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Monday, May 25, 2009

Fish Crow!

After reluctantly waiting over 1 week (sans positive chase reports, no less) to chase the putative 1st state record Fish Crow found by Tim Baerwald and Matt Hysell last weekend, I finally made it to the Forest Lawn Landfill in Berrien County this morning for a try. By the end of the day I had encountered the bird 5 times and recorded its call note twice, and am convinced that it what it is. The bird appeared to be running a clockwise circuit from the top of the center of the dump to a crow roost (which was also attended by multitudes of American Crows) somewhere south and east of the dump, then back, at least 7-8 times during my visit, which spanned 6:30AM to 4:10PM. Here is a map to show the locations I am referring to:
My encounters with the bird occurred at the yellow arrows, 3 from "Vantage 1" and 2 from "Vantage 2". My recommendation to anyone chasing would be to start at Vantage 2 to see if crows are traipsing back and forth between the dump and the south roost. If they are not, only then would I try vantage 1.

Except for a single call, the bird was heard giving only single "caws" which were immediately identifiable in each encounter. This call was very different from that of American Crows, being lower pitched and more nasal. Here are my best two recordings of it ("caw" occurs at ~2.5 seconds into the first video, and ~9.8 seconds in the second video):
video

video

Finally, it was often difficult to be sure which bird in the line of sight was responsible for the Fish Crow-like calls. If I thought I had a bird possibly making the calls I tried to get photos of it. The first example is this bird. p7 on the right wing appears to be growing (perhaps this proves that this is NOT the Fish Crow?- any comments on this?):
Here is the same bird in flightIn short, it appears that this 1st state record bird may stick around for a while, and will likely be chasable.
Be prepared to spend some time waiting if the dump is noisy or it is windy, as hearing the birds is tough. The Fish Crow and others were often frustratingly silent as they flew over as well, further confounding things. With patience, however, it seems likely that effort will be paid back with a sighting or two. Good luck!

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