Friday, September 25, 2015

Rusty Blackbird

Highlights: Le Conte's Sparrow & Parasitic Jaeger 

      Although we are again experiencing some warm temperatures a southerly flow, we have begun seeing some of the mid-season migrants begin to show up. Warbler diversity has been dropping off, but among the more numerous Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers we are still seeing a few others including Pine, Magnolia, Blackpoll, Wilson's, Common Yellowthroat, Tennessee, Black-throated Green & Northern Waterthrush. There are now regularly nice groups of 10-20 Golden-crowned Kinglets and a few Ruby-crowned Kinglets mixed in with the warblers, chickadees and nuthatches. 
     We continue to have Red Crossbills flying over on a daily basis and flyover flocks of Pine Siskins are becoming more regular. Most sparrow species have yet to begin occurring in big numbers, but the diversity has been fairly good recently with sightings of Chipping, Clay-colored, Fox, Song, Lincoln's, Swamp, White-throated, White-crowned  and a Le Conte's. Dark-eyed Junco numbers have increased significantly in recent days with flocks of 20-30 being seen regularly. Out on the beach Horned Lark numbers have been growing and nine Lapland Longspurs were mixed in with them today. Other recent arrivals include; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Winter Wren, Rusty Blackbird and Evening Grosbeak.
     The recent weather has often kept things slow for Eric out at the waterbird count, but he has had some nice flights of Canada GooseAmerican Wigeon, Redhead and Common Terns. Recent highlights from the waterbird count include Sora, Cackling Goose, Snow Goose and Parasitic Jaeger. As always, more details are available on the waterbird blog.
      The fall owl banding season has begun. Head owl bander Mike McDonald and assistant  owl bander Tim Baerwald have not surprisingly had a bit of a slow start with Northern Saw-whets moving at a trickle so far, they also banded a single Barred Owl. It has been a few years, but we are once again giving evening owl programs. They are being given Thursdays & Saturdays through Thursday October 29 in the Owl's Roost Gift shop. Now through Saturday October 3 the start time is 8:30 PM. From Thursday Oct 8 to Thursday Oct 29 the start time is 7;45 PM

Nashville Warbler

Palm Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

Northern Harrier

Red-tailed Hawk

Orange Sulphur

American Copper

Chris Neri


Friday, September 11, 2015

Highlights: Black-backed Woodpecker, Yellow-billed Cuckoo

      There has been good activity in the woods the last few days. A Black-backed Woodpecker, the second of the season, made a brief appearance today. We had a Black-billed Cuckoo back on August 30, and now a Yellow-billed Cuckoo this week on the 10th. Most of the recent activity has been provided by some very nice warbler flights, with 17 species being observed. Yellow-rumpeds naturally continue to be numerous and Palm Warbler numbers have grown significantly over the last couple of days. As per usual, Nashvilles are present in decent numbers and there are often multiple Cape May, Tennessee, Blackpoll, and Pines mixed in with the warbler flocks. Other recent warblers include Northern Waterthrush, Black & White, Northern Parula and Bay-breasted.
Sparrows are starting to pick up a bit with more sightings of Lincoln's, Swamp, Savannah and White-throated. Dark-eyed Junco numbers are also increasing, as are Golden-crowned Kinglets. We continue to regularly hear small flocks of Red Crossbills as the fly over along with the occasional Pine Siskin. We finally pulled out of what has been an usually warm start to September today. Hopefully the warblers will continue and the cool off will bring an increase of other species.

 Cape May Warbler

.  Cape May Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Blackpoll Warbler

