Friday afternoon.

We visited with Noel and Chris for 4 days, playing cards, touring the city, shopping and of course Chris and I went birding.

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Carolina Chickadee

Chipping Sparrow

Cardinal

Swainson’s Warbler

 

Yellow-rumped Warbler

We also had dinner at Deanna and Herbs, Sunday night.

We left, very early on Monday for the course……

Drive by Magnolia Lane.

First thing we did was go to the Gift Shop and buy golf hats, shirts, pins and golf towels.

Later that day tis was the lineup for the Gift Shop

We walked about 6 miles that day and the course was just beautiful, Nelson Bridge

Hogan Bridge

The players were all out…..Tommy Fleetwood

Tiger Woods with a smile on his face….maybe he knows something is up

Congrats on your win Tiger

Sergio Garcia

Rory MacIlroy

Rory and Dustin

Marc Leishman

Justin Rose

Jordan Speith

Jason Day

Dustin Johnson

Franchesco Molinari

Fred Couples

Bubba Watson, Butch Harmon and Ted Scott

Brooks Koepka

Bryson DeChambeau

Great day with Chris and Sue

Chris and I

In front of Butler Cabin

$3.00 Beer and $2.50 Sandwiches, Sens could learn a thing or two

What can I say

Before we left we spent a bit of time at the 16th hole, they have a tradition during the practice round that players are urge to try and skip the ball over the pond and onto the green.

We were there for 8 hours until the horn sounded and we had to leave because there was lightning in the area.

Thanks Noel and Chris, a memory for life.  Ciao for now

 

 

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Alaska Revisited 2019

When my friend Herb told me he was going to Nome for Mckay’s Bunting and Kodiak for Emperor Goose, I was in from the start.

After booking my flights and waiting for the day to arrive for the trip, I kept hoping for good weather, Nome would be cold but sunny and Kodiak would be complete rain and overcast skies.

The flight up from Ottawa, Toronto, Seattle, Anchorage and then Nome was over two days so I could really be relaxed on arrival.

Herb and I met up in Anchorage and immediately boarded our flight to Nome arriving at 5:30pm.

We booked into the Aurora Hotel, picked up our rental car by 6pm and headed to the bird feeder at Round The Clock Road, 10 minutes from downtown.

 

We were sitting there at 6:15 and I looked around and saw a McKay’s Bunting on a wire, talk about luck.

The bird was badly backlit so we snapped a few photos of it on the wire for a record image and waited for it to come to the feeders. The owner of the house came out to talk to us and we gave him a bag of birdseed and thanked him for his feeder (without which the birds would be tough to see).  After 1/2 hour the bird finally came down to the seed on the ground giving us great looks and reasonable photos in the shadows.

McKAY’S BUNTING

We decided while driving back that it might be an idea to get out to Kodiak as soon as possible instead of waiting in Nome for 2 more days,  we called Air Alaska and they could get us out the next day for a fee.  We opted to leave, there just wasn’t anything else in Nome at that time of year.

We tried again next day and had a brief look at another McKay’s and 14 Snow Buntings but little else.  At 11:00 am we headed to the airport for the next leg of our adventure.  Leaving Nome and its -20C temperatures behind.

After a 75 minute flight to Anchorage, we boarded our 55 minute flight to Kodiak.  When we arrived, I expected cold and snow to greet us but only snow was in the mountains and  and it was raining hard.

 

We both realized that the photography would be tough, with rain and overcast skies but same as in Nome within a few hours of landing, I had my second life bird, the Emperor Goose.  These birds were waiting for the north to open up so they could move on.  Over the next few days we saw at least 2,000 birds and that would be a low estimate.

EMPEROR GOOSE

I had the birds I wanted but Herb still needed a Steller’s Eider and the next day we found a few birds at the end of Trident Way, near the seaplane base.  Note the heavy rain.

STELLER’S EIDER

We tried a know location for Boreal Owl that night but the rain and wind would dampen our spirits and we headed to the hotel for food and rest.

Next morning, we were at it again and through the showers we managed to see just about every bird that was possible, including a number of Steller’s Sea Lions.  We found a great place to scope and photograph from on Near Island at 57.783849 -152.406546.

Over the next few days we had great views of Surfbird, Black Turnstone, Rock Sandpiper, Black Oystercatcher, Harlequin Duck, Mew Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake and numerous other species.

BLACK TURNSTONE AND SURFBIRD

 

BLACK LEGGED KITTIWAKE

 

BLACK OYSTERCATCHER

BLACK SCOTER

BLACK TURNSTONE

GLAUCOUS-WINGED GULL

HARLEQUIN DUCK

LONG-TAILED DUCK

MEW GULL

NORTHWESTERN CROW

PIGEON GUILLEMOT

ROCK SANDPIPER AND SURFBIRD

ROCK SANDPIPER

 

100’s OF SEA OTTERS

SeaOtter2019

A maxima sub-species of the Song Sparrow  found in the area, until I got a good look at one, I was thinking they were Fox sparrow’s.

SONG SPARROW

 

STELLER SEA LIONS

Not sure who scared who but it was funny to watch from a distance, these Steller’s Sea Lions were hoping to have a snooze on the beach and didn’t see Herb until they were almost on top of him.

SURFBIRD

Later that day we were invited to a local home to watch his feeders for Red Crossbill and they did not disappoint.

 

During our stay we probably saw 500 Bald Eagles and I’d have to say that was a low extimate.  They were everywhere and obviously hungry.

BALD EAGLE

Here’s lookin at you kid!

A few other locals

BELTED KINGFISHER

BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE

That evening local resident Rich Macintosh, took us to a spot he knew of that had a calling Boreal Owl, Herb’s dreaded nemesis bird and after a bit we managed to coax one out of the woods.  Thanks so much Rich was a great night of owling.  Herb was in heaven.

BOREAL OWL

 

Next morning we had a few hours to kill before we left and decided to try again for a Northern Hawk Owl that had been in the area (we bombed 3 times on this bird).  Today was our lucky day.

KODIAK SCENERY IMAGES

 

NORTHERN HAWK OWL

One last photo as I boarded my plane to head for home with many fond memories of Alaska.

Til the next time, Ciao for now.

 

 

 

 

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Cape Hatteras: Manx – A – Lot

I contacted Brian Patterson and Kate Sutherland of Seabirding to see the which of their winter trips had openings and settled on the February 2nd trip.

It was a long drive from Ottawa but it was the best way for me to get it done.

I arrived at the dock the morning of the 2nd and after a few hello’s we boarded the Stormy Petrel II and after a brief instructional talk away we went.

It was a bit windy and for some it was uncomfortable but I love being at sea looking for birds because of the “never know what’s about to come over the horizon” factor.

The crew started chumming an within minutes we had Gull’s, Gannets and Pelican’s at the back of the boat.

Many Adult and Juvenile Brown Pelican’s

BrownPelican2019BrownPelican2019BBrownPelican2019C

Forster’s Terns

ForstersTern2019

Glaucous Gull –  1st Cycle

GlaucousGull2019GlaucousGull2019BGlaucousGull2019C

Adult Great Black-backed Gull

GreatBlackBackedGull2019B

2nd Winter Herring Gull

HerringGull2ndWinter2019

Adult Winter Herring Gull

HerringGullAdultWinter2019

Adult Winter Lesser Black-backed Gull

LesserBlackBackedGullAdult2019

An Almost Adult Lesser Black-backed Gull

LesserBlackBackedGullAlmostAdult2019

Diving Adult Gannet

NorthernGannet3rdDiving2019

Diving 2nd Year Gannet

NorthernGannet3rdDiving2019B

3rd Year Gannet

NorthernGannet3rdYear2019

Adult Gannet

NorthernGannetAdult2019

 

1st Summer Gannet

NorthernGannetFirstSummer2019NorthernGannetFirstSummer2019B

Juvenile Gannet

NorthernGannetJuvenile2019NorthernGannetJuvenile2019B

There were at least 50 to 100 birds behind the boat all day,  incredible looks at all the different gull and Gannet phases.

At 9:30am I heard someone call out “MANX” and I left my spot at the front of the boat and had my first ABA look at a Manx Shearwater.  As if on cue he flew within 20 feet of my spot giving me a fantastic broadside view.  Life bird 745 ABA

ManxShearwaterB

We ran into a large flock of Bonaparte Gull’s that had a little surprise mixed in “a Little Gull”.

Bonaparte’s Gull’s

BonapartesGull2019

Little Gull with dark the under wing

LittleGull2019

We saw a few Razorbill’s, most dove as soon as boat got near but a few gave us great views.

Razorbill2019Razorbill2019B

Sadly the time seemed to fly by and we couldn’t find any Great Skua’s or was it they couldn’t find us.  Kate and Brian tried all afternoon and even with hundred’s of birds behind the boat, no skuas came to investigate.

Good time had by all on board.

Even got a few images as the sun went down.

Hatteras Dune’s

CapeHatterasDunes2019

North Pond Tundra Swan’s

TundraSwan2019

Sun goes down on another great day

CapeHatterasSunset2019

Seabirding offers weekend trips from Hatteras, North Carolina at the end of January through to the end of February and can be reached by email:

Brian Patteson:       hatteraspetrel@gmail.com or

before 10pm Easter Time at 1-252-986-1363

Kate Sutherland:    cahaw1101@gmail.com

You can also read about their trips at : http://www.patteson.com/ 

Ciao for no

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Birds of 2018

Totals for 2018

I ended the 2018  with an ABA total of 549 Species

Upped my totals for:      USA Lower 48:    640

Canada:    413

Ontario:    330

Ottawa:    276

18 New Life Birds 

Bringing my ABA total to 744 ABA Birds (No Heard Birds), of those I’ve photographed 742.

 

New Birds For 2018

Nazca Booby – San Diego, CA 18-Jan-2018

Red-throated Pipit – San Diego, CA 19-Jan-2018

Rufous-capped Warbler – Florida Canyon, AZ 10-Feb-2018

Sinaloa Wren – Tumacacori, AZ 11-Feb-2018

Ruddy Ground-Dove – Red Rock. AZ 15-Feb-2018

Tamaulipas Crow – Brownsville, TX 13-Apr-2018

Curlew Sandpiper – Indian Lake SP, OH 10-May-2018

Red-billed Tropicbird – Vinalhaven, ME 23-Jun-2018

Rose-throated Becard – Tubac, AZ 19-Jul-2018

Buff-collared Nightjar – California Gulch, AZ 21-Jul-2018

Mexican Whip-poor-will – Mount Lemmon, AZ 22-Jul-2018

Cassia Crossbill – Pike Mountain, ID 24-Jul-2018

Red-footed Booby – San Diego, CA 4-Sep-2018

Guadalupe Murrelet – San Diego, CA 5-Sep-2018

Cook’s Petrel – San Diego, CA 6-Sep-2018

Townsends Storm-Petrel – San Diego, CA 6-Sep-2018

Roadside Hawk – Border Patrol Corral, TX 12-Dec-2018

Hook-billed Kite – Border Patrol Corral, TX 13-Dec-2018

Great Black Hawk – Portland, MA 27-Dec-2018

A Great Year of Birding…..LOL and Retirement

 

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Hook-billed Kite – Before the Wall Goes Up

I can’t really remember how many times I’ve searched for a Hook-billed Kite in Texas.  The first time was when I went to Texas in 2004,t to Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park thinking it would be a quick climb up the tower, a quick look around, find the Kite and add it to my list.

Boy was I wrong, little did I know that it would be almost 15 years before I’d get good looks at one.

Sure there were many times, someone would call out “Hook-billed Kite” at a far off speck but unfortunately, I can’t count specks.

On December 13th, 2018, with Richard Killeen I got my first 10 second look at a Hook-billed Kite but it was buried in the trees and a decent photo was out of the question.  The photo below taken later gives you an idea of what I saw.

At that moment I thought, “I will never get a photo of this bird”.  After 5 days and many hours on the levee, my thoughts proved right.

Home I went, and had a great Christmas with family and friends.  Went to Maine for the Great Black Hawk.

During that time the Hook-billed was being seen almost every day, I knew then, I’d have to go back before February,  construction on the wall in that area was slated to start at the beginning of February.

When Herb told me he was going for the kite, January 5th, I booked my flight to San Antonio.

The morning of January 5th I was up early and on the levee, as the sun came up.

It was a cool morning and as the sun came over the horizon you could feel it warming up.  I was hoping that the Kite was as cold as I was, and was looking for a little warmth.

Sure enough at 7:39 am he flew in to his favourite perch, and the rest is history.

The bird was seen by many throughout the morning but by 10:30am it disappeared for the day.

I picked up Herb at the airport and we spent the rest of the day on the levee, but the kite was a no show.

The Groove-billed Ani’s did put on a show.

Juvenile?? or molting

Juvenile Gray Hawk

The next day Herb and I were back at the levee, even earlier.  The Kite did not disappoint that day and put on a show until 1pm.  Giving us photo opportunities, beyond our wildest dreams.

The Kite’s main food is Tree Snails, which were in abundance.

A great day with a great bird and friends, Herb, Amanda, Drew and I.

I drove Herb to the airport and thought I try and change my flight back and get home early but Air Canada had other plans, so I had a few days to kill and decided to try for a few of the local rarities.

Golden-winged Warbler at Frontera Audubon taking a bath..

Here at Frontera with Drew and Barb

Then off to Laguna Atascosa and along the way stopped for a long distance look at two Aplomado Falcons.

Then on to Visitors Centre for Tropical Parula..

Clay-colored Thrush

I met up with John Weigel, who had just begun his second Big Year in 4 years.  Go John Go.

You can follow his travels at http://www.birdingyear.com

Spent one of the days with Drew up in Salineno, where I got a very quick glimpse of two Seedeaters and a new greatly improved image of a male Pyrrhuloxia.

Long-billed Thrasher at Dewinn’s Yard

Female Redwing Blackbird

Here are a few more images from the valley from my trip in early December and January.

Burrowing Owl in Granjeno

Paraque at Laguna Atascosa

Golden-fronted Woodpecker at Santa Ana

Female Green Kingfisher at Santa Ana

Kestrel with breakfast

Photos from December

Fork-tailed Flycatcher a 2 day wonder on Hwy 100.

Green Parakeet at 10th and Dove, Lowe’s Fountain.

Female Roseate Skimmer

Common Mestra

Red-crowned Parrot, Olivera Park, Brownsville

White-fronted Parrots

South Padre Skimmer

Estero Grande, Mottled Duck

Little Blue Heron

Osprey with Lunch

Green Jay

Whooping Cranes at Rockport, Texas’s Big Tree

Texas is a wonderful birding destination, if you haven’t been, make plans to go, if you have you know what I mean.

If the proposed wall goes ahead as planned it will wreak havoc for wildlife along the River.

Ciao for now

 

 

 

 

 

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