Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Snowy Defence

I can’t resist sharing a few sequences of a Snowy Owl I photographed en route to our Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas workshop at Oak Hammock Marsh on Sunday.

This first series of three photos shows a defensive reaction to a passing Peregrine Falcon… while on the ground the Snowy Owl puffs up and first lowers their body then straightens up and raises the wings to make themselves look at big as possible to the passing falcon

This second series of 8 photos shows how the Snowy Owl takes off from the ground (crouching down and then launching forward and upward) and then flies low over the barren ground…

And finally a portrait of the beautiful Snowy Owl perched on a rock and a second glimpse at a slight defensive posture as the Peregrine one again passes high overhead…

Such a magnificent animal to watch – what a privilege!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Philippines - species that are not endemic

This last post in the series from The Philippines is meant to illustrate a few of the species one can see there that are not endemic to the archipelago but which enhance any birding visit.

Two of the raptors on show are the Barred Honey-Buzzard and the Oriental Honey-Buzzard shown here (in that order)… these photos don’t highlight the differences to best effect but see if you can spot them… The Barred Honey-Buzzard is only found on Sulawesi and The Philippines and hence could perhaps be considered a near-endemic of sorts. The Oriental Honey-Buzzard, as the name suggests, is an Asian species whose range stretches from Siberia to Japan to the Greater Sundas to The Philippines.

The Philippines can offer some good shorebirding too with a reasonable selection of the species that migrate along the East Asian – Pacific Flyway. Here is a small smattering of these species. The Black-winged Stilt is one of the more common shorebirds and always offer a stunning black and white contrast when they take to the wing as shown here (see if you can spot the Marsh Sandpipers in this photo)

The Wood Sandpiper is a common sandpiper on The Philippines. Their distinctive supercilium and yellow legs are two of the best ID features (you can also see the tail pattern in this photo)

I photographed this Common Greenshank (so named because of the greenish hue of the legs) and the preceding two images is a paddy field on Palawan. Paddy fields sometimes offer reasonable birding opportunities…

This Grey-tailed Tattler was foraging along the shore of a small island (Pandan Island) and, when spooked by a boatman, flew right in front of me permitting this photo.

Also on Pandan Island, and accompanying the Grey Imperial Pigeon in the post on Palawan, was this beautiful Pied Imperial Pigeon. If you like black and white, you’ll love this bird! Although found from Southeast Asia to New Guinea, this species is mostly found on small islands.

The Green Imperial Pigeon is a widespread Asian species, but they seemed particularly common on Palawan.

Likewise, the much smaller Zebra Dove with their elegant stripes.

Most of the woodpeckers on the main islands of The Philippines are endemics (especially if you accept the proposed split of the Greater Flameback complex) but on Palawan there were three non-endemic Asian species, including some of my old friends from Southeast Asia – the Common Flameback, the massive Great Slaty Woodpecker and my personal favourite, the White-bellied Woodpecker (see http://artusobirds.blogspot.ca/2009/11/old-story-where-it-all-began.html if you want to know why). The Philippines and Sulawesi are the last (easternmost) outpost for the woodpeckers – as you move east into the Australasian realm proper there are none. At least in terms of their evolutionary history, they are not so good at islands hopping as some of the passerine families features below…

My blog posts on Luzon and on Mindanao each featured an endemic pitta; however, in addition to those two highly sought-after endemics, there are two other exciting pittas in the Philippines that can have birders creeping around on forest trails… here, from this trip, is the magnificent Red-bellied Pitta and the electric green of the Hooded Pitta! The Red-bellied Pitta has much more of an Australasian distribution as The Philippines is as far west as they get. The Hooded Pitta on the other hand occurs from India to New Guinea.

Next up two photos of two very different looking birds that are in fact the same species – the dark race of Black-bellied Cuckooshrike from Luzon and a much paler race from Palawan. The Luzon bird was so dark that when I first spotted it I thought I was looking at Blackish Cuckoo-shrike (you have to look very hard to see the bars on the belly).

Most birders visiting The Philippines will want to see Celestial Monarch and Short-crested Monarch. Although I saw those species I never managed to get photos. I did however manage this shot of the common, widespread and non-endemic Black-naped Monarch.

Though the Philippines has its share of endemic flycatchers but also a few non-endemics like the migrant Grey-streaked Flycatcher

And the resident Mountain Verditer Flycatcher (this beauty is the Mindanao subspecies). This species, also known as Island Flycatcher, is not widespread but does occur on other islands including Sulawesi.

The Mountain Leaf-Warbler and the Mountain White-eye are both common in their respective habitats. The former occurs from mainland Asia (Thai-Malay Peninsula) all the way to new Guinea. The latter is not quite as widespread being found on islands from Sumatra to Sulawesi. It just goers to show that deep ocean trenches and sea crossings are more of a barrier for some species than others!

The Olive-backed Sunbird also has a distribution stretching from Southeast Asia to New Guinea, although some of the races look a little different – this is a Palawan bird…. And what a beauty!

The Fire-breasted Flowerpecker (male then female) is an Asian species found as far west as the Himalayas but with a few eastern outposts on islands like The Philippines and Taiwan.

That wraps up this brief look at the avifauna of The Philippines – hop you enjoyed this four-part series!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Aurora Accompaniment

I recently did an all-night owl survey, completing 70 listening stops between dusk and dawn. When all was said and down I had counted 45 owls of 9 species in my strigid big day’s night. Although, I didn’t manage any good owl photos on the night, their splendid songs were accompanied by this magnificent aurora borealis photographed below (but stupid me, i forgot to bring a tripod… ouch!). A great night to feel the tingle of life running down your spine!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Random Owl sightings

Two weeks ago I managed a few photos of a Snowy Owl in flight that I had wanted to share. Of course, I never got around to it… until last night when a great night of owl surveying prompted me to get my act together…

So let’s start with that Snowy, taking off against the sky and then flying low across an uncharacteristically snow-free Manitoba marsh in March.

Last night, I enjoyed great night owling in southeast Manitoba, completing 37 Manitoba Nocturnal Owl Survey stops. I made good use of some of the minor forestry roads in Sandilands Provincial Forest that are usually snow covered at this time of year. At first it looked like Boreal Owls would be the most numerous but after midnight the s’wets put on an exceptionally strong finish...

First highlight was a lengthy observation of a pair of Barred Owls. Here they are individually first and then the third photo shows them in a state of post-copulatory bliss.

The next highlight was spotting this Northern Saw-whet Owl perched three feet off the ground hunting by the roadside – what a treat!

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