Monday, December 19, 2011

112th Annual Christmas Bird Count

The year 2011 is the 112th CBC, the first official Christmas Bird Count was in the year 1900. There's a pretty long run of citizen science for you.

As we have for over a decade, Tom, Lynn and I each participated in our own regional counts on Saturday, which meant West Campus was not counted that day. Instead we counted here today, and by the official rules we cannot add numbers, only species to the official tally - and only if it's a species that was not found in the New Haven circle on Saturday.

Two years ago our Barred Owl was added as one of these "count week" species. Today we weren't able to add any new species, but put in a good birding effort anyway.

Here are the results:

number in party: 3 (Lynn, me, Tom)
party hours: 7 (6:45 to 2:15 with a lunch break)
weather conditions: cold 20-28F, clear and calm in the early morning, partly cloudy and breezy through the mid-day.
no snow, moving water was open, still water with thin ice
number of species: 34
number of individual birds: 454

31 Canada Goose
1 Mute Swan
5 Wild Turkey
1 Turkey Vulture
4 Red-tailed Hawk

75 Ring-billed Gull
20 Herring Gull
30 Rock Pigeon
10 Mourning Dove
3 Red-bellied Woodpecker

6 Downy Woodpecker
1 Northern Flicker
7 Blue Jay
40 American Crow
1 Fish Crow

8 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Tufted Titmouse
2 White-breasted Nuthatch
2 Carolina Wren
3 Ruby-crowned Kinglet

1 Hermit Thrush
50 American Robin
1 Gray Catbird
2 Northern Mockingbird
43 European Starling

9 Song Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow
14 White-throated Sparrow
1 White-crowned Sparrow
2 Dark-eyed Junco

14 Northern Cardinal
45 House Finch
10 American Goldfinch
20 House Sparrow

An excellent birding effort - beats our 2009 number by one, and the 2010 number by several - but last year's search was hampered by two feet of snow on the ground!

2010 results here
2009 results here

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mid-December update


Immature Cooper's Hawk, Accipiter cooperi, perched just a few meters above our feeders one morning last week. photo: Lynn Jones

December is just not a normal month. There's the transition from late fall to winter, when those warmish days are just fewer and farther between, and we resign ourselves to the fact of cold weather.
We have ways to deal with this.

If you're connected to students and the academic world in any way, there are end-of-semester issues. Grades and evaluations are due, plans are sketched out for second semester, last-minute challenges are par for the course.
We have ways to deal with this too.

And then there's the craziness of the "holiday season". THIS is self-inflicted, I mean the craziness part. The holidays, well they've all been around longer than we have, but what have we done to make them so crazy?
We have ways to deal with this too - GO BIRDING!!!!

It's time for the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, so tomorrow instead of joining the shopping craziness we birders will be out driving and walking our "territories" in search of every last chickadee, gull and wandering warbler we can find.


New squirrel baffle for one of our feeders - provided by Tony - the other two feeders are there in the background - one for sunflower seeds and the other for thistle seeds, which the finches are supposed to prefer.


West Campus bird list for the past two weeks, December 5-9 and 12-16, 2011:

Wild Turkey
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Red-tailed Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
Downy Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
10. Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
American Robin
European Starling
Northern Mockingbird
Black-capped Chickadee
Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
20. Dark-eyed Junco
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Twenty two species for the middle of December - probably just about what you'd expect.

Next week, Lynn and I will report on our West Campus Christmas Bird Count.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Sue and Lynn - West Campus birders - with camera trap.

The segue from November to December this week brought a few cold nights, but warm daytime temperatures linger still. Our sparrow population is down, but a good variety of thicket-haunting birds was around this week.

Ruby-crowned and
Golden-crowned Kinglets

Carolina and
House Wrens

Northern Mockingbirds and
Gray Catbirds

Dark-eyed Juncos and a
White-throated Sparrow

Blue Jays and
American Crows

House Finches and
American Goldfinches

Mourning Doves and
Rock Pigeons

Downy Woodpeckers and
Red-bellied Woodpeckers


Lynn keeps the courtyard fee
ders full.

Black-capped Chickadees and a
Northern Cardinal

American Robins and
European Starlings

Ring-billed and
Herring Gulls


Wild Turkey flock browsing? grazing? one morning this week.

