Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 West Campus Christmas Bird Count

American Robin
Once again this year the plan was set to have a Christmas Bird Count modelled after the National Audubon Societies annual bird survey that is now in it's 111th year. This year only two brave birders gathered in the early morning light to search over the 136 acres of West Campus on Wednesday. The snow storm that hit the state on Sunday and Monday left over 15 inches of snow on the ground with drifts up to 30 inches. All the snow limited the off road searches limiting the total time from 7am to 12 noon.





Lourdes by the stream
Lynn and Lourdes were able to pull in a respectable 27 species found throughout the day. A few easy species were missing but a couple of good birds did make an appearance. A few things that we missed but should have found include Tufted Titmouse, Northern Mockingbird, and White-breasted Nuthatch. One of the not looked for species was the Mute Swan, two flew over campus fairly low as we were working along the edge of a parking lot. That's a new species for West Campus, number 105!





The Oyster River


Here's the list with numbers:
Canada Goose-71
Mute Swan- 2
Wild Turkey- 4
Red-tailed Hawk- 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk- 1
Merlin- 1
Ring-billed Gull-11
Herring Gull- 6
Greater Black-backed Gull- 2
Flicker- 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker- 1
Hairy Woodpecker- 1
Downy Woodpecker- 3
Mourning Dove- 13
Rock Pigeon- 15
Hairy Woodpecker
American Crow- 108
Blue Jay- 4
Black-capped Chickadee- 16
European Starling- 75
American Robin- 22
White-throated Sparrow- 40
Song Sparrow- 1
Northern Cardinal- 19
Carolina Wren- 1
House Finch- 1
American Goldfinch- 10
Hermit Thrush- 3



Snowy Walk



The surprise of the day was the three Hermit Thrushes that were popping around by the leaf pile when I stopped on the way out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Bird Count Forecast

The window has opened for the 2010 Christmas Bird Count organized by the National Audubon Society. Count areas all over the state have begun to survey their respective regions; others are making game plans. The official bird count is only a 24-hour period in which species within a defined geographical area can be recorded. Although, with so many rare species making stop bys there is also another category which is the count week and includes the three days prior to and after the actual count day.

This past weekend was the New Haven Bird Count with an estimated 100 or more birders scouring the areas around New Haven for birds. I participated in one region of the count where we tallied 62 species. As you can read in last years blog of about this same time, West Campus technically falls within the New Haven regions count. Since Sue and I have both done counts in other areas for many years, West Campus doesn't get counted. So, for the next two days I will be keeping my eyes out for any species that may not have made their list already.

Rusty Blackbird (on the wish list)- http://blog.cleveland.com/neobirding_impact/2008/11/blackbird.jpg
We still want to ensure that we have a survey of the species that are using West Campus as a winter home. To do that, we will be having our own mini Christmas bird count over the winter break. A small group has been formed that will go out and survey the 136-acre campus! When the tally is made we can use that information and the results from last years count to see what has been going on on campus. Having already done two counts I can already make some predictions about what we will find - especially adding in the last two weeks of bird watching around campus.

Fall started of with a quick cold snap before warming back up and keeping a lot of migrants around longer than they would normally have hung on. Up until a couple of weeks ago, we had species numbers close to 30 with very little effort put into the actual search. Now the temperatures have dropped and the species have reflected that temperature; most of the species still lingering are our 'winter birds'. Luckily, we have some very vibrant winter birds to keep birding entertaining. I expect Blue Jay and Northern Cardinal numbers to be up this year!

Northern Cardinal- http://gallery.photo.net/photo/8652485-lg.jpg
If we look back way in the spring, temperatures were cooler than usual, which led to many food sources ripening later. The late fruits have now been picked fairly clean by normal migrants and some of our lingering summer birds. Species like American Robin, Gray Catbirds, and Brown Thrasher are likely to have pulled out and headed south. One species that has used the late warm weather to advantage is the Carolina Wren that spends the summer months devouring all matters of insects. A very healthy population should be prevalent and numbers should be up.

