Friday, June 25, 2010

Summer!


Footbridge reflected in Oyster River, photo S. Hochgraf

So, yes - summer has arrived with a bang! Hot weather, afternoon thunderstorms - and even a tornado. Yesterday afternoon a fast-moving storm blew through the northeast, causing severe damage in Bridgeport, fifteen miles from West Campus. The rain came down in such a torrent that looking out from our building you couldn't see the other side of the parking lot 30 meters away.


Bee balm (Monarda) and Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum) in the Butterfly Garden established by Bayer employees many years ago

Bee balm with bumblebee, both photos S. Hochgraf

Birds tend to be pretty quiet in the heat of the day, with a few notable exceptions - the Song Sparrows and House Wrens never stop singing. Our Yellow Warblers have been so quiet that instead of seeing them pop up everywhere, we now have to go looking for them. Raptors float lazily overhead, using warm thermal currents and the turkeys head for the shade.


Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo. These boys were checking out their reflections in the glass when I disturbed them for a photo.

Birds for the week:

Wild Turkey
Red-tailed Hawk
Osprey
Great Egret
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Northern Flicker
Eastern Kingbird
Willow Flycatcher
European Starling


Still no hummingbirds, but I moved the feeder to another location

Cedar Waxwing
Barn Swallow
Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
American Crow
Blue Jay
Northern Mockingbird
Gray Catbird
Carolina Wren
House Wren

American Robin
Black-capped Chickadee
Yellow Warbler
Common Yellowthroat - feeding nestlings!
American Goldfinch
House Finch
Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Common Grackle

Brown-headed Cowbird
House Sparrow

Thirty-two species for the week.


Blackberries ripening along a sunny edge - I'll have to remember to revisit these in a few weeks!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Willow Flycatcher still around

In the last two days, we've seen our Willow Flycatcher again. This time calling just quietly, with an occasional zhree-ew, rather than the typical, and oft-repeated, fitz bew call. The photo below is from the Friends of Sherwood Island web page which has an annotated gallery of excellent bird photos by A. J. Hand


Willow Flycatcher, Empidonax traillii, photo by A. J. Hand

Monday, June 21, 2010

It was a straight-forward week of birding here at West Campus as we approach the end of June.
I think we had nothing new last week, just our usual breeding birds and passers-by. We haven't made the time to get out for a long walk in quite a while, but end up listing what we see while passing through campus, or enjoying lunch outside.

Wild Turkey
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Red-tailed Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Killdeer
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Northern Flicker
Downy Woodpecker

Chimney Swift
Eastern Kingbird
Blue Jay
American Crow
Barn Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
House Wren
Cedar Waxwing
American Robin


European Starling
Northern Mockingbird
Gray Catbird
Yellow Warbler
Song Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
American Goldfinch
House Finch
Brown-headed Cowbird

Common Grackle
House Sparrow

Thirty two species for the week.


The color for today's blog is a drawing I just finished for a juried show of songbirds of the northeast. It's a Blue-winged Warbler, done in colored pencil. I haven't done any artwork in a very long time, so it was fun to work on this drawing, even though my skills felt so rusty!

In other birding news, I spent this past weekend participating in my local club's annual breeding bird survey. This works exactly like a Christmas Count, but over 48-hour period instead of 24. We targeted four protected areas within our section of the count circle - two were town parks and two were state wildlife management areas.

Given a choice of three count areas, we chose the one which included our house - and happily counted birds in our own yard while enjoying an afternoon cookout with friends! Species total was 54 - including Ruffed Grouse, American Woodcock, Eastern Wood Pewee and first of the year Prairie Warblers.

Friday, June 11, 2010

June - sun and rain


This was a perfectly perfect June week - bright sun, breezy, cloudy, showery - all with very pleasant temperatures. And... we had two new birds at West Campus - both perhaps attracted to our new grassland habitat.

Seems like the groundskeepers have decided to let the grass grow on the slopes near our building - which is wonderful, because this is where we've always seen sparrows, and even the Meadowlark last fall. Clearly it's a tricky area to mow, so it's now growing free, with many grasses, flowering legumes and composites, in purples, yellows and whites. This has attracted insects and the birds who feed on them, which leads us to both of our new birds for the week.


Eastern Kingbird, Tyrannus tyrannus, photo: S. Hochgraf

After a stormy Tuesday night, Wednesday morning was overcast and gray, but the air was warm and still. Lynn and Nate saw the Eastern Kingbird and called me over to have a look, and shortly after, I was distracted by another calling flycatcher. Fitz bew -- fitz bew -- fitz bew -- over and over again, so I knew it wasn't the local Mockingbird.

The Willow Flycatcher is more easily identified by this call than by other field marks. At lunchtime Lynn managed to get a photo, which when enlarged indeed showed a little Empidonax flycatcher. Both birds have been around for several days now.

Birds for the week of June 7-11:

Wild Turkey
Mallard
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Red-tailed Hawk
American Egret
Killdeer
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Northern Flicker


Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, photo S. Hochgraf

Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Kingbird, Tyrannus tyrannus
Willow Flycatcher, Empidonax traillii

Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
House Wren
Cedar Waxwing

European Starling
American Robin
Black-capped Chickadee
Northern Mockingbird
Gray Catbird
Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Yellow Warbler
Common Yellowthroat

Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch
House Finch
House Sparrow

Thirty six species for the week. And here's a short video clip of our grasses waving in the June breezes.
video

Game two of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa is about to begin - Uruguay vs France. Mexico and South Africa played to a 1-1 draw this morning. A full month of "the beautiful game" is ahead, until the championship game, July 11th. You can cheer for team USA against England on Saturday June 12th at 2:30pm EST. Watch it online ESPN-3 or on cable TV.

Friday, June 4, 2010

First week of June

We have had a stretch of beautiful warm sunny weather - punctuated by scattered showers and thunderstorms. Dragonflies are out in force, insect-eating birds are busy feeding youngsters and our local mammals have been noticeable too.


Eastern Striped Skunk, Mephitis mephitis, photo: T. Parlapiano


The many robin babies are in evidence - out of the nest, fluttering around after the parents and begging for earthworms. House Wrens, Yellow Warblers, Song Sparrows and more can be heard singing on their territories.

One lunchtime I heard a distant vireo singing, pursued it and was quite puzzled by the song. Occasionally it threw in thrush-like notes and catbird-like notes but always with the clear strong voice of a vireo. Finally I got the binoculars on it, a Red-eyed Vireo - not new, but still a great bird to see - especially after I worked so hard to find it.

Glad to report this week that Tom sighted Tree Swallows, and hopefully they're investigating one of the many nest boxes. So that's a new bird for campus - yippee.

Bird wrap-up for the week:
with contributions by Tom, Nate, Maureen, Vinny, Debby and me

Wild Turkey
Red-tailed Hawk
Osprey
Ring-billed Gull
Killdeer
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
American Crow

Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
Barn Swallow
Red-eyed Vireo
House Wren
Carolina Wren
Tufted Titmouse
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
European Starling

Northern Cardinal
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Song Sparrow
Yellow Warbler
Brown-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
Red-winged Blackbird
House Sparrow

Twenty nine species for this week.

I'll leave you with this little movie I made one lunchtime, as I crossed the Oyster River on stepping-stones. Turn up your volume, the sound of the running water is better than the quality of the video image!
video

Have a great weekend.
Ciao,
Sue

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Two new birds last week!

Again I'm getting last week's list posted a bit late - and especially since we had Monday off, so here goes. We seem to be settling into a bit of sameness, but then again we're still getting new species.

Wild Turkey
Ring-billed Gull
Killdeer
Osprey
Red-tailed Hawk
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
Northern Flicker
Great-crested Flycatcher, Myiarchus crinitus
Warbling Vireo, Vireo gilvus

Click on the new birds above - and play the voice recording on the linked page. Both are birds you'll hear before you see, so it's good to be familiar with the songs. Vireos especially, are a challenge to find as they quietly hunt for insects at the ends of leafy branches. Warblers are more active feeders so are easier to spot, but those vireos are a secretive group - except that they're quite vocal.

Blue Jay
American Crow
Cedar Waxwing
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
American Robin
Barn Swallow
European Starling

Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Yellow Warbler
American Goldfinch
House Finch
Brown-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
Red-winged Blackbird

What I need now is to just get out more! Back in April I thought some of our first returning migrants would be the Eastern Phoebe and the Tree Swallow - and believe it or not we still haven't seen either of these birds. I know it's just a matter of "time in the field", so if I eat lunch faster I can add 50% more birding time - we're talking an increase from 30 to 45 minutes. Hey, every little bit helps!