Wild Turkey flocks
Canada Goose flocks, and a
Red-tailed Hawk
and always a few
House Sparrows

Twenty six species for the week - again, a week in which we didn't get outside much during the workday, but saw our good skulkers before work in the mornings.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Nocturnal visitors


Okay, here's something fun we've been trying for a few weeks - off and on...
We noticed some unusually large scat out in the courtyard and set up our camera trap to see who the nocturnal visitors might be. The possibilities are limited, since the area is only accessible via the trees - or via flight.


Virginia Opossum, Didelphis virginianus - North America's only native marsupial.

We were thinking it could have been a Gray Fox, since they're arboreal - and the scat was fairly large - so we'll keep trying! - fun stuff.

Bird list for the last few weeks (November 14-18 and 21-23, 2011):

Wild Turkey
Canada Goose
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Red-tailed Hawk
6. Cooper's Hawk

Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
Downy Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
11. Northern Flicker

Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
18. Cedar Waxwing


Celastrus scandens, Oriental Bittersweet - bad weed, but good food supply for the birds.

Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
House Wren
23. Carolina Wren

Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
House Finch
28. American Goldfinch
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole - two!!
31. House Sparrow


Diverse habitat near the Leaf Pile - some bittersweet, some Phragmites, some open woodland.

This is often a good place for morning bird activity - in fact on a warm, humid morning earlier this week, this spot was alive with birdsong. Robins were singing, the Baltimore Oriole sang a few notes, White-throated and Song Sparrows joined in. Felt like spring!

Monday, November 14, 2011

An unseasonably warm week - such a pleasure, after a string of frosty mornings, well, and not to forget the big snowstorm 2 weeks back.

Bird list for the week of November 7-11, 2011.

Wild Turkey
Canada Goose
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Red-tailed Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
American Crow - 89 birds counted
Fish Crow - 12 birds counted
(the West Haven crow roost is gathering again!)


American and Fish Crows gather on a West Campus rooftop.

American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Carolina Wren
Black-capped Chickadee
American Goldfinch
House Finch
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Eastern Towhee
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Sparrow

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Catching up


fall colors afloat on the Oyster River

Among other excuses, I have had a cold for the past two weeks and opted to stay indoors knitting, rather than go out birding - so, the list this week is 100% attributable to Ms. Lynn Jones - her photos too.

Bird list for the week of October 31 through Nov 4th.

Wild Turkey
Canada Goose
Great Blue Heron


Ardea herodias, G B H, passing through West Campus

Ring-billed Gull
5. Herring Gull
Killdeer
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
American Kestrel
11. Mourning Dove

Rock Pigeon
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
American Crow
16. Fish Crow
Common Raven
Blue Jay


A small amount of birding involves unsolved mysteries. Here's half a hawk Lynn saw this week. An immature Buteo? - I was going for young Red-tail, based on the rufous head, pale belly, dark back, vertical streaking. Who knows?...

American Robin
Hermit Thrush
21. Tree Swallow

European Starling
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Black-capped Chickadee
Song Sparrow
26. White-throated Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Brown-headed Cowbird
31. House Sparrow


Here's a beauty - the Blue-headed Vireo, Vireo solitarius, Lynn saw last week.

New Haven Bird Club's Feederwatch (link, or see below) started this week, and Lynn has begun keeping a tally of our feeder birds, as she has for the past two winters. So far, the usual visitors are a pair of Blue Jays, a few chickadees and sparrows, Mourning Doves, woodpeckers and a gray squirrel. This week a huge flock of juncos descended - sixty at the highest count!

NHBC 19th Annual Winter Feeder Survey November 1, 2011 through March 31, 2012 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

So, in last week's post I mentioned a taste of winter, with more to come. Saturday, October 29th the northeastern US was hit with a snowstorm - a nor'easter on a scale usually only seen in mid-winter. [hmm, interestingly, I took no photos] Parts of the state were without power for 7, 8, nine days, as heavy snow brought down trees which still had a full complement of leaves.

Read Scott Kruitbosch's well-written account of the storm - from the perspective of a birder. Local news media provided plenty of coverage of the storm's aftermath - from the perspective of disgruntled customers of the state's electric utilites. Now, close to two weeks after the storm, here's a link to a blog in which the writer posted power outage maps for October 31st.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Still an occasional migrant.