Carolina Wren- http://thundafunda.com/33/animals-pictures-nature/carolina-wren-pictures.jpg
One species I am hoping for to show up on the count this year is the Red-shouldered Hawk. We have Red-tailed Hawks on campus every day but there is a chance for it's slightly smaller cousin to be hunting down near our stream. Other species that could be added to the one day count list would be Pine Siskin and White-winged Crossbill. We have had Pine Siskin on campus only once but there are a greater number in the area this year than last, increasing our chances of seeing one next week. White-winged Crossbill would be a great bird, a northern species with a few over shooting the normal range and coming into Connecticut. A few have recently been spotted in the state, so we will keep a vigilant eye.

Red-shouldered Hawk- http://sdakotabirds.com/species/photos/red_shouldered_hawk.jpg
The past few weeks of Campus Birding have yielded around 20 species, snow on Christmas may add an interesting twist to what may be predicted now. As always, we will keep our eyes and ears cued in on our feathered friends.
White-winged Crossbill- http://www.glancesatnature.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/white-winged_crossbill_11.jpg

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Lonely Birder


Blue Jay over by the highway

The first thing that you may notice from this post is that you have a new author.  Sue the normal writer of Birding West Campus decided that the birds here in West Haven/Orange just weren't exciting enough and so for the month she will be off viewing exotic birds.  I'll let her fill you in on her trip if she so chooses on her return.

In the meanwhile, I will be trying to self-motivate in an effort to keep track on the birds visiting here at West Campus.  It seems only right that the birds, in an effort to help, should come in droves and keep the excitement levels up.  Instead this was one of the quietest weeks we have had since last winter.  It may indeed be a sign of what's to come in the following months.  I'll just hope that the birds are taking a break and will be back on Monday.



Red-tailed Hawk watching the Morgan Lane gate





I went out a couple of times at lunch this week and had the most luck today as far as diversity goes.  The other times I've gone out it has been pretty paltry.  Here's the quick list of what's been seen.





1. American Crow- Covrus brachyrhynchos
2. Fish Crow- Corvus ossifragus
3. Blue Jay- Cyanocitta cristata
4. Red-tailed Hawk- Buteo jamaicensis
5. Sharp-shinned Hawk- Accipiter striatus
6. Ring-billed Gull- Larus delewarensis
7. Herring Gull- Larus argentatus
8. Turkey Vulture- Cathartes aura
9. Black-capped Chickadee- Poecile atricapillus
10. Downy Woodpecker- Picoides pubescens
11. Red-bellied Woodpecker- Melanerpes carolinus
12. American Goldfinch- Carduelis tristis
13. Dark-eyed Junco- Junco hyemalis
14. American Turkey- Meleagris gallopavo
15. Rock Pigeon- Columba livia
16. European Starling- Sturnus vulgaris
17. American Robin- Turdus migratorius
18. Canada Goose- Branta canadensis
19. White-throated Sparrow- Zonotrichia albicollis
20. Northern Cardinal- Cardinalis cardinalis
21. Mourning Dove- Zenaida macroura
22. House Finch- Carpodacus mexicanus
A total of 22 species isn't too shabby. 



Black-capped Chickadee checking me out


It is definitely a good time to keep our eyes open for some rare birds.  Recently around CT there have been a number of birds from the West Coast, South America, and Europe all stopping in to visit.  There's always a chance one could make a rest stop here as well.



Mice moved into one of the bird houses
If you feel a hankering to go take a walk around campus at lunch time to see some birds, I'd be more than willing to have some company.  
by Lynn Jones

Monday, November 29, 2010

Turkeys at West Campus

With our flock of Wild Turkeys being familiar to most of the human inhabitants of West Campus, I just want you all to know that I'll be taking a head count.
The week before Thanksgiving I had a high count of 19 birds - three of which were big tom turkeys... if anybody's missing, well, let's just say I hope it was the work of the coyotes, and not destined for the dinner table!
Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving holiday, and maybe even a break from work or school.
Ciao,
Sue

Friday, November 19, 2010

#104 added this week!


Black-capped Chickadee, taken with my little Canon point-and-shoot, and cropped in Photoshop.

The New Haven Bird Club's winter feeder survey is once again underway - which means we keep a weekly tally of individuals seen in the courtyard. Food sources include our three feeding stations, fruiting trees and shrubs, ornamental grasses, and despite the best efforts of the groundskeepers - weeds! Sparrows love weed seeds.


If chickadees become habituated to your feeding stations, and your movements, you may be able - with MUCH patience - to get them to take seed from your hand.