Palm Warbler

Chris Neri

Monday, September 7, 2015

Highlight: 2 Western Kingbirds & 2 Willets
       It was an odd day with a slow start, then a big wave of songbirds, then quiet again, then really nice activity again in the afternoon. The first big wave made it right out to the waterbird shack where waterbird counter Eric Ripma picked out not one, but two Western Kingbirds who hung around the Point for a while, often perching together in the same tree. Shorebirds were slow for Eric, but among the few that were present were two Wilets. Shortly after the Kingbirds arrived there were suddenly hundreds of songbirds flying around just behind the waterbird shack. That large wave of birds dispersed surprisingly quickly and birding the woods was pretty hit and miss into the afternoon with some long lulls. It really picked up later in the day when a very nice mixed flock was found. It was nice that Eric was able to come in after the count and get some good birding in a help me pick things out of the large flock. Sightings today included Tennessee, Magnolia, Cape May, Blackpoll, Bay-breasted, Magnolia, Wilson's and Pine Warblers. Other sightings today included Northern Goshawk, Hermit and Swainson's Thrush, Blue-headed, Red-eyed and Philadelphia Vireo and Scarlet Tanager.
One of today's two Western Kingbirds and a Nashville Warbler
Northern Goshawk
Most Bay-breasted Warblers don't make it this easy to
to identify them in the fall. 
Chris Neri

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Highlights: Yellow-headed Blackbird & nice warbler migration
       Despite pretty unfavorable weather conditions there has been decent activity in the woods the last few days. However, the highlight was not in the woods, but a Yellow-headed Blackbird found by Eric out at the Point during the waterbird count on 9/3. The weather has stalled the waterbird flight down for Eric the last few days, but on the third he had over 2, 400 Red-necked Grebes, almost 100 Common Loons and a few Red-throated Loons along with a nice mix of other waterbirds for this time in the season. As always you can check out Eric's post on the waterbird blog Off WPBO's website for more details.  
       The majority of the activity in the woods has been provided by warblers, Cedar Waxwings and Red-breasted Nuthatches. There are regularly flocks of 10-30 waxwings feeding at scattered locations in the woods wherever berries are present. The nuthatch numbers have been increasing the last few days. As those of you who are familiar with birding the Point now, it can be difficult to get an accurate count on birds like nuthatches here, but they were joining in with the warbler flocks today and it was common to see 20-30 moving in waves through the trees. The warbler migration has remained somewhat surprisingly good considering the recent weather pattern. Seventeen species have been observed in the last few days. As is to be expected Yellow-rumped and Nashville have been the most common species. You can usually find a few Blackpoll, Tennessee and Black-throated Greens mixed in with the bigger flocks. Other recent warbler sightings included Mourning, Cape May, Bay-breasted, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided and Blackburnian (surprisingly uncommon here in the fall). Other recent sightings in the woods have included Ruffed Grouse, Philadelphia, Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireos, Brown Creeper, Scarlet Tanager and Purple Finch. We've also been hearing flocks of Red Crossbills with some regularity the last few days, the largest flock seen was 17 birds.
 American Redstart with a Daddy Longlegs meal.
     Many of us, perhaps most, associate birding during this this time of the year with confusing fall warblers, as well we should. A sighting the other day reminded me of when I got absolutely stumped during my first fall here back in 2004. I had already spent three springs here at that time and was familiar with all of the warbler species that regular occur here. I knew there would be some tricky birds and I would have to let some go unidentified. However, I did not think I would draw a complete blank on a bird that I got great looks at that, as it turned out, I had seen many times here before. I was standing along the bayside tree line sorting through a warbler flock, "Yellow-rumped, Yellow-rumped, Nashville, Yellow-rumped, Blackpoll, huh?.........." The bird teed up beautifully and all I could think was, "Man, that is a drab warbler." I was able to keep up with the bird as it worked down the tree line and had several more perfect, long looks in great light before I finally lost it. It was gone and I stood there with my head tilted, mouth slightly open, staring into nowhere with a blank expression, yeah I had put my stupid face on. 
       My first impression had been that it was a very drab, plain tan warbler with no strong field marks. After having been afforded several more great looks I concluded that it was a very drab, plain tan warbler with no strong field marks. Although there were no strong field marks, there were some weak ones; it was chunky for a warbler, had two weak wingbars, a pale somewhat  broad supercillium, a weak cheek patch and a slightly broken eyering. This was enough to figure it out when I later sat down with a field guide and used the process of elimination.  It turned out to be a very drab 1st fall Pine Warbler like the one pictured below. These birds are here in the fall and I saw three of them the other day. My first reaction is still, "Man, that is a dull warbler."
 Pine Warbler
      I guess the point of that story is that there are many ways for us to help ourselves improve our identification skills. When we are studying our field guides trying to learn our warblers it is very natural to focus on strong field marks like bright colors, bold white wingbars or a strong eyering. It is also natural to be better at retaining field marks on birds we really hope to see. I doubt any of us have seen a bird like this Pine Warbler in a field guide and thought, "Wow, I'd love to see that!"  The thing is, when your in the field and a bird pops up point blank and gives repeated great looks it is really annoying to have no idea what it is. It wasn't long before I saw another Pine Warbler like this. My immediate reaction was still, "Man, that is a dull warbler." I started to get my stupid face out and then quickly realized I was having the same reaction to seeing the same bird that I had just a few days earlier. Learning to recognize this was always my response to seeing this bird helped me begin to identify them much more quickly. The lack of strong field marks can be as effective in helping us identify a bird as the presence of strong field marks can be. Learning to recognize our own first response to seeing a dull warbler like this can be very effective in helping us put a name to it. So if you come to the Point soon and are sorting through a flock of warblers when the drabbest warbler you have ever seen pops up ask yourself, "Is it a Pine Warbler?" If the answer is yes you can wipe that stupid look off your face, check Pine Warbler off your trip list and start looking for a pretty warbler.  

