The Visiting Arctic Angel

Ivory Gull
Ivory Gull

In case you have not heard, Missouri had it’s first documented visit by an Ivory Gull this past month.  This species is typically found north – way north.  We’re talking fighting with Polar Bears for scraps north.  Once in a while a species like this gets way off track and can be found far from home.  This bird was found in the marina and lock and dam areas at Quincy Illinois and Missouri.

Ivory Gull
Ivory Gull

Folks flocked from as far as Texas and Florida, to the Carolinas and  New England.  This was a potential once in a lifetime bird, unless you took a trip to their normal range.

Ivory Gull Hanging with the Locals
Ivory Gull Hanging with the Locals

Although we were not fortunate enough to get super close looks in great light, Steve and I were thrilled with watching the bird for several hours over the course of an extremely cold and windy Sunday.

Ivory Gull
Ivory Gull

At least one photographer paid a local to motor him past the gull to get a closer shot.  A truly surreal experience.

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You’re going to pay me $50 for what?

 

Say Hello to Nougat

This past Thanksgiving break Steve and I found ourselves back at Jasper-Pulaski to see the tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes that stop there during their autumn and vernal migrations.  Although the spectacle of that many three-foot birds in one place is always worth the drive, of course we wind up with heavy overcast skies, which makes getting interesting photos quite a challenge.  The numbers of birds during this visit did not disappoint.

During the night, the majority of birds roost in one or two places on the reserve or nearby.  During the day they spend their time picking up fallen grain in the surrounding agricultural fields.  After lunch one day, we were driving around watching the different groups move across the landscape.  With light as poor as it was, my attention went to staying awake, while Steve lost the fight and started to dose off and on.  After a time, I was startled back to full alertness by Steve’s exclamation of “White!”  I found a place to pull over at the nearest opportunity.  And, after wrenching our necks, we confirmed what we were both anticipating the bird to be…

Nougat the Whooper
Nougat the Whooper

This was a life bird for the both of us, and with about 500 birds left on the entire planet, we were sure going to watch this guy as much as we could.  At five feet tall, with nearly an eight foot wingspan, this mostly white bird could be seen for well more than a mile away.  This made him easy to follow, but we made sure we gave him his space.  He was definitely attached to the Sandhill Cranes, and seemingly was uncomfortable without being near at least a few of his cousins.

Nougat the Sandhill?
Nougat the Sandhill?

How do we know that Nougat is a male?  See his colored leg bands in the 2nd and 3rd photos of this post?  These are used to identify and keep track of the banded birds.

Crane # 18-11(DAR)
Crane # 18-11(DAR)

Click on Nougat to read more about this fantastic bird.

Tis the Season for Eagles

During the past week were were fortunate enough to have sub-freezing temperatures across the region, signifying the beginning of one of my favorite parts of the season – the congregation of much of the mid-western population of Bald Eagles at the lock and dams along the Mississippi River.  Although we will still need to wait a couple or few more weeks for the large numbers, hoping for the cold in order to freeze the river completely, I was still able to make a few photos of fishing birds at Clarksville’s Lock and Dam #24 yesterday.  The image below, showing what I believe to be a late-second year bird just before impact, is an early favorite.

On the Hunt...
On the Hunt…

The next image is a head-shot of an adult bird from a nice walk-through of the World Bird Sanctuary that Sarah and I took over the holiday break.

Bald Eagle Portrait
Bald Eagle Portrait

 

Glaucous Gull

1st Winter Glaucous Gull
1st Winter Glaucous Gull

Finally, my first successful photos of a Glaucous Gull.  This 1st winter bird was photographed yesterday as I tried to make some eagle fishing photos at Lock and Dam #24 at Clarksville MO.  In an interesting coincidence, I ran into Brenda Hente, from Great-Horned Owls Will and Kate fame, and Danny Brown, from MDC Photography fame.

1st Winter Glaucous Gull
1st Winter Glaucous Gull

Earlier in the day I joined Josh Uffman, from uber birder fame, and the hoard of birders from across the country at Lock and Dam #21 at Quincy, looking for what is likely the most famous bird in the nation – the Ivory Gull.  Unfortunately, this was to turn out to be the first day the bird was not successfully found since its discovery on or about 2-January.  I am so glad Steve and I headed there last weekend to get a look and a few pics (yet to be posted).