Cassin’s Vireo (Vireo cassinii)Photo by Flickr user Amado…

Posted April 20th, 2018 by John Callender

Cassin’s Vireo (Vireo cassinii)

Photo by Flickr user Amado Demesa


There are some decent-sized holes in my birding knowledge. As I was discussing in connection with terns yesterday, there are certain groups I’ve tended to avoid in the past as requiring too much work.

“Little olive jobs flitting in tree canopies” is one of them. Until recently I haven’t really put in the effort. As a result, until this morning I’d never (knowingly) seen a Cassin’s Vireo.

But with the year-list obsession I have no excuse. People started reporting them around here few weeks ago in eBird, and I started keeping my eyes open. And this morning I was successful! I was looking at migrants in the willows at the Greenwell Preserve; the sun had just come up and the trees were full of singing. At one point I thought I heard what sounded like the Cassin’s Vireo recordings I’d been listening to, but it didn’t repeat, and I gave up looking for the singer and went back to all the awesome Orange-crowned and Nashville Warblers. And then there it was, plain as day! Spectacles, gray head, wing bars… I even got a glimpse of the yellow edging on the secondaries.

A very stylish bird. 🙂

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photosofsouthwestmt: Making WavesA Wilson’s phalarope I found…

Posted April 19th, 2018 by John Callender


Making Waves
A Wilson’s phalarope I found swimming in a flooded field, near the Bloody Dick Creek Road last spring.
Nikon D7100, Manual Mode, Tamron 150-600mm VC, F/6.3, ISO-400, ET 1/800, Focal Length  600mm, Hand Held Vibration Control on


One was reported yesterday at the Coal Oil Point “dune pond”, not far from Devereaux Slough, so after seeing the Caspian Terns I headed over to see if it was still there. It was!

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buddhabirds: Caspian Tern Traverse City, Michigan #243I’d been…

Posted April 19th, 2018 by John Callender


Caspian Tern

Traverse City, Michigan


I’d been seeing these for a few weeks, I’m pretty sure, but I hadn’t seen one well enough to be confident of the ID. Terns are one of those groups that I’ve tended to avoid in the past as “too hard”, which of course creates a self-fulfilling prophecy: not knowing the bird = avoiding the bird = not knowing the bird. I’m addressing it now, but I’ve needed an unambiguously close view to be sure of my identification.

Devereaux Slough is where they’d been reported most frequently lately, so this morning I got myself up before dawn and headed up there. There were a few tern fly-bys that seemed pretty good for Caspian, but not good enough for me to be sure. I’d resigned myself to going without them yet again when a group of four flew in and landed in the slough. They weren’t as close as I would have liked, but I got the spotting scope on them and cranked up the magnification and… yes! They had the dusky tip on the beak that was the feature I was looking for.

I present to you one of the worst photos ever of Caspian Tern:

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renatagrieco: May 25, 2016 – Lawrence’s Goldfinch (Spinus…

Posted April 14th, 2018 by John Callender


May 25, 2016 – Lawrence’s Goldfinch (Spinus lawrencei)

These finches are found only in a small range from California through northwestern Mexico. Though migratory, they tend to move east and west instead of north and south. They eat mostly seeds, which they pick from plants while perching, along with some insects. Their cup-shaped nests are constructed from leaves, grass stems, and sometimes lichen. Females do all of the incubation, while males bring them food and both parents feed the chicks. Males’ songs sometimes mimic parts of the songs of other species.


Seeing these felt really special. We saw a bunch of them when we scouted Jameson Lake for the Christmas Count last fall, before the Thomas Fire. Then, when we went in on the rescheduled count day (January 5), there weren’t any. They’re considered “fire followers”, and in a couple of years we’ll hopefully have a lot of them because of the new growth that will appear, but so far this year I hadn’t had any unambiguous sightings of them.

I’d had a few ambiguous hearings, though. On my hike last week up the Franklin Trail I thought I heard them a couple of times, but never saw one. I didn’t feel comfortable listing them based only one what I’d heard; I’ll do that for a bird with which I’m very familiar, but for this bird, and especially for my county year list, I wasn’t willing to list it.

In the past week I thought I heard them a couple more times; once at the Carpinteria Salt Marsh and then again at the Carpinteria Bluffs, but each time I wasn’t able to see the bird.

Guy (our Sedgwick tour leader) to the rescue yet again! He pointed out their calls several times as we did the tour, and toward the end we got great views of a pair of them feeding on a grassy hillside. Such a beautiful bird.

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debunkshy: Chipping Sparrow, The Arb, WI, 5-3-17 #241I know…

Posted April 14th, 2018 by John Callender


Chipping Sparrow,

The Arb, WI, 5-3-17


I know Chipping Sparrows are considered common, but for whatever reason I’ve never become very familiar with them. I think it’s a combination of having always lived places where they’re not especially easy to find, and having been a fairly casual birder when it comes to certain “hard” groups (like sparrows).

No more. One of the things being list-obsessed has given me is new motivation to get out there and find all the species I can. I knew Chipping Sparrows had been seen at Sedgwick recently, so I asked Guy, our trip leader, where they’d seen them. Unfortunately it was in a place we weren’t going to visit during the public tour, so I reconciled myself to not getting them for my list today.

Hah! The universe came through again! (And so did Guy, who actually found the bird in a tree near the end of the tour and pointed it out.)

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