Monday, March 19, 2012

Quito Botanical Gardens 3/18/12

Buenos dias!

Greetings from Ecuador! I am here on Spring Break right now with my family, and today was our first day in Quito. We decided to spend our day exploring La Parque de Carolina which is about a three minute walk from our hotel. Here, we visited the Quito Botanical Gardens. The birding was great knowing we are in a huge city. We only saw 9 species on this trip, but some were very interesting.

We arrived at the Gardens around 9:00 AM and I immediately found a very close and well lit Great Thrush, a very common bird in Quito.

Great Thrush
Upon entering the gardens, I was immediately entranced by the life buzzing around me. There were dragonflies everywhere and I was hearing the very loud chip notes of a Sparkling Violetear perched on a tree limb. I took a few minutes to get some pictures of the dragonflies. It turns out that I found myself two lifers. I emailed Dennis Paulson to see if he knew what they were and he was able to identify them for me:

Rhionaeschna marchali
Sympetrum gilvum
Our main bird targets  were Black Flowerpiercer and Black-tailed Trainbearer. We had success with both, although the Flowerpiercers were very flighty and hard to see well. We encountered the Flowerpiercers about five minutes into our walk.

Black Flowerpiercer
Black Flowerpiercer
From here, we continued on and found a Sparkling Violetear feeding on some flowers, glistening in the sunlight. I was unable to get any photos of it, but while watching, I caught a glimpse of a small gray bird flying over me. I followed it into a rose bed, and was able to refind it. I got some pictures of it and when I got back to the hotel in the afternoon, I found out I had seen a Southern-beardless Tyrannulet!

Southern-beardless Tyrannulet
Continuing on, I found one of the coolest birds of the trip: a Swainson's Thrush. This bird will be back in Chicago in about 2 months!

But in Ecuador there is always something else around the corner. After the Thrush, my mom soon found a Passerine in the top of the trees. I got a glimpse of it, and the first thought that popped into my head was that it was a Vireo. I took some photos and sent them to a few people this afternoon. It turns out it was a Yellow-green Vireo, my second lifer of the trip.

We continued on to find the part of the gardens that had the crops the Incan's had planted back in the 13th Century, but along the way we stopped again for a Black-tailed Trainbearer feeding

While watching this magnificent bird, I noticed two Rufous-collared Sparrows begging for me to take their photo:

Adult Rufous-collared Sparrow
Juvenile Rufous-collared Sparrow 
After we found the Incan portion of the Gardens, we were getting hot and decided to call it a day. Tomorrow I will be off to Yanacocha for some Hummingbirds and who knows what else! Hope you enjoyed this taste of Ecuador!


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Chicago Harlequin Ducks

Hi All,

On Tuesday, March 6th, I went to 31st St. Beach in Chicago to see if I could find an adult male Harlequin Duck that had been frequenting the area over the span of 3 days. I was able to get there in the early afternoon during a free period in school. Free periods are times where I have no scheduled class and can do whatever I choose to with my time. They have been very beneficial to chasing local rarities in Chicago. As soon as we got to 31st Street, we were able to find the adult male Harlequin Duck feeding about 30-40 feet off of the breakwall and it was allowing some amazing photo opps. Below are some pictures of this beautiful bird:

It was very interesting to see this male, since I had seen a juvenile Harlequin Duck over at Jarvis Bird Sanctuary in January, and again at Fullerton St. in mid-February. This individual is overall very drab except for its head patterning. I was fortunate to get some pictures of this bird which are below.

After viewing this bird, I made it my life's goal to see an adult male Harlequin Duck in Illinois before I leave for college, and now I have completed that goal! Perhaps I need a more difficult goal that will take more time to achieve (A Big Year anybody :D).

Thanks for reading, and I hoped you enjoyed the comparison shots of two individual Harlequin Ducks.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Illinois Young Birders Trip 3/3/12

On Saturday, March 3rd, the Illinois Young Birders took a trip into DuPage County, Illinois to try and find some owls. We started near Naperville, Illinois, but went all over the county on our quest. There was one special bird that our trip leader, Jeff Smith, was going to share with us. It blew my mind when I found out what it was.

He had found a Barn Owl on private property, the first known in DuPage County in over 30 years. This is a remarkable find and perhaps shows that they are expanding their range northwards. For the safety of this bird, I can only say that it was on private property at an undisclosed location. We watched this individual for over 30 minutes and I was able to get a picture of its feet and half of its face. Over half of the bird was concealed, but this was probably because it was 30ยบ outside, and very windy. Below are my two best photos:

At this location, we also had my FOY White-crowned Sparrows:

Jeff then took us out to see a Great-horned Owl sitting on a nest, which according to him, was created by a Red-tailed Hawk.

After this, we went to try and find some Long-eared Owls, but they were at their usual location. From here, the group split up, and the remaining 8 of us traveled to the Morton Arboretum to go look for a Barred Owl, Pileated Woodpecker, and White-winged Crossbills. These birds are known to be in the Arboretum, but did take some time to find.

We arrived at the Barred Owl location in the Arboretum and played a few snippets of tape to see if we could usher a response. After about five minutes, we heard a Pileated Woodpecker respond. We gave up after another five minutes, and walked back to the cars to play a louder tape from Jeff's car. From here, we got a response from the resident Barred Owl. Unfortunately, these birds were heard only, so no pictures were possible.

From this location in the Arboretum, we traveled over to Hemlock Hill to try and find the Crossbills. I had read that they had been feeding on some cones that had fallen to the ground, supposedly offering great looks. We were not disappointed and as soon as we got to the right location, we found 14 feeding on the ground, about 10-15 feet away from us. Standing behind a tree, I was able to get some amazing pictures of them, and some came within 3-5 feet of me. Here are some of the pictures I was able to capture:

How many birds do you count in this photo?

At one point, while observing the crossbills, my mom called to the group that she had found an American Mink. I was unable to hear her and after it dove back into the water, she came and got me. I rushed over to see if I could re-find it. Sure enough, it did resurface and climbed back onto a little island, but as soon as it came out of the water, it ran to the other side, only to dive back in. Here are two shots I got of it running away from us:

Overall, this was a great trip, and I really enjoyed myself. Jeff is an amazing trip leader, and I hope to go birding with him more often. I would like to thank the Illinois Young Birders for setting this trip up, and to Brian Herriott for originally creating the group.

Thanks for reading, and good birding!