Monday, June 15, 2015

Western Field Ornithologists in Billings

Here are some photo highlights from the past four days of field trips for the Western Field Ornithologists 40th annual meeting in Billings, Montana, my first visit to this state.

Our first morning on Emory Road

Baird's Sparrow

Brewer's Sparrow

Chestnut-collared Longspur

Escobaria vivipara, Spinystar

Long-billed Curlew

McCown's Longspur

Looking for Mountain Plover

Mountain Plover adult and chick

Northern Flicker hybrid


Sage Thrasher

Another morning’s field trip

Sprague's Pipit

Upland Sandpiper

White-tailed Jackrabbit

Friday, June 12, 2015

Gambell Cooked and Birded

Here I am in Billings during the Western Field Ornithologists membership meeting, adding to my brand new Montana state list with McCown's and Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Upland Sandpipers, and Baird's Sparrows, yet I'm still reeling from the week long WINGS tour to Gambell which finished already a full week ago tomorrow morning.

We flew from Anchorage to Nome with this amazing view of Mount Denali from my window.

Then I cooked and baked up a storm,  3 1/2 meals a day for 15 people for a week. For the first four days I did not set foot outside but was on my feet in the kitchen for 19-22 hours each day. It was a rewarding time for all.

Towards the end of the week I found time go to birding. I came across White and Eastern Yellow Wagtails, a Common Ringed Plover, and many singing Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings. On the next-to-last evening, I had time to walk to the far end of the Near Boneyard and caught up with the Eurasian Skylark that had been found earlier that day. Then I heard a report of a dull kinglet-like warbler from two of our participants, Ethan and Alex, who were still energized at 10:30 p.m., as was I.

A bunch of birders converged on the Far Boneyard and failed to turn up any warbler, but I saw three or four Gray-cheeked Thrushes then flushed this oddity from a group of boulders from above the boneyard. These photos I snapped are probably the best anyone got, and it was never seen again. It appears to be a Dusky Thrush of the western subspecies, split by some as Naumann's Thrush, though there is a hybrid zone, and this may be one of those pesky hybrids. It's a very rare vagrant this far east in any event.

Then then next morning the assembled group re-found the previously seen warbler, and it tuned out to be the 5th North American record of Siberian Chiffchaff. I had been packing kitchen supplies and making an inventory of our food to be boxed up and stored while preparing breakfast for the group (including the best sticky buns one participant said she had ever had), and when I had a chance to escape, Gavin came to give me a ride, and we located the bird again when I got this photo.

I also took this shot of Jon Dunn in the foreground photographing the Chiffchaff, while in the background on either side of the left wind-powered generator you can see the mountains of the Russian Chukchi Peninsula rising above the horizon.