I'm not implying I had any success in that department - at least not here at West Campus. After all, I don't get paid to habituate chickadees!

This week's birds:
Wild Turkey
Canada Goose
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull, Larus marinus
- #104
Merlin
Red-tailed Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Northern Harrier

Wednesday was a wild day, with gusty winds from the south, and we kept an eye to the sky for wind-blown birds. The result was our first Great Black-backed Gull for West Campus - common on the coast a mile away, but the first time we've recorded it in our airspace!

Then today (Friday) was also windy - and we had a pretty good batch of raptors - Cooper's and Red-tailed Hawks, a Merlin and a Northern Harrier.

Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Northern Flicker
Downy Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
American Robin
European Starling
Northern Mockingbird
Black-capped Chickadee
Carolina Wren
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Warbler sp. either Pine or Blackpoll

Either one would have been a great bird - the Pine new for West Campus, and the Blackpoll a new bird for me - but sadly I had only a fleeting look, and for me these birds are pretty similar-looking... more yellow, less yellow, more streaky, less streaky, yellowish eye-ring, whiteish eye-ring... just too many important details that I missed

Northern Cardinal
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
American Goldfinch
House Finch
Purple Finch
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Sparrow

Thirty-one species for the week - still quite respectable for early morning, late afternoon and a little lunchtime birding.


my November birding gear

Info on feeder survey, taken from NHBC's website:
NHBC 18th Annual Winter Feeder Survey
November 1, 2010 through March 31, 2011
This is a yearly census to help determine the number and frequency of birds visiting feeders in the Greater New Haven area. You are invited to observe and record the activity at your feeder at least once a week for the entire time period.
Contact-Peter Vitali: 203.288.0621,vitali_peter_e@sbcglobal.net

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Still finding new birds!!!

These photos illustrate two phenomena which started off our week... The snow is one, but the other is that I had to use the flash at 4:45 in the afternoon to make a decent photo - we've gone back to standard time.

Pretty horrible photos, but the snow was almost gone by the time I got my camera out at the end of the day - and I tried to include a little autumn color as well


So the new bird for the week - very exciting to have another of those infrequent "winter finches" on campus. A couple of Purple Finches made an appearance yesterday afternoon (Thursday) while Lynn was out at lunchtime. We like to think it's serendipity - she was out... they appeared.

When you think about it, 136 acres, one person out birding, it's almost needle-in-a-haystack - except that we increase our chances by looking in the right habitat. Lynn was watching a little flock of House Finches in the brambles along our building and noticed a different-sounding and more richly-colored male fly overhead.

She immediately thought - purple finch? I'll have to listen to the calls when I'm back at the computer... well, a few minutes later she found a group of easily recognized females. That clinched it - species number 102 for West Campus.

Birds for the week!
Wild Turkey
Canada Goose
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Red-tailed Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
Monk Parakeet

Blue Jay
American Crow
European Starling
American Robin
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Mockingbird
Black-capped Chickadee
Brown Creeper
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Song Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
American Goldfinch
House Finch
Purple Finch - Carpodacus purpureus
Common Grackle
House Sparrow

Twenty seven species for the week - not too shabby considering we were on the other campus half of the week.

Breaking news! - this just in! - a fourth grade class was out on campus Friday afternoon, for a Peabody Museum educational program - and while out on a Hawk Watch saw seven raptors, comprising four species. They added two new species to this week's list:

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus
Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus

Taking a quick look at our West Campus list - I see that we have another new species for campus! - the Peregrine Falcon seen by the students and their leader Tom. Lynn and I haven't seen it definitively yet - so it goes on our short list of "seen by Tom but not by Sue and Lynn"!

video
This brief video illustrates why it's difficult to hear bird calls in certain parts of West Campus...

Friday, November 5, 2010

November - gray and rainy - but...

Yeah - tough to keep your spirits up when the day looks like this...
gray, rainy, cold. But then, you scan a flock of two hundred starlings for an interesting blackbird.

And you find - a Pine Siskin? really? We've been hoping for one, and they've been reported from towns all around us. The bird is not actually in the photo above - it had flown away already.

A Pine Siskin - Carduelis pinus - close relative of our ever-present American Goldfinch, they often feed together at feeding stations - as well as in the wild of course (same food supply). So, we'll wait for it to discover the thistle sock or the black-oil sunflower seeds that our other finches enjoy.


