Tuesday, May 19, 2009

More thoughts on the Wild Turkey carcasses

I'm in Wichita, KS at the moment and just finished up a series of two presentations over the past two days. My first, an Important Bird Areas program/discussion held in the beautiful town of Lawrence. It just seemed like a very tranquil place to live, lots of people walking, riding bikes, recycling centers, clothing/shoe deposit sites...... I wish I could have stayed a little longer. However that was not the case and I headed for Wichita today. This evening, a presentation on the marshbird distribution work that I am doing in Oklahoma. It was held at the Great Plains Nature Center which is a really great place. I may end up visiting the center again before I leave tomorrow morning. Both events went well and I think people enjoyed the presentations, I believe only one person fell asleep! No, just kidding.

So while I've been traveling apparently my post about the Wild Turkey carcasses sparked some feelings of concern with many people. First, it was my initial impression that this was in fact the work of a human. My comments about the predators were more of a hopeful nature, I've seen plenty of dead birds. Part of the field work I did for the Sutton Center required me to identify the causes of moralities with the Lesser Prairie Chicken we were tracking. Now that I really think about these carcasses must have only been a day or two old. Had they been there any longer I believe something would have consumed them. So maybe it was in fact a poacher.
Having said that I'd like to apologize for addressing my suspected culprit as a hunter. Having been a hunter myself, and been raised by family of hunters I should have known better than to address someone that would do something like this as a "hunter". Because in fact they are a "poacher". My apologies to any hunters out there. Well I've got a little work to do so until the near future....

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cold, Dead Turkey

So this past week while I was surveying/camping at Fort Supply resevoir. Usually mid-day is my time to rest and sometimes bird. In this case I was checking out the local woodlands that surround the resevoir. I was walking the limits of the campground hoping for warblers, but mostly picking up orioles, waxwings, and lots more common stuff. Something I didn't expect to find were some rotting carcauses. Five to be exact. They were no more than a few feet from a campsite, just lying in some tall grass.

This was very perplexing to me. Who and what did it, was it human or did some lucky predators get into a group of turkey and have a field day. I'm leaning torwards the former. So in the interest of interesting comments and theories I have a few questions.

1) Look closely, is this the way turkey are normally field dressed? I mean you can actually make out the sternal keel in the photo on the bottom, on the center bird . Do hunters cut the meat off of the breast and leave the bone, in the field?
2) If this was a predator(s), the only individuals I can think of that could take down a turkey would be a Bobcat or some Coyotes. Could this be the case in this situation?

3) If this was a hunter(s), why leave the carcasses lying and rotting so close to the campsite? Talk about no respect for others.
4) Again, if these were game for someone it seems like a lot of waste. Isn't there something all of those feathers and parts could be used for?

If you'd like to comment either email me personally brdbrn1979@yahoo.com or maybe even comment on them on the listserve Okbirds. Just be mindful that we shouldn't try to offend anyone in our comments.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Black Rail Fun

Well I was standing there at my second broadcast point with my camera around my neck and turned off...can you see where this is leading. I had a single Black Rail calling about 20 yards in front of me when all of the sudden another Black Rail gets up and out of the sedges and flies about eight feet only ten feet from my dumb-founded face. No, no picture, although I've got some great recording of one calling from only a few feet away. This is by far the best look that I have ever had of a Black Rail. Full morning sun, you could see the soft grey tones of its underwing and it's belly. It's feet were held in typical rail fashion, hanging down below its body. Just a really great look. Very exciting.

Another interesting thing from this morning was a young blonde racoon.. I did get photos of this guy. Obviously not an Albino, but still very cool. I'm not sure how common this is but I'd be interested to hear anything anybody has to share about it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Harper County...well, mostly just the Laverne area

Well another good day of marshbird surveys. I spent the entire day in and around Laverne. Many of the playas north of town are full, including the large Gate playa that sits along the Harper/Beaver County line. In all I had 78 species for the day. The morning marshbird survey turned up 4 each Sora and Virginia Rail. Some other birds that came along the way included 36 Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and a drake and hen Cinammon Teal. For the first time in three years at this site I was unable to locate any American Bitterns, very surprising and a little dissapointing. After completing the surveys in the morning I checked a few of the local playas. They are full of water, however the shorebirds were a little slim and I was only able to pick up ten species, including 10 White-faced Ibis, and a few American Avocets. Three Black Tern were a first of year for me, and one of the better birds of the day.Cinammon Teal, 14-May-2009,

The evening was spent surving for marshbirds yet again. I located three more Virginia Rail, still no American Bittern. For some reason there are far more Green Heron present this year. So it makes me wonder wether or not the usual locations that I find the bitterns may either be to deep or the vegetation just isn't dense enough, not sure...The best bird of the day was a single male Bobolink. This was a new state bird for me, I always manage to miss them at the Red Slough. Didn't miss him this time, although when I went for my camera it headed for cover. Still exciting though! Not a bad day at all, and tomorrow morning 0530 sharp I'll be chasing Black Rails.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

336 Miles, Hackberry to Laverne and Inbetween

Monday (11-May-2009) evening at Hackberry was overcast but productive. My survey route ran the east west levee of the Goose and Yellowleg Units. The highlights of the marshbird survey included 2 Sora (Porzana carolina), 3 King Rails (Rallus elegans), an American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)and two unidentified medium sized (most likely Soras) rails. I picked up some great birds along the way. Ibis were everywhere (225+), conditions wouldn't allow proper identification so there could have been Glossy present but I can't be sure. A flock of 22 Willets (Catoptrophus semipalmatus), were seen and heard flying from one unit to another, and shortly after a flock of around 35 Godwits (Limosa sp..) . Conditions remained bad but I countinued and it paid off. At around 2020 hrs I located 13 Ruddy Turnstones (Arenaria interpres), there were probably more but the conditions were so awful I could only make out the individuals that were in the open and clear. Fortunately they really stand out in their alternate plmage, I didn't even bother worring with peep identification.

The good birds continued the next morning (12-May-2009) with a Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola) and King Rail. After surveying for marshbirds, I turned my attention to birds in general and decided to stay in the area until noon. This to paid off and throughout the morning I picked up an American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)and Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus) in the south boundary willows. I added 5-Black-bellied Plover(Pluvialis squatarola) and Buff-breasted Sandpipers (Tryngites subruficollis, 6; a first for me at Hackberry). Lots of other great birds were present but most were the usual suspects for this time of year.
I moved on and north to Fort Supply and was greated by yet another Ruddy Turnstone. This guy was all alone, except a single Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla). This brings my spring total to 15+ Ruddy Turnstones; just think up until this year it was a state bird for me! This individual was particularly tame and I was able to lay on my belly from about ten feet away and took loads of great full light shots, this one was especially good.

Fort Supply was nice, and quiet, and empty. Just the way I like. Through the 20 hours that I was there the birds worth mentioning included 7 Forster's Tern (Sterna forsteri) , lots of Spotted Sandpipers (Actitus macularia), 23 Yellow-headed Blackbirds (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus), 36 Plegadis Ibis, 2 Black-necked Stilts (Himantopus mexicanus), a family of Eastern Phoebes (Sayornis phoebe), and one unidentified Catharus thrush. Well tomorrow includes surveys of some sloughs associated with the Beaver River just north and east of Laverne, and then on to Black Rail territory so stay tuned!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Ruddy or Knot

So yes there was infact a Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) today at Hackberry Flats WMA around 9:15 am. But no, there wasn't a Red Knot; I just couldn't avoid using the title, it just came too quickly. The turnstone wasn't the only good bird though, so keep reading.I spent last night and today wrapping up my first rounds of marshbirds surveys for the 2009 season down at the now sopping wet survey site. Last week I visited the flats as well, and things were a whole different story. I was actually considering not going back this year because it was so dry. What's the point in looking for marshbirds in dry habitat? Well I'm glad I did go back to check it out. No marshbird photos, although I had a one Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola, 2-May-2009) and Sora (Coturnicops noveboracensis, 3-May-2009) each, both responding to broadcasts. Now that things are adequately wet at the flats I suspect we'll begin seeing the usual numbers of rails, ect. for our wet springs.
Some other highlights included Yellow-headed Blackbirds ( Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus, approx. 64), White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi) , and a single Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus). Ok, so the Glossy Ibis photo sucks more than usual, I'll try to explain what I saw in the field. The small white lines (moderately visible in the photo) that outline the dark lore had a bluish tone to them. The lore, unlike the other adult Plegadis sp. present, was a dark plum kind of color. Distinctly not the pinkish lore surrounded by white that you see in P. chihi. I observed the bird from about 85 yards or more, for about fifteen minutes. It was pretty over cast, however it was late enough in the morning that the sun was breaking through at points. So the light and brightness could have been worse! What I didn't notice until I got the photo home is that the green on the head of this individual looks as though it wraps around and below the base of the bill, making the head appear dark. Now in my field guides this varies to a degree between authors. In Peterson's and Sibley's they both show a darker head for the Glossy. My Nat. Geo. does as well, be it a little more defined. I guess what I'm getting at, is this a field identification mark that you could use while picking through adult Ibis?
Other birds of particular interest were a couple Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus), a single Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialus squatarola), one Dunlin (Calidris alpina), and at least 14 Snowy Plovers (Charadrius alexandrinus). I walked four different tree out croppings after my marshbird surveys, hoping to pick up some neo-tropical migrants that may have dropped out during the weather....no luck. Well that is except for an unidentified Empidonax, and a handful of Yellow-rumped Warblers (Dendroica coronata). There were plenty of Clay-colored Sparrows (Spizella pallida), and about 6 Ruby-crowned Kinglets (Regulus calendula), and oops almost forgot 3 House Wrens (Troglodytes aedon)! This was a first for me at Hackberry and I was little surprised to see them to be honest. First of the season as well.

Along the way I found a couple of nests, so I thought I'd share them as well.

First, two Morning Dove (Zenaida macroura) chicks, they almost look like little Dodos!

Second, an Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna) nest with
5 eggs