Friday, May 28, 2010

A Warm Week!

Rosa multiflora, photo S.Hochgraf

With the warm weather this week, the Multiflora Rose burst into bloom all over the state. An unwelcome invasive in many places, it's a fantastic food source for both insects and birds at West Campus. While photographing the shrubs I was surrounded by the scent of the blossoms, maybe overwhelmed is a better word!

Melospiza melodia, digibinned photo: S. Hochgraf

As long as I had the camera out I tried to capture an image of this territorial Song Sparrow, through my binoculars. He's probably nesting in the rose brambles, along with Yellow Warblers and perhaps Catbirds as well.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Last Week's bird list

I just wanted to post the cumulative bird list from last week - neither Lynn nor I were birding West Campus on Friday, so it's a Monday through Thursday list.

1. Wild Turkey
2. Red-tailed Hawk
3. Osprey
4. Herring Gull
5. Ring-billed Gull
6. Great Blue Heron
7. Rock Pigeon
8. Mourning Dove - nesting at W. C., saw a fledgling sitting on the ground
9. Northern Flicker - nesting at W. C.
10. Chimney Swift

11. Northern Mockingbird
12. Gray Catbird - probably nesting
13. American Robin - nesting at W. C.
14. Blue Jay
15. American Crow
16. Barn Swallow
17. European Starling - probably nesting
18. House Wren - probably nesting
19. American Goldfinch
20. House Finch - probably nesting

21. Yellow Warbler - probably nesting
22. Magnolia Warbler, Dendroica magnolia - new!
23. Black-throated Blue Warbler
, Dendroica caerulescens - new!
24. American Redstart, returning migrant
25. Common Yellowthroat
26. Ovenbird
27. Northern Cardinal - probably nesting
28. Song Sparrow - probably nesting
29. Chipping Sparrow
30. Common Grackle

31. Baltimore Oriole
32. Red-winged Blackbird
33. Brown-headed Cowbird
34. House Sparrow - nesting at W. C.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


In the space of thirty minutes and the length of the drive through West Campus this morning I snapped a few photos to share. Above is the clearing with the brambles - always a lot of bird activity here. I watched a brilliant Yellow Warbler and heard a vireo of some kind - not seen and I don't know the songs well enough to identify by ear. Then a deer which had been browsing (in the foreground of the photo) startled and bounded away.

This buck White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) remained watchful while the first deer departed the scene. He stayed long enough for me to run back to my car for the camera!

Driving through the parking lot with the car window rolled down I heard a Chipping Sparrow and an unfamiliar warbler song. Eventually the bird popped out into view - a Common Yellowthroat - I'm actually watching it in the photo above.

This little guy, an Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus), had probably collided with a window at one of the entry gates. Tony spied it just sitting on the pavement as he drove in and alerted Lynn and me to come and have a look. Lynn came prepared with a small box to retrieve it if necessary, but it managed to run to cover on its own.

All of this before a day's work - doesn't get much better.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Rainy Tuesday

There isn't much to report today. The House Sparrows have just consumed the last of our bird seed, so that's it until fall, probably. The Mourning Doves and Brown-headed Cowbirds appreciate the seeds scattered by the sparrows, but there is abundant natural food at this time of year, so no worries there.

We are trying to attract a Ruby-throated Hummingbird with this sugar-water feeder. Our birding efforts here at West Campus caught the attention of a post-doctoral student at Yale who wants to do some high-speed photography of the local hummingbirds. He asked me to put up a feeder to see if any were around.

Chris Clark has done research in California on the Anna's Hummingbird, and was curious to learn whether the Ruby-throated Hummingbird also produced a mechanical sound in its aerial displays. He handed me a feeder, saying - if they're around, they'll come.

Right now Chris is at Big Bend National Park in Texas, studying a few of the local hummingbirds there. When he returns in a few weeks, hopefully we'll be able to report that we have hummers here too. The feeder has been up two weeks now, with no sightings yet. Everyone in the building is keeping an eye out!

Yesterday morning we had three new warblers!!
Black-throated Blue Warbler, Dendroica caerulescens
Magnolia Warbler, Dendroica magnolia
American Redstart, Setophaga ruticilla

All three were in the tree-tops in the parking lot first thing in the morning. This isn't much of a habitat, but it apparently met their needs. Hungry birds need to refuel with huge amounts of tiny caterpillars and insects before continuing on their northward flight.

This past weekend was another amazing one for birders in New England. Last Thursday a weather system came through, pushing a wave of migrants along with it. This radar site is showing rain over Connecticut right now (Tuesday afternoon), but on a clear night if there are spots of color on the radar -- it could be migrating birds!

Friday morning people were reporting huge numbers of warblers in such local birding hotspots as East Rock Park in New Haven. Huge numbers - I guess it's a relative term - a group saw 21 different species. Twenty-one different species of warbler. You remember those long winter months when we couldn't even report twenty species of birds in a day!

okay, enough enthusing for now
get out and enjoy the green

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday summary

Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula, photo L. Jones

Another week with a pretty high species count (33) including a returning migrant. Perhaps my favorite little bird of the fall migration was the Blue-headed Vireo, which we saw on several occasions one week. It was back in the same area this chilly May week.

Canada Goose
Wild Turkey
Red-tailed Hawk
Turkey Vulture
Great Egret
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove

Downy Woodpecker, Picoides pubescens, photo L. Jones

Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Chimney Swift
European Starling
Blue-headed Vireo
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Blue Jay
American Crow

House Wren, Troglodytes aedon, photo L. Jones

House Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Barn Swallow
Yellow Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Song Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
American Goldfinch
House Finch
Baltimore Oriole
Brown-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
Red-winged Blackbird (sorry Nate, I left this off the list on Friday!)
House Sparrow (also omitted on Friday)

Have a good weekend, enjoy the predicted warm weather, and keep your eyes and ears alert for some new birds.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Time for some color!

American Goldfinch, Carduelis tristis; photo: Lynn Jones

Yesterday when Lynn and I headed out for a lunchtime walk, she brought along her camera, intending to add some color to my blog. Admittedly it has been quite without photos lately, as I've been sensitized to the fact that photographers don't want random people using their photos without permission. So, as you've noticed I've been just directing you to their sites.
Whatever. I understand.

Yellow Warbler, Dendroica petechia, photo: Lynn Jones

Spring is in the air -- love is in the air -- these Yellow Warblers were perhaps "just practicing"? To us it looks like two males. Anybody have some insight here?

Baltimore Oriole, Icterus galbula, photo: Lynn Jones

Lynn calls this a "crappy photo". Well, anyone who has tried to photograph birds knows how much time you have to spend in the field, and how many photos you have to take to get one really good one. So, I appreciate this photo anyway, Lynn - crappy or not!

The orioles have been around for more than a week already, but this one was the first we actually laid eyes on. It's a young male who hasn't finished his molt - and quite frankly his song was a little sketchy too.

This week we have added another new bird species, but I'll save it for the big summary list on Friday...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Friday's Ovenbird sighting

I just wanted to share the details of our Ovenbird sighting. Friday morning, Lynn and I happened to arrive at the front entry to A-21 at the same time. We swapped "what did you see" lists for a minute then both saw a bird fly from a shrub down to the ground. Determined never to say "oh it was just a Song Sparrow" we both pulled out binoculars, and Lynn found it first, "It's an OVENBIRD!"

It ran along under the landscaping in front of the building, showing its orange crown outlined with black and white. We were intrigued by its rail-like posture and movements, as it held the tail at an upward angle and walked with a somewhat stalking gait.

We had great views of a pretty little wood warbler which is more often heard than seen.
The link is to Cornell University's other bird info page. (I usually send you to Birds of North America Online, this page is All About Birds)

Doing a google search just now for Ovenbird images, I came across a Robert Frost poem. Having grown up in New Hampshire, Frost is a poet near and dear to my heart, so here's his poem from the Mountain Interval collection, dated 1920. The Oven Bird.
and keep your ears open - the woods are FULL of song these days - I'm sure the Ovenbird is there

Friday, May 7, 2010

Additions to the List

The two birds at the top of the list (Red-breasted Merganser and Great Cormorant) were morning fly-overs a few weeks ago. I can't believe I didn't get them in the blog --- must have been mid-April, when some coastal birds who spend the winter here begin to head north. The cormorants were pretty low, in a nice "V" of about eight birds. The merganser was a male flying solo.
okay, ciao for now

Hooray for May!

Okay, since it's Friday, my plan is to list the birds we've seen all week. But first, a retraction.

My Wilson's Warbler became a female Yellow Warbler as the week went on. It was seen on three different occasions, and always in the company of a brilliant male Yellow Warbler. It had a little cap of grayish-black, like a Wilson's Warbler not fully molted to breeding plumage - or as it turns out, like a Yellow Warbler not fully rid of those same dull winter feathers. I could go on and rehash why I thought it was, why I thought it wasn't, but the matter is settled and I don't want to think about it anymore!!

But we've had so much fun birding this week.
Some are species we saw briefly in the fall, and many more are brand new, since they had passed through on migration before we started watching. So, here we go:

This week's birders:
Lynn, Sue, Tom, Debby, and everyone who has noticed the feeder birds, and turkeys, geese and others while out on their lunchtime walks.

This week's birds:
boldface is new for the season, green color is also new for our list

Canada goose
Mallard (a pair on the Oyster River)
Wild Turkey
Common Loon (morning fly-over)
Great Blue Heron (afternoon fly-over)
Osprey (a pair, one carried a fish)
Red-tailed Hawk
Merlin (twice this week)
Killdeer (probably nesting on campus)
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker (nesting on campus)
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Barn Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
House Wren (at least two territories being established, one in front of A-21, and one at the top of the nature trail)
American Robin (nesting)
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Yellow Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow (nesting)

And heard but still not seen, so we won't "count" them yet:
Baltimore Oriole
Warbling Vireo

Monday, May 3, 2010

The migrants are here!!

Wow, warm weather finally pushed northward after the cool weather of last week, and Connecticut had a major fallout of spring migrants over the weekend. The local list-serves are just buzzing with reports.
I spent about ten minutes outside after lunch - which only whet my appetite for more!

New migrants seen:
Yellow Warbler, Dendroica petechia
Wilson's Warbler, Wilsonia pusilla
House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
(seen once in the fall)
Chimney Swift, Chaetura pelagica

and a few heard but not seen - I won't count them yet, but at least I've made a record of their presence here at West Campus:
Baltimore Oriole, Icterus galbula
Common Yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas (seen once in the fall)

From Friday and Saturday last week, Tom reported another three new species for our list - thanks Tom!!:
Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica
Blackpoll Warbler, Dendroica striata
Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus

This list of names on a page, little black scratchings on your screen, cannot describe these birds - do an image search for the Yellow and Wilson's Warblers to feast your eyes on mother nature's beauty! Listen to the the songs of the House Wren and Baltimore Oriole (scroll about 1/3 down the linked page for the recorded songs).