Suddenly the gray day isn't quite so gray. A Pine Siskin, imagine! - and fallen leaves of the Japanese Maple.


A beautiful little Pine Siskin, wow! and droplets of rain hanging from every branch of the Rosa multiflora.


- and actually appearing in this photo is another great bird for the week, go ahead, try to find it


It's a Fox Sparrow, Passerella iliaca - a large, bright rufous sparrow which usually passes through Connecticut in the "shoulder seasons" during March and November.


- this time a little more concealed, but the overall rufous coloring, gray on the cheeks and crown, and bright white belly visible

Great way to end the week!
Birds for the first week of November, 2010:

Wild Turkey
Canada Goose
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Turkey Vulture
American Kestrel
Red-tailed Hawk
Accipiter sp. - really large Cooper's or a Goshawk?
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker

Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
American Crow
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Black-capped Chickadee
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Northern Cardinal

Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch
Pine Siskin - Carduelis pinus
species number 101 for West Campus
House Finch
House Sparrow

Still pulling nearly thirty species - say - did anyone see a pigeon this week? that would bring the list from 29 to 30.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Birding W-C presentation

Wednesday, Lynn and I were in the spotlight for a West Campus Brown Bag Lunch Presentation. "A Bird in the Hand is worth Two in the Bush - Why Bird Conservation at West Campus Matters"


Sue and Lynn with specimens from the collection, displayed for our audience.

We set up a slide show, narrating the photos as we progressed from Past, through Present, to Future. The historical overview of conservation and education efforts by Bayer employees from 2000 to 2006 was pretty enlightening to our small audience. I'll have to fill you in on this another time.

The core of our presentation took us through a full year of birding on the campus, spanning the seasons, habitats, food sources, nesting, migration and species surveys. We ended with some hopes for future conservation efforts, in the direction of providing nest boxes for two of the state's "species of special concern" - the American Kestrel and the Purple Martin.


After the presentation, Sue T. and Maureen explore the display of mounted specimens, study skins, field notebooks and equipment (while munching on sugar cookies - hummingbirds and owls).

So, we DID get some birding done this week, between bouts of preparing for our presentation.

Birds for the final week of October:
Wild Turkey
Canada Goose
Red-tailed Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Turkey Vulture
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Northern Flicker

Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
Common Raven
American Crow
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Gray Catbird
Black-capped Chickadee
Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Okay, that's thirty species for the week - with some pretty nice birds in the list. Fun to have good looks at both species of kinglets, ravens and the immature White-crowned Sparrow - unfortunately though, I also picked up one of the latter, dead.

Halloween is almost upon us and cooler weather is pushing in again. We certainly enjoyed this week's respite - with spring-like temperatures in the 70's! Next week - NOVEMBER!!!!!!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sparrow season.


Immature White-crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
http://www.pbase.com/paulasullivan/white_crowned_sparrows

Hmm, Sparrow Season, that sounds a bit too much like duck season or deer season. Most of the neotropical migrants have already passed through on their way back to the tropics, and now is the time when we notice sparrows. They're seed-eaters, and we typically find them scratching under shrubs, skulking in dense tangles and searching the edges of gardens.

The sparrows we've seen at West Campus this week are typical for this time of year. Our year-round Song Sparrows, our winter White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos and our migratory Savannah and White-crowned Sparrows all made the checklist this week.

Many of our migrating birds head to warmer climes because their food supply (insects) is gone. But many of our familiar summer birds instead switch from a diet of invertebrates to a fruit-based diet. This conversion has been widely studied - with respect to nutrition, digestion, pre-migration fattening and food source availability.

The classic example from West Campus would be the American Robin - worms and insects in summer, berries and crab apples in winter. I've added a few reference articles at the end of this post.

Science in our back yard...

How about the week's bird list?
Wild Turkey
Canada Goose
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
American Kestrel
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove

Monk Parakeet
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
-- no Phoebes!! --
Bluejay
American Crow
American Robin
European Starling
Northern Mockingbird
Gray Catbird
Black-capped Chickadee

White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow - immature
Savannah Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco

American Goldfinch
House Finch
House Sparrow

Thirty-three species for the week. Not bad, still holding on to our decent numbers, but the days of a high count of twelve species for the week are ahead of us... o frabjous day! callooh! callay!
ciao, have a great weekend!
--Sue

There are so many articles on the subject of diet in birds, I chose one which was relevant to dietary shifts and pre-migratory fattening.
okay, and another one about sugar-rich vs lipid-rich fruit choice in the American Robin
there's so much more - I didn't even scratch the surface!

Friday, October 15, 2010

the Ides of October


Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca

Another week deeper into fall weather. We've had cold fronts push through, with temps just under 40 degrees at night, followed by sunny but blustery days. Our feeder birds have chosen their favorite feeding stations -- sunflower seeds in a tube, thistle seeds in a "sock", suet cakes, or sunflower in a shallow tray.

At the feeders this week we've seen:
1. Downy Woodpecker
2. American Goldfinch
3. House Finch
4. Black-capped Chickadee
5. House Sparrow

Under the feeders - the clean-up crew:
6. Mourning Dove
7. Song Sparrow

Other birds seen in the courtyard this week include:
8. American Robin
9. Eastern Phoebe

In the shrubs and tangles around building A-21 we've also seen:
10. White-throated Sparrow
11. Chipping Sparrow
12. Dark-eyed Junco
13. Northern Mockingbird


Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, with fruit and twigs of Rosa multiflora

Campus-fly-overs this week include:
14. Osprey
15. Red-tailed Hawk
16. Sharp-shinned Hawk - pursuing juncos
17. Herring Gull
18. Ring-billed Gull
19. Monk Parakeet
20. Red-winged Blackbird

And the ever-present:
21. Rock Dove
22. Canada Goose
23. European Starling

And saving the best for last:
24. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, seen by Lynn on Thursday
and
25. Brown Creeper, reported by Tom, also on Thursday


This is under the pines - what is it Lynn??
Looks like a young Amanita muscaria var guessowii or formosa, depending on which authority is recognized.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Raven!!


http://www.msjnha.org/

Late Friday afternoon, while guiding a group of Cub Scouts on a birding field trip at the Education Center, Tom Parlapiano caught sight of a larger than usual crow. Another second of observation, and he realized he had a raven.

Northern Raven, Corvus corax

The scouts had a chance to try out their binoculars on the raven - while Tom tried to impress upon them how special the bird really was.

Other birds Tom reported from the outing with the cub scouts, which are additions to my list from last week:
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Osprey
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Gray Catbird
Carolina wren

So, the week's list grew from my paltry 27 to an impressive 35, with the help of many extra pairs of eyes!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bioblitz - Stratford, Connecticut

A few photos to share from the Peabody Museum - Beardsley Zoo - Connecticut Audubon Bioblitz last weekend. More photos can be found at the Peabody's Bioblitz facebook page.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON, OCTOBER 8th

Stratford Point, Bioblitz HQ


Karen and Sue, one team of several, recording birds for the Blitz


Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola, feeding in the mudflats at low tide


several Northern Mockingbirds, Mimus polyglottos, were singing from any high perch


Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis - even fresh roadkill counts in the Bioblitz


Cottontail rabbit, Sylvilagus sp., seen at dusk on Stratford Point


in the interest of full disclosure, this is the cottontail photo before photoshopping


lights of Short Beach at after sunset

SATURDAY MORNING, OCTOBER 9th

Stratford Point Encampment at dawn


Raccoon tracks, Procyon lotor, in sandy flats near Short Beach


immature Yellow-crowned Night-heron, Nyctanassa violacea, near Short Beach


Great Egret, Ardea alba, near Short Beach


Double-crested Cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus, near Short Beach

SATURDAY AFTERNOON

Harley, Terry and Lynn of the Connecticut Valley Mycological Society identify and label fungi at Blitz headquarters


saltmarsh at Stewart B. McKinney National Seashore


high tide floods the path to the observation platform


Karen 'scoping the saltmarsh

So, our two-woman team had 60 species during the twenty-four hour period - and the total for the whole Blitz was 122 species. We had only one totally unique bird - the Black-throated Green Warbler, but several unique species were seen in "our territory" by others as well.
the White-tailed Kite, of course
the American Pipits, right on the sandy shore of Stratford Point
the American Bittern, in the saltmarsh pictured above
and the Common Nighthawk, which did a late-evening fly-over of the Point, witnessed by several astonished onlookers.
Hooray for lots of people being out birding - that's what I think.