 Black-throated Green Warbler
      Another thing to be aware of at the Point right now is that there are still juvenile warblers that have not even finished molting into their confusing fall plumage. During the summer we see juvenile warblers that are not pictured in field guides and are far harder to figure out than they are in the fall. The above Black-throated Green was photographed today and was still molting in the yellow in the face, the green on the back, the streaks on its flanks and its white wingbars.

    The butterflies have been a bit disappointing but there are a few around. I saw just my third Striped Hairstreak ever at the Point a few days ago. Northern Pearly-eyes can be relatively common here, but one today was the first I've seen this year.
Striped Hairstreak
Northern Pearly-eye
Chris Neri

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Highlights: Western Kingbird (photo above) & Black-backed Woodpecker

   I'm very excited that WPBO has brought back the field ornithologist position back this season for the first time since the fall of 2009. The sightings blog will provide general information on recent bird activity and rarities at the Point. I will include highlights from the waterbird count, but for more detailed information on the waterbird flight check waterbird counter Eric Ripma's blog which can be linked off the WPBO website.
    It is still early in the migration here and there have not been any really big songbird pushes yet, but the woods have been fairly active lately. The first rarity of the season showed up on Monday when a Western Kingbird spent a bit of time hunting near the waterbird shack. Naturally Yellow-rumpeds are making up the bulk of the warbler flights right now, but Nashville, Tennessee, Blackpoll, Bay-breasted, Cape May, Magnolia, Pine, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided, Mourning and Northern Waterthrush among others have been mixed in the flocks. It is early in the season for sparrows, but a few have begun arriving with sightings of Lincoln's, Clay-colored, Savannah, Swamp, White-throated and White-crowned. There have been quite a few thrushes moving the last couple of days. The vast majority we have been able to identify have been Swainson's,  but Hermit and Gray-cheeked have also been observed. The thrushes, who typical stick pretty closely to nocturnal migration have been seen coming across the lake all day the last two days. Other than Northern Flickers there has been a noticeable lack of woodpeckers all summer. A few have finally begun arriving with sightings of Black-backed, Downy and Hairy. Flycatcher activity has varied significantly from day to day, but Yellow-bellied and Least Flycatchers have been fairly regular and Alder Flycatcher and Eastern Wood-Pewee have been observed.Other birds observed in the woods recently include American Bittern, Philadelphia and Red-eyed Vireo, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Cedar Waxwing.

Common Yellowthroat
Cedar Waxwing

     This is a great time for shorebirds at the Point and Sanderling, Semipalmated and Piping Plover, Least, Semipalmated, Baird's and Buff-breasted Sandpipers have been frequenting the beach.

Buff-Breasted Sandpiper
Baird's Sandpiper
       Although hawk numbers are relatively low in the fall, there is still a good diversity of species throughout the season adding to the enjoyment of birding the Point. Bald Eagles, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, Merlin and Peregrine Falcon  have been observed this season with some regularity. The Merlin in particular are a presence at the Point as they hunt songbirds coming in off the lake and regularly harassing other raptors
A Sharp-shinned Hawk going into a full vertical climb trying
to shake a Merlin off its tail. It did not work.

Chris Neri