Saturday, October 24, 2015

Highlights: Hepatic Tanager (photo above), 
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher,
Cave Swallow
Snowy Owls

     This has been a good fall for uncommon species and vagrants at the Point, but there was no way Hepatic Tanager could have been on our radar. Michigan's first Hepatic Tanager, and one of very few records east of the Mississippi, was found on 10/20 at around noon and remained until 5:40. Unfortunately, like the Common Ground-Dove earlier this month it was also a one day wonder.

Another shot of the Hepatic Tanager

     The latest vagrants were a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher that Eric Ripma had at from the waterbird count yesterday and a Cave Swallow at the harbor seen by Eric & Tim Baerwald this evening. Check the last two waterbird blog posts by Eric for a photo of the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, which actually had no tail, and the Cave Swallow.

    As is typical this time of year, the weather has become more unsettled recently and the general bird activity around the Point has varied significantly from day to day. The mid-season migrants are giving way to the late season migrants. Warblers are essentially done for the season, but a few late stragglers were seen this week with single American Redstart, Northern Parula,  Northern Waterthrush and Yellow-rumped Warbler observed. Sparrows have also really dropped off, but there are still a few White-crowned, American Tree and Fox Sparrows around, with American tree being the most common.The bulk of the Dark-eyed Junco has also passed through, but there are still a few double digit flocks around. Likewise, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglet numbers have dropped, but there are still always a few to be found. A few Winter Wrens were still around this week and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers have been seen the last few days.

Ruby-crowned kinglet

     With the mid-season migrants moving out we become hopeful for late season migrants and we are seeing some promising signs of a decent winter finch migration. Common Redpolls have been occurring in good numbers with hundreds migrating through on 10/23. We continue to have small numbers of Red Crossbills flying over and White-winged Crossbills  have made a few more appearances recently. Evening Grosbeaks have picked up slightly with small flocks becoming a bit more regular and Eric saw the season's first Pine Grosbeak on 10/23. Bohemian Waxwings continue to be very sporadic, but hopefully they will pick up.

The majority of the finches have been flyovers.
Pine Siskin (left) & Common Redpoll (right)

American Robin

Shorebirds are at the end of their migration, but here are an 
American Golden-Plover (front left) and Black-bellied Plover.

 Surprisingly, for the third year in a row Snowy Owls
seem to have started another big movement
 into the region again this year.

A Puffin going by the Point

Chris Neri

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Highlights: Common Ground-Dove (photo above) & Western Kingbird

     Although we have experienced some slow days this month, we have also had some good flights and some good birds. A Common Ground-Dove, the third Point record, appears to have been a one day wonder on the 11th. Also seen  on the 11th were the season's 4th Western Kingbird  and 1st Short-eared Owl. Other recent notable sightings include Le Conte's Sparrow, Harris's Sparrow and Dickcissel.
      At this time of the season we naturally start looking forward to some of the northern finches to begin showing up. The first Common Redpolls of the season were seen on the 11th. Pine Siskins have been present for a couple of weeks, but we saw the first real push on the 12th when over 2,000 were counted. Purple Finch  numbers have also picked up over the last few days and they have become regular at the feeders. I think it has been mentioned in every post that we have been hearing Red Crossbills flying over on a nearly daily basis. We finally had a couple very cooperative Crossbills feeding in a Jack Pine very close to the waterbird shack over the weekend. Hopefully more winter finches will begin to show up soon.

Part of one of Monday's Pine Siskin flocks

Red Crossbill

      We continue to see good numbers of Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated & White-crowned Sparrows and American Tree Sparrow numbers are increasing . There are also usually a few Lincoln's, Swamp, Song and Savannah Sparrows around and Fox Sparrows have joined the regulars at the feeders. There are often nice flocks of Golden-crowned & Ruby-crowned Kinglets around. Brown Creepers and Winter Wren have also been present in decent numbers, including 15 Winter Wrens today. Warbler numbers and diversity continue to decrease, but  Orange-crownedYellow-rumped, Palm continue to be seen daily and Nashville, and Black-throated Green have made recent appearances. 

Winter Wren

    Other recent sightings around the Point include; Ruffed Grouse, Barn Swallow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Hermit Thrush, Brown Thrasher, American Pipit, Horned Lark, Lapland Longspur & Vesper Sparrow.

American Pipit with a meal

Horned Lark

   As always, a lot of the activity is out at the waterbird count and Eric Ripma continues to produce some of the season's best sightings. Recent highlights at the waterbird count include Pacific Loon, Pomarine Jaeger & Arctic Tern. Most of the shorebirds have already moved through, but American Golden-Plover, Killdeer, Dunlin and White-rumped Sandpipers have been seen recently. Check out Eric's waterbird blog posts for more details

American Golden-Plover

White-rumped Sandpiper

Chris Neri

Monday, October 5, 2015

Highlights: Townsend's Solitaire (photo above) & Harris's Sparrow

      As is to be expected, sparrows have provided much of the activity in the woods recently. White-crowned & White-throated Sparrows along with Dark-eyed Juncos have been occurring in good numbers. There are often 40 White-crowneds at the feeders and yesterday they were finally joined by the Harris's Sparrow that has been present since the 1st. The season's second Le Conte's Sparrow was seen on 9/30 and the first American Tree Sparrows have arrived.  Additionally, Chipping, Savannah, Fox, Song, Lincoln's and Swamp have been present.

Le Conte's Sparrow

Harris's Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

     Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers continue in decent numbers. Orange-crowned Warblers have picked up and it is not uncommon to see several mixed in with various flocks, including sparrow flocks. It continues to become less common to find other warbler species, but Tennessee, Nashville, Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Green, Blackpoll and Common Yellowthroat have made recent appearances.  Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets continue to regularly mix in with the warbler flocks. 
Orange-crowned Warbler

      We had a nice push of Hermit Thrushes last week when we were consistently coming across groups of 3-6 as we walked the woods, and there are still the occasional Swainson's and Gray-cheeked being seen. We continue hearing Red Crossbills on an almost daily basis. They are mostly just flyovers, but they are occasionally putting down in the Jack Pines. Pine Siskins are picking up and are regularly being found feeding on birch catkins, Purple Finch numbers have also begun to increase over the last couple of days. There continues to be a nice mixed flock of Horned Larks, American Pipits and Lapland Longspurs frequenting the beach. Other recent sightings include; Northern Goshawk, Ruffed Grouse, American Woodcock, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Blue-headed Vireo, Winter Wren and Gray Catbird. 

Bald Eagle

Hermit Thrush

Eastern Chipmunk

Chris Neri

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