Monday, February 25, 2013

North Carolina's third record of White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi)

Prudence dictates that I should put a question mark at the end of this post title, especially with a tough ID call like this...

...but tell me this isn't a White-faced Ibis.

The red eye and pink facial skin is glaring.

The suspect was hanging out in a flooded field at the east end of Lake Mattamuskeet in Hyde Co., NC in the company of about a dozen Glossy Ibises.  While superficially very similar (and apparently there is integradation between these species), in a scope from ~50 yards this bird stood out. 

Put the head away for a second and look at the leg color for example... pinkish-red on the White-faced and a cold gray on the Glossies.

Also the White-faced Ibis seemed to have slightly lighter-colored plumage and I noticed more tones of fuschia than in the darker Glossies.

This was pronounced enough so that even with the heads hidden you can tell which is the odd bird out (and which is the Boat-tailed Grackle). 

So I think I'll have to fill out some paperwork on this one for the NC Bird Records Committee.  Luckily the area where it was found opens up to the public for the season starting the Friday, so maybe some others will be able to see it.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Charlotte Chase!

Ed Corey, Nick Flanders, Natalia Ocampo-Penuela and I drove down to the Charlotte (pronounced this day with a hard ch-) area today to see a couple odd western species that had been showing up at feeders. 

The first target was a Bullock's Oriole.  After 20 or 30 minutes of waiting in a lovely yard he showed up to survey the buffet options that his hosts had left out for him.
Bullock's Oriole! (adult male)
He used several of the many feeding stations including the ant trap above the hummingbird feeder.  Was he taking advantage of the free insects or just getting a drink?

Eating ants or drinking water?

What a beautiful bird and a lifer for all of us except Ed!  That's 3 North American Orioles down and 5 to go. 


Our next stop was just up the road in Monroe, NC where a couple western hummingbird species have been spending the winter.

While we waited for them to show, we entertained ourselves by looking at a couple oddly white Carolina Chickadees that inhabit the yard.

Leucistic (?) Carolina Chickadee
I had never seen a chickadee like this before!  It must have some sort of pigment deficiency?

Eventually our first hummingbird showed up...

Calliope Hummingbird
This is a terrible, distant photograph, but the short tail (completely hidden behind the front wing) and the streaky throat make this bird a Calliope Hummingbird.

It wasn't a stunner like the oriole was and didn't give us such prolonged views, but it was a lifer for all of us except for Nick, so we didn't care. 
Rufous Hummingbird
The Calliope disappeared quickly because this larger, more aggressive Rufous Hummingbird arrived to have his turn at the feeder.

Bird chasing is always a risky business, but today we lucked out and swept our targets quickly!  A big thanks to the hosts, Noreen George and Cynthia Hinson, for sharing their rare birds.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Leadin' field trips down east

North Carolina's Albemarle Peninsula and Outer Banks make up a world-class birding destination in mid-winter, with waterfowl galore, and a healthy diversity of waders, shorebirds and sparrows.

I had the honor of leading field trips 'Down East' (as it's called) in back-to-back weekends.

Trip 1: Duke Conservation Society / Nicholas School Naturalists / Student Association of Wetland Scientists trip to Mattamuskeet
National Wildlife Refuge

A couple weeks ago Jeff Pippen and I took a group of 21 master's students from the Nicholas School down to Lake Mattamuskeetfor an unseasonably warm and sunny day of birding.

Lots of happy students
Bird highlights were a Eurasian Wigeon (thanks to Thierry Besancon, who we bumped into with a group from New Hope Audubon), a brief, but diagnostic glimpse of an Ashe-throated Flycatcher (the second one I have found in NC in as many months) and a very photogenic Anhinga.

I used this opportunity to swap SD cards and batteries for the cameras at my research site...

photo by Emma Hedman

Trip 2: Carolina Bird Club Winter Meeting at Nags Head, NC

This past weekend the Carolina Bird Club held its winter meeting at Nags Head, a launching point for a heap of the state's top birding hotspots.  I led 3 half-day trips around Bodie Island over Friday and Saturday.

The Bodie Lighthouse pond is the best place I know to get close enough to photograph (or in this case digiscope) ducks...

Northern Pintail and Northern Shoveler

sleepy Gadwall pair
American Avocets, Green-winged Teal and Northern Pintail
Oregon Inlet always has something interesting going on bird-wise. This weekend the highlight for many of the birders on my trips were a pair of Purple Sandpipers at the end of the jetty.

Purple Sandpipers
On the way back west I dropped by the 'sparrow fields' by Lake Phelps.  The hotspot lived up to its name and the adjacent shrub line was loaded with oddball sparrows that are usually pretty hard to come by in North Carolina...
Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrows

Vesper Sparrow and Clay-colored Sparrow