Saturday, September 22, 2012

Early fall surprises

I think this post will be short and sweet.... I don't have a lot to say, but I got such nice surprises today I don't want to keep it to myself.

This morning Greenturtle and I headed to the Marshall County to look for some interesting gulls which had recently been seen along the lakes of the Illinois River Valley, in particular Franklin's and Sabine's. Either would be a life bird for me, so I was excited to try my luck, even though I have had terrible luck with gulls in general. But then again, I've also had terrible luck with sandpipers, and this year has been absolutely peep-o-riffic, so all bets are off.

We pulled off at the small parking area at the Spaulding Unit of the Marshall State Fish and Wildlife Area, where my first impulse was to announce, "This place blows, let's move on."

It was a lovely, sunny crisp fall day, the kind of weather I've been longing for since March when the temperature first shot up to ninety. Unfortunately, it was also extremely windy, and the morning sunshine was giving everything a washed-out tinge that made pulling out identifying marks a bit challenging.

But still, after convincing Greenturtle to drive over an hour with me on my Gull Quest, I couldn't just give up. So I remained shivering in the wind, slowing training my spotting scope from gull to gull for a half hour or more.

Ring billed...ring billed...ring billed...ring billed...ring billed. Gull after gull was a fat, happy ring billed sitting or feeding in the mud.

Until...hello, who are you?!? Definitely smaller, completely dark head...not a wisp or a smudge of dark a la Bonaparte's, but all a dark smudgy gray, until the sharp cut off at the neck.

I let Greenturtle have a turn at the scope so I could have a witness, and we both's a Franklin's! Hooray, a life bird.

After that, we kept heading north to Henry, where, on a whim, I suggested that we check out the marina. My first visit there with Sunwiggy had been serendipitous, so I keep hoping for an encore.

And, well, I got it.... Very early in the year, a largish flock of snow geese white domestic geese. Mixed in with them were several Canada geese and an escaped domestic goose I have yet to identify. If anyone knows what it is, please tell me in the comments!

And then...OMG, could it be??? Another life bird, the Ross's goose! It's the one that looks kinda like the snow geese white domestic geese, only smaller and with a darker bill.

For whatever reason, this year I seem to be getting "rare birds" in spades, which is exciting, but, as I mentioned in a previous post, a bit unsettling, as I have a horrible tendency of questioning myself in general. And of course, once again Cornell's ebird database informed me that my sightings (snow and Ross's geese) were rare and was I sure I'd seen them? Well, here are the photos to prove it!

I also got some nice shots of a turkey vulture sunning itself. They will be going soon, and I will miss them.

After all this excitement, we had lunch at the lodge at Starved Rock and took a stroll at Mathiessen State Park's river trail, where I got yet another good bird, my first black throated blue warbler of the year. He took off before I could have counted "one Mississippi" in my head, but hey, I'm not complaining....

P.S., based on an quick Internet search I think that my domestic escapee may be a Chinese goose...but if anyone knows for sure, please let me know!

Addendum 9/25/12: An ebird reviewer just sent me an e-mail stating that the large white geese in question are actually domestic geese. Snow geese would have black tips on their wings. [Slapping forehead with hand.] Seriously, this is embarrassing...I have seen snow geese often enough that I should have figured that out! But the Ross' goose is still up for debate. I have sent in some more photos and will keep you posted.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, congratulations on your lovely Life Birds! I'm so jealous! The photos are splendid, and you can share them with anyone who questions your ID skills. I really love the sunning turkey vulture. Glad you are enjoying your Fall birding. MOM