Merlin, Falco columbarius, digiscoped photo by Tom Parlapiano. The Merlin put in a few appearances at the other end of campus this week - most dramatically when Tom was out with a group of schoolchildren studying trees and identifying leaves.

In late October we still see the occasional migrant - a raptor here, a swallow there, and a few songbirds lingering. Lynn's special find of the week was a Blue-headed Vireo (photo in next week's post!). We've seen this bird on campus during both spring and fall migrations, and it's always a treat to see again.

This week saw cooler temperatures with mostly sunny skies, and one rainy day that changed to snow overnight. I should amend that - it snowed in my corner of the state, but along the coast, no.


My car early this morning - pretty sure I'm not ready for winter yet - but I hear this was just a test run. More arriving soon, as in, tomorrow - Saturday.

Bird list for the week of October 24-28, 2011.

Wild Turkey
Canada Goose
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
5. Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
10. American Kestrel

Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
15. Eastern Phoebe
American Crow
Fish Crow
Blue Jay
Blue-headed Vireo
20. American Robin

Hermit Thrush
Northern Mockingbird
Tree Swallow
Golden-crowned Kinglet
25. European Starling
Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
30. Savannah Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
American Goldfinch
House Finch
35. Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
House Sparrow


yes, MORE images of the famous albino squirrel of West Campus

Friday, October 21, 2011

Late-day birds.


Canada Geese, Branta canadensis, take over the parking lots after 5pm.


Hundreds of American Robins, Turdus migratorius, gather in the treetops to roost after 5pm.
Bird list for the week of October 17-21, 2011:

Wild Turkey
Canada Goose
Killdeer
Herring Gull
5. Ring-billed Gull


Killdeer, Charadrius vociferus, feeding in grassy strips in the parking lots - after 5pm.

Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
10. Broad-winged Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Falco sp.

Mourning Dove
15. Rock Pigeon
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker

Eastern Phoebe
Common Raven
20. American Crow
Blue Jay
American Robin
Hermit Thrush
Gray Catbird
25. European Starling


The third Killdeer - we often see three together.

Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Brown Creeper
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
30. Palm Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler

Northern Cardinal
Eastern Towhee
Song Sparrow
35. Swamp Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco

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

Forty four bird species, and for mammals - sightings of Red Fox, Eastern Striped Chipmunk, Eastern Gray Squirrel and White-tailed Deer. Early Friday morning, Lynn and I stood quietly and watched two bucks engage each other in some head-butting and antler-wrestling. One was an eight-point and the other looked to be a six-point buck.


The resident curiosity, an albino squirrel.

Does anybody have a decent photo of the albino Gray Squirrel who has been haunting the western end of West Campus? It was pretty high up in a nut tree when I got this too-distant photo.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Young Red-tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis, in the Sycamore tree in our courtyard, photo: Lynn Jones
Bird list for the week of October 10 through 14, 2011:

Wild Turkey
Mute Swan
Canada Goose
Killdeer
5. Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull

Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
10. Cooper's Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Peregrine Falcon
American Kestrel
Osprey
15. Northern Harrier

Hairy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
20. Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon


Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata, in a spruce in our parking lot. The jays are so visible this time of year, as they search for food to cache for the winter. You'll see them fly in one direction, then return with an acorn or beech nut, then over again, and back with something more.

Eastern Phoebe
American Crow
Fish Crow
25. Blue Jay
European Starling
House Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Golden-crowned Kinglet
30. Brown Creeper

American Robin
Swainson's Thrush
Northern Mockingbird
Palm Warbler
35. Common Yellowthroat

Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
40. Savannah Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco


Dark-eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis, in spruce forest in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. photo: Jorge de Leon.

House Finch
Brown-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
45. House Sparrow

I keep meaning to explain my groupings. Sometimes I group by fives to make it easier to count, sometimes I group by species, according to accepted avian systematics. We'll get into avian systematics another time, perhaps - but not on a Friday afternoon...

Have a good weekend!
Sue

Friday, October 7, 2011

October migrants


This is the approach path to "the leaf pile". Sparrows forage for grass seeds along the edge here, and many skulky bird species haunt the thickets down below the pile. We tend to name all of our birding hotspots on campus to simplify describing to each other where we saw something.

October migrants are definitely the sparrows!
Tuesday night October 4th, another storm system was pushed through by strong NW winds, bringing more migrants. This wave of birds was predominantly sparrows.

This week's birds, oh let's just start with the sparrows - all in the family Emberizidae which include juncos, towhees, new world sparrows and old world buntings.

Purple-colored species are those that just arrived this week:
White-throated Sparrow, Zonotrichia albicollis
White-crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
Song Sparrow, Melospiza melodia
Swamp Sparrow, Melospiza georgiana
5. Lincoln's
Sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii
Field
Sparrow, Spizella pusilla
Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
Dark-eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis
Sharptailed
sparrow, Ammodramus sp.
10. Eastern Towhee, Pipilo erythrophthalmus


Monarch Butterflies are still in migration too - on their way to Mexico.

Okay, now back to my usual systematic listing:
Wild Turkey
Canada Goose
Great Blue Heron
Ring-billed Gull
15. Herring Gull
Turkey Vulture

raptors:
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
20. Sharp-shinned Hawk
Osprey
Merlin
American Kestrel

and continuing along the non-passerine birds:
Rock Pigeon
25. Mourning Dove
Monk Parakeet
Downy Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern flicker
[NO hummingbirds this week]


Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula, Lynn's photo - beautiful - thanks!

and now to the passerines:
30. Common Raven
American Crow
Blue Jay
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
35. Black-capped Chickadee
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
House Wren
Red-eyed Vireo
American Robin
40. Swainson's Thrush
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird


Yellow-rumped [Myrtle] Warbler, Dendroica coronata coronata , a male, one of the photos showed a sliver of yellow on the crown, which only the male has. Another great photo Lynn - thanks!

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
45. American Goldfinch
House Finch
Northern Cardinal
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
50. House Sparrow

Looks like our species count has stayed pretty high this week, with a grand total of 50.


This week's casualties, picked up from various glass hazards around campus: Northern Parula (top), Red-eyed Vireo (left), Gray Catbird (right).

We write the collecting info for each bird on a scrap of paper and save it together with the little body in the freezer until we can prepare study skins to contribute to the Peabody Museum's research collection.


Study specimens that I prepared a few weeks ago from window-strike casualties. In front is an Ovenbird, in back a Red-eyed Vireo with a spread wing preparation for the same bird. The pins help keep the skin in position as it dries, and can be removed after a week or so. And now the specimens each have a Peabody Museum data tag which will be tied to the legs.


And I throw this photo in at the end as a little bonus for all of you rodent-lovers! Every day this week, in the mid-afternoon, Tom Parlapiano has seen this albino Gray Squirrel hanging out at the west end of campus.

Monday, October 3, 2011

September wrap-up, oh, and another new bird


Common Raven in flight. Lynn's photo. We watched two of them during one lunch-hour, hanging out in their favorite spot - on top of C-32 at West Campus. At one point, one of the pair returned with a prey item, and we soon saw feathers floating from the rooftop. Bet there's all kinds of vertebrate remains up there!

For the final week of September our birding efforts were hampered by a few rainy days, but we managed to keep the species count high. Or rather, the birds kept on coming, and we were lucky to have lunchtimes available to get out for some birding.

Bird list for the week of September 26 - 30th, 2011.

Wild Turkey
Canada Goose
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
5. Killdeer


Lynn's photo, at some distance, and through glass, of this week's new bird:

Spotted Sandpiper, Actitis macularius name links to Cornell University's All About Birds page on this species - scroll down to images at the bottom of page and look for the bird in non-breeding plumage - that's who dropped by early Monday morning last week to pay us a visit!
This is the first member of family Scolopacidae for our West Campus birding list. Our resident Killdeer, although we group it with sandpipers in a general way, is a plover, family Charadriidae.

And a good push of migrating raptors came through on the post-rain windiness. Few in numbers but high in diversity:
Osprey
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
10. Broad-winged Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Merlin
Kestrel
15. Turkey Vulture

Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
20. Northern Flicker
Ruby-throated Hummingbird


Yeah, here's one of our very own ravens!! such a nice ravenesque profile! Lynn's photo

Common Raven
American Crow
Fish Crow
25. Blue Jay

Eastern Phoebe
Cedar Waxwing
European Starling
Red-eyed Vireo
30. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Black-capped Chickadee
House Wren

Palm Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
35. Blackpoll Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Northern Waterthrush


Asters, goldenrod, mugwort, ragweed - fall greenery in every unmowed corner of campus.

American Robin
Gray Catbird
40. Northern Mockingbird

American Goldfinch
House Finch
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting

45. Song Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow

Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
50. Red-winged Blackbird

House Sparrow

Fifty-one species. Yeah, another fantastic week of migration activity over our hilltop here at West Campus. After the first few weeks of October, most of the raptors and warblers will no longer make our list but the diversity of sparrow species will hopefully continue to climb. And then.... the winter finches!!

Where's our Purple Finch, and our Pine Siskin? our Red-breasted Nuthatch and our White-winged Crossbill. Okay - which of those four species have we NOT seen yet at West Campus?

ha! - we birders ALways have something good to look forward to!!


As the leaves thin out in September, we notice more and more nests around campus. This one has a pretty high percentage of plastic in the construction - we'll do some research and see if we can match to the species, but I know that Kingbirds and some other flycatchers will use plastic, as a substitute for a more traditional building material: snakeskin! [Lynn's photo]

Monday, September 26, 2011

TWO new species!! and an all-time high list


Early fall color, Staghorn Sumac, Rhus typhina, family Anacardiaceae (comprising cashews and sumacs)

Bird list for the week of September 19-23, 2011:

Wild Turkey
Double-crested Cormorant
Canada Goose
Ring-billed Gull
5. Herring Gull

Great Black-backed Gull
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
Red-tailed Hawk
10. Sharp-shinned Hawk

Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Monk Parakeet - flock of twenty flew over
Downy Woodpecker
15. Hairy Woodpecker - one heard calling

Northern Flicker - many
Chimney Swift - a few still in migration
Ruby-throated Hummingbird - still high numbers, as many as six at one time
Eastern Kingbird - one
20. Eastern Phoebe - several
Eastern Wood-Pewee - one

All of the possible corvidae!!:
Common Raven
American Crow
Fish Crow
25. Blue Jay


Lynn and I were called to the scene of a panicked fledgling goldfinch in the grass. Grounds crewmember Jeff was mowing when this youngster fluttered down out of a pine and landed just in front of the mower. I scooped up the bird and returned it to a branch in the white pine (probably its natal tree) where it sat quietly as its parents called from a nearby tree.

Red-eyed Vireo - very common this week
Cedar Waxwing - flocks
European Starling
American Robin

All of the possible mimidae!!:
30. Northern Mockingbird
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher - seen on two separate days at the same spot!!

House Wren
Carolina Wren
35. Black-capped Chickadee
Palm Warbler - seen on two separate days at the same spot - oh did I already use that line?
Magnolia Warbler
Pine Warbler, Dendroica pinus - (click name) a new bird for West Campus!! - was feeding in a scotch pine mid-week, I had a brief view before it flew off
Yellow-rumped Warbler
40. Common Yellowthroat

Wilson's Warbler, Wilsonia pusilla - another new bird for our West Campus list!! - seen Wednesday late afternoon and twice on Thursday by Tom and Lynn - in the thickets in the "leaf pile" - I tried for it again in the rain on Friday morning, but had no luck

American Goldfinch
House Finch
Northern Cardinal
45. Indigo Bunting

Song Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow - first of the fall
White-throated Sparrow - first of the fall
Baltimore Oriole
50. Common Grackle

Brown-headed Cowbird
House Sparrow

Fifty two is an all-time high species count for a week at West Campus!

And if we had added one of the birds below, well, that would have made 53.


Black-throated Green Warbler and Ruby-throated Hummingbird found under the corridor of doom earlier in the week. photo from Lynn's phone

For every little corpse we find, hundreds more across the migratory flyways of North America have met a similar fate, colliding with windows or communications towers.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Second Annual "Lynn's Birthday Hawkwatch"

The weather was perfect this morning for migrating birds - a cold front came through last night. The wind was out of the northwest all morning, shifting to west during the afternoon. Winds were generally light, from 5 to 10 mph, with gusts up to 15mph. The temperature rose from 55 degrees F at 9am to 65 at 3:30pm. Humidity was low, between 37 and 41%.


Our work table. Field guides, notebook, raptor chart, camera, ... and coffee.


A beautiful patch of sky. Hawks show up as black dots against the clouds, which makes them marginally easier to detect than against the blue. Clouds also serve as reference points, as in - to the right of the wispy edge, or below the long thin cloud.


Tom watching for kettles of Broad-winged Hawks and Lynn checking to see what other hawkwatchers are reporting.

Very tired now after 6 1/2 hours of hawk-watching - will fill in the list later :-)
Highlights were 1738 Broad-winged Hawks and 123 Chimney Swifts and two Bald Eagles.

Back again on Saturday morning - with the numbers from the hawkwatch and a bird list for the week. Most "real" hawk-watches count only truly migrating birds - for example the Osprey cruising high overhead in a southwesterly direction and not the Osprey flying over the treetops carrying a fish. Here we have included every bird that we saw, regardless of its residential status.

9:20am to 3:45pm Friday, September 16, 2011 - Yale West Campus, Orange, CT, USA. This is the list we submitted to e-bird, for a total of 34 species.

Turkey Vulture 4
Osprey 17
Bald Eagle 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 33
Cooper's Hawk 6
Accipiter species 22
Red-shouldered Hawk 6
Broad-winged Hawk 1738
Red-tailed Hawk 7
Buteo species 26
American Kestrel 6
Merlin 1
Falco species 1
Ring-billed Gull 1
Herring Gull 6
Rock Pigeon 12
Mourning Dove 18
Chimney Swift 123
Ruby-thrtd Humbrd 5
Red-bellied Wdpkr 1
Northern Flicker 3
Eastern Wood-pewee 1
Empidonax sp. 1
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Blue Jay 20
American Crow 4
Tree Swallow 1
Barn Swallow 5
Blck-cap'd Chickadee 3
American Robin 3
Gray Catbird 2
European Starling 54
Cedar Waxwing 10
Magnolia Warbler 2
Red-winged Blckbrd 3
Common Grackle 3
House Finch 3
American Goldfinch 4

Ebird seems to not count those we listed as Genus sp., but I will include the Empidonax, since it was unique, bringing our day total to 35.

And now the additional species for the week - which includes the regulars, such as our Wild Turkeys and some migrating warblers!

Wild Turkey
Belted Kingfisher
Killdeer
Downy Woodpecker
Fish Crow
Northern Mockingbird
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Northern Parula Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Sparrow

The total week's list is forty nine species - a great week for Birding West Campus!
Tom - is there anything else you saw during the week that could bring our total to a nice round number - FIFTY!??

Monday, September 12, 2011

Nighthawks!

Common Nighthawk, Cordeiles minor
I could have slipped this in to Friday's post, but since it was a new species for campus, opted for a dedicated post. The Common Nighthawk (link to images & calls) is a bird we see regularly this time of year, but always at dusk, after we've departed West Campus for the day. So, for the sake of a new species for our list I stayed late at work on Friday. High over the parking lot just before 5:30, as I watched yet another Osprey through the binoculars, one nighthawk, then another passed through my field of view.

I just searched the web for an image approximating my view, link here:

Our Common Nighthawk belongs to the family Caprimulgidae, Order Caprimulgiformes. The latin name means "goat sucker", which reflects old popular lore that the birds sucked milk - from goats.

Nighthawks gather in large flocks this time or year, towards dusk, with migratory flights known to number 1000 birds. The birds feed as they fly - catching insects on the wing, both at high and low altitudes. So, look skyward in the late afternoon towards dusk, for these slender-winged birds, with their strange floppy-looking wingbeat, hawking insects over a clearing or a watercourse.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hawk-watch season


Lynn and Sue out on a West Campus hawkwatch. All of today's photos from my camera (S. Hochgraf)

Four days of rain lends itself neither to bird activity nor birding activities, so we were very happy to get out for an hour at lunchtime today (Friday) to scan the clear skies for migrating raptors.

Our efforts yielded one American Kestrel, one Cooper's Hawk and one possible Northern Harrier, and both last and least, more than a half dozen Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. The local Red-tailed Hawks, Ospreys and Herring Gulls added to the oh-so-blue skies.

Weather reports earlier in the week indicated the winds today would be from the northwest, which helps push all migrants along - instead it was from the southwest, so, not much was moving.

The regular bird activity for the week of Sept. 6-9, 2011 - as much as we could see between raindrops:

Double-crested Cormorant
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
5. Mourning Dove
Northern Flicker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
10. American Crow
Blue Jay
European Starling
American Robin
Cedar Waxwing
15. Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
American Goldfinch
Common Grackle
House Sparrow


Hawkwatchers with charts of raptor silhouettes - even so, we still miss some identifications.

The raptor list:
20. Osprey
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
25. American Kestrel
Bald Eagle

Migration is an amazing fall spectacle to us birders, but for the birds, especially the small passerines, it's fraught with dangers - some of which we create right here on West Campus with our large expanses of glass.
A Chestnut-sided Warbler hit a window just this morning - one of those sad moments when we exclaim that we haven't yet seen this species alive here on campus.

Chestnut-sided Warbler, Dendroica pensylvanica, in fall plumage.

A neotropical migrant, this species leaves its eastern North American breeding grounds in August, passes over the Gulf of Mexico, and winters in Central America. The migratory flights take place at night and usually end by dawn, but there can be limited daytime movement after landing. This individual was probably exhausted after a night of flying, took refuge here on campus and during rest or foraging became disoriented or was disturbed and flew into the window.

Chestnut-sided Warbler, Dendroica pensylvanica, in fall plumage.

The dorsal plumage has an indescribably brilliant quality - somewhere between neon green and green-gold and emerald green - and contrasted with the clear white breast and belly, it's a spectacular little warbler.

Friday, September 2, 2011

More than just birds...


Black Saddlebag, Tramea lacerata, in the skimmer family: Libellulidae, in the insect order Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) - Lynn's photo.

The butterfly nets in the storage room called to us today, and asked to be taken outside. I was the trip photographer, and mostly caught the flowers that the insects were feeding upon.


Left, a little low legume. Right, bindweed.

Eventually I can get these flowers identified a little better, but just wanted to post them, for now.


Left, thistle gone to seed. Right, Solidago species (Goldenrod).

We collected over a dozen species of butterfly, several grasshopper species, a tree cricket, katydid, beetles - and probably more.


Left, a primrose. Right, a purple composite.

While out prowling the edges of West Campus for small flying things, we managed to see a few larger ones. A young Red-shouldered Hawk flew in and perched on a nearby tree, giving us great views of this striking raptor.


Left, oregano. Right, a salticid spider.

The oregano was very fragrant - and the little jumping spider had blue pedipalps and lots of iridescence on its body.


Left, a yellow hawkweed. Right, chickory.


Left, a bluet (damselfly species). Right, crown vetch.

video
Junonia coenia, Buckeye

This is the first Buckeye I've ever seen. Okay, the second. The first was just a few minutes before, on the other side of the chain-link fence.

video
And here's Lynn butterflying.

Now for the bird list for the week of August 29 - Sept 2, 2011.
It was a fairly birdy week. Not in numbers of individuals, but in species, so here we go:

Wild Turkey
Canada Goose
Double-crested Cormorant
Turkey Vulture
5. Bald Eagle
Osprey
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
10. Herring Gull

Great Black-backed Gull
Killdeer
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
15. Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Empidonax sp. (small flycatcher, difficult to distinguish one from another)
20. Eastern Kingbird

Common Raven
American Crow
Fish Crow
Blue Jay
25. European Starling
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Barn Swallow
30. Tree Swallow

House Wren
Black-capped Chickadee
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart, male and female
35. Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
American Goldfinch
House Finch
Common Grackle
40. Red-winged Blackbird

Baltimore Oriole (a low fly-over)
House Sparrow

Hmm - I believe I said fairly birdy - I had no idea we had forty two species for the week. For us here at West Campus, that qualifies as a distinctly birdy week! And as more fall migrants move along the coast, or overland from the north, we'll pick up some interesting additions - hopefully!

Have a good long weekend. Labor Day in the US of A. Time to celebrate working people, and the rights earned for us through the struggles of generations of workers who came before us and through our labor unions who still fight for us. And for those interested in learning about our other Labor Day, read through this article.