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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Laplands in spring

I've been so busy updating the 09yardbirds blog lately that I haven't been able to post here for a while. It was really nice to get out to the wastewater for the first time in a long time this morning. Though the weather was very cold and unpleasant (intermittent snowflakes, even), the wastewater is totally thawed out and spring is in the air. Had many new yearbirds including Greater Yellowlegs, Tree Swallow, Cackling Goose, Wigeon, Shoveler, Redhead, and Canvasback, but the highlight of the trip were the 40+ Lapland Longspurs along Swanson halfway between Apple and Laketon. It's not their rarity that got me going today (I was trying to make sure there were no Smith's Longspurs in the group, believe me). It's the unusually nice looks (and listens) I was treated to. Typically, my experience with spring longspurs is that they rarely sit still and when they do, it's most often way out in fields where good looks are impossible. This time, I picked up on them in flight by the rattle and followed them to the ground where they fed at length, probably less than 200ft away. The birds blended in fantastically well and often I couldn't see a single one of them, but eventually when they became alert and upright, I was able to score a couple shots of the flock with their heads up.
As you can see, most of the males are in transition or have already attained their alternate plumage, making them very striking birds indeed! This is not a plumage I often get go
od looks at anywhere in Michigan, so I spent a lot of time taking it in. Also, much to my surprise, I actually heard at least 1 bird belt out a weak version of its song, which I've never before heard (in Michigan or elsewhere). It's reminiscent of both Western Meadowlark and Chestnut-collared Longspur, definitely a grassland-ish sound, kind of "twinkling" and ethereal (lack of better words). 

Here is a little better looks at these beauts highly cropped: