Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday List and a second new bird!

Birds at West Campus for the week of May 23 to 27, 2011:

Wild Turkey
Canada Goose
Double-crested Cormorant
Herring Gull
Killdeer
Red-tailed Hawk
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker

Eastern Wood Pewee, Contopus virens
Just this morning I was looking over our West Campus bird list and wondering what obvious species we had missed. This was one of them!! Out in the A-21 parking lot, I heard the classic "pee-o-wee?" and was delighted to find this phoebe-sized bird flycatching in the mid-day warmth.

list continues:
American Crow
Blue Jay
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
American Robin
Wood Thrush
Northern Mockingbird
Grey Catbird
House Wren
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
European Starling

and a warbler sub-section:
Yellow Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
American Redstart
Common Yellowthroat
Canada Warbler, Wilsonia canadensis

Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
American Goldfinch
Baltimore Oriole
Brown-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
Red-winged Blackbird
House Sparrow

Only 38 species for the week, with many omissions - but I'm not complaining - two new ones for the list. I definitely missed Lynn's pair of eyes. I'm pretty sure there was another Rose-breasted Grosbeak, another Scarlet Tanager, a Great-crested Flycatcher and in all likelihood a Blackpoll Warbler. But all I heard were snippets of song, and I saw nothing. Maybe next week.

The warm weather we've been having is perfect for flycatchers, such as the Eastern Kingbird, the above-mentioned Great-crested, the Willow and maybe even a few more new to W.C.!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Drive-by Birding and a new Warbler

So Monday, another day of rain... at least we had a decent weekend for a change!

Since I had to run a quick off-campus errand at lunchtime, and it was raining, I filled in the hour with some on-campus drive-by birding-by-ear.
Here's my list, with annotations:

American Robin, many, singing, carrying food
Grey Catbird, skulking under ornamental bushes


catbird photo from Tuesday, when it was sunny out

Blue Jay, seen flying
Herring Gull, fly-over
House Sparrow, flew from nest box
Rock Pigeon, occupying the top of a utility pole
Northern Flicker, peering from nest cavity in Maple tree
House Wren, singing near nest boxes
Yellow Warbler, singing from brushy edges
Barn Swallows, flying to nest at E-29
American Goldfinch, singing only
Red-eyed Vireo, singing over near SW perimeter fence
Wild Turkey, two males, near fence
Warbling Vireo, singing near Ray's corner (where he set up the big malaise trap last summer)
Baltimore Oriole, singing in woods behind Vireo place
Mourning Dove, flew in to perch in dead standing tree
Song Sparrow, singing from "sparrow nook"
Black-capped Chickadees, both in sumac near their nest box
European Starling, flew over
Canada Goose, a half dozen, near facilities building

twenty species for a little drive-through birding tour - a fun way to spend twenty five minutes at lunchtime

TUESDAY
I decided not to create a new post for Tuesday - just stuck it on to the end of Monday...

Wow - what a change. From yesterday's gray chill to today's tropical humidity!
Birds to add after another noontime outing at West Campus:

Killdeer, hadn't heard or seen these guys in a while
Common Grackle, might be nesting nearby
Brown-headed Cowbird, around....
Double-crested Cormorant, small flock overhead
Northern Mockingbird, singing, and foraging in the A-21 parking lot
Magnolia Warbler, in the A-21 parking lot - never pass up a unfamiliar little chip- chip
Chipping Sparrow, same place, trilling not chipping ;-)
Black-throated Blue Warbler, heard him calling, and he came right in to my pishing - I tried a photo, not worth sharing, but here it is anyway!


Black-throated Blue Warbler, Dendroica caerulescens, at the farthest optical zoom of my little Canon point-and-shoot - and then assisted a bit more with Photoshop.

Red-bellied Woodpecker, calling from tall trees
Common Yellowthroat, a female came and perched on the chain-link fence to have a look at the two-legged pisher
American Redstart, heard quite nearby, but never saw
Wood Thrush, wow, nice to hear this guy calling again
Red-winged Blackbird, seen calling high in the treetops
Canada Warbler, Wilsonia canadensis
(link to some great photos of this beauty)

The "Canada" was another example of Never pass up an unfamiliar song. I heard the song - no idea what it was, and searched the nearby bushes and had the briefest glimpse of the bird. Good thing I had seen one at home earlier in the spring - I knew the field marks. Bright yellow throat and breast, dark gray back and head, a bright white eyering, and a cool black necklace. Unique!

Another 14 species for a total of 34 in the first two days of the week - this glut of songbirds will not last, so we birders really get out to enjoy it while it does.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bird list for May 16-20


Deep in the Connecticut rainforest at West Campus - complete with moss and lianas.

Bird list for the week:
Lynn is away on vacation in coastal California - so the list is shorter for the lack of her usual prolific observations! However Tom contributed many sightings from his outings with school groups this week.

1. Canada Goose
2. Wild Turkey
3. Red-tailed Hawk
4. Osprey
5. Double-crested Cormorant - skein of over sixty
6. Herring Gull
7. Mourning Dove
8. Rock Pigeon
9. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
10. Downy Woodpecker
11. Northern Flicker
12. American Crow
13. Blue Jay
14. American Robin
15. Grey Catbird
16. European Starling
17. Barn Swallow
18. Red-eyed Vireo
19. Warbling Vireo
20. Yellow-throated Vireo, Vireo flavifrons - new for West Campus! I saw two of these, in the woods along the SW perimeter fence, but quite far from each other. One was definitely a female carrying nesting material!
22. Black-capped Chickadee
23. Tufted Titmouse
24. Carolina Wren
25. House Wren
26. Yellow Warbler
27. Northern Parula
28. Common Yellowthroat
29. Ovenbird
30. Northern Cardinal
31. Song Sparrow
32. American Goldfinch
33. House Finch
34. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
35. Common Grackle
36. Brown-headed Cowbird
37. Baltimore Oriole
38. Scarlet Tanager
39. House Sparrow
40. and Chipping Sparrow

Seemed like the sun was out just for me at noon. The wet leaves dripped and sparkled, the ground was soft and damp underfoot, and apparently I surprised a few of our larger mammals.


Coyote parent with three pups. One is visible here. Two were blonde like the one in the photo, and the third was quite a dark brindled gray.

In addition to the coyotes, other mammals on my quiet lunchtime walk were a white-tailed deer who bounded off from quite nearby and several chipmunks and squirrels who scolded me from the safety of their hidey-holes.


This large mole was abandoned by something - maybe the coyote family?

Looks like my photo isn't good enough for a positive ID, but I'm going with Star-nosed mole, Condylura cristata, on the basis of the rather long tail. The other options for moles in Connecticut are Eastern mole, Scalopus aquaticus, with a very short tail, and Hairy-tailed mole, Parascalops breweri, with a hairy tail shorter than this guy's.

Wow, you can really see my bird bias. Can't identify a mole when there are only three to choose from.
Hey - have a great weekend - maybe we'll get a little more sunshine.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mid-May Nest Box Update

This week we have taken a full survey of the occupants of our fourteen nest boxes. In most cases the birds have been seen to enter the boxes, in some cases we haven't had time to wait, and are making a guess based on behavior of a nearby bird.


This was a common sight throughout the state this week, as fruit trees lost their petals - in this case, all at once in a quiet way, just below the tree in our parking lot.

Nest Box Survey for May 16-20:

Nest Box 1 - for House Wren - occupied by rodents
Nest Box 2 - for House Wren - occupied by House Wrens
Nest Box 3 - for House Wren - stick nest, looks like House Wren
Nest Box 4 - for House Wren - House Wren singing nearby
Nest Box 5 - for Bluebird or Tree Swallow - occupied by House Sparrows
Nest Box 6 - for House Wren - empty
Nest Box 7 - for Bluebird or Tree Swallow - occupied by House Sparrows
Nest Box 8 - for House Wren - occupied by House Wrens
Nest Box 9 - for House Wren - occupied by Black-capped Chickadees
Nest Box 10 - for Black-capped Chickadee - occupied by House Wrens


Nest Box 11 - for Tree Swallow or Bluebird - Tree Swallow nesting attempt failed (dead adult found in box)
Nest Box 12 - for House Wren - occupied by rodents
Nest Box 13 - for American Kestrel - empty
Nest Box 14 - for House Wren - just installed this week


Reflections in a quiet pool of the Oyster River, in the Nature Preserve on West Campus.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

New to W.C. - Flying Squirrel Boxes


Tom preparing for a nest box installation in the Nature Preserve Wednesday at lunchtime.

While the spring warblers sang from the treetops overhead, West Campus Education Coordinator, Tom Parlapiano and I endeavored to anchor three more nest boxes on campus. This time in the hardwood bottomlands of the Oyster River, and this time, built for flying squirrels.


Flying squirrels are cavity nesters, choosing deserted woodpecker holes or other hollowed tree cavities. They are surprisingly common in suburban settings, and will also nest in buildings and bird boxes.

Connecticut has two species of flying squirrel, the northern (Glaucomys sabrinus), and southern, (Glaucomys volans). The southern flying squirrel prefers a habitat of mixed woodlands, particularly hardwoods, such as the hickories, beeches and maples along our Oyster River. The northern prefers coniferous or mixed deciduous-coniferous woodlands.


The entrance hole is sited to avoid prevailing winds, and you'll notice it's on the side of the box - since the squirrel will not land on the box itself, but on the opposite side of the tree then scamper around to the box. This is likely a maneuver for avoiding predators that may have detected them during the glide.

The newest "Curator's Choice" exhibit at the Peabody is all about gliding mammals - it's located in the main entry lobby of the museum. In addition to information about the structures and mechanics of gliding, there are several specimens on display, representing the diversity of mammals which have developed the ability to glide.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Migration rolls on - two more new species!

Indeed, by Tuesday lunchtime, we had seen two more new species for West Campus. Monday we found a Wood Thrush singing in the woods along the southeast perimeter fence, and Tuesday we found a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak feeding in the autumn olive and rose brambles bordering the nature preserve.

video
Crabapple blossom petals snowing down in a strong wind - a 15-second video I took Tuesday morning.

Bird list for the week of May 9 to 13, 2011:

Wild Turkey
Double-crested Cormorant - red is for arriving migrants
Canada Goose
Herring Gull
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk - thanks, Tom!
Osprey - and thanks, Tom, for this one too

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
Chimney Swift

American Crow
Blue Jay
American Robin
Wood Thrush, Hylocichla mustelina
Grey Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling

Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
House Wren
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher

Barn Swallow
- nesting again!
Northern Rough-winged Swallow - nesting again!

Red-eyed Vireo

Warbling Vireo


Yellow Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Black-and-white Warbler

Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart

Northern Parula

Northern Waterthrush


Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Pheucticus ludovicianus
Northern Cardinal
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle

Brown-headed Cowbird

Baltimore Oriole

House Sparrow

Wow. This may be an all-time high weekly species count. Forty seven as of Wednesday.

Notice it's predominated by those species in red - our spring and summer ONLY birds. And, notice there are no more species in blue (our winter only birds). It seems we've seen the last of our Dark-eyed Juncos.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tennessee Warbler and Orchard Oriole!

Yes, both.
Two fantastic new birds for West Campus today at lunchtime.
F-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c new birds.
Especially the warbler!



The Tennessee Warbler (Oreothlypis peregrina) is a little green, gray and white beauty, with a delicate pale eyeline and thin pointy bill. It is pretty uncommon in Connecticut, so Lynn and I were REALLY excited to find it, and have good views at that.
I did a quick google image search and found one photo to share. It's on Jan Axel's blog - Jan is a birder in Panama - he doesn't say whether the image is his or not, but please take a minute to follow the link, the third bird down the page.
Reading other people's descriptions of this bird, I notice the word drab a lot - the bird we saw was anything but drab. So, I searched images carefully to find one that showed the plumage in the way we observed it.

Now the Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius), the smaller and less-conspicuous cousin of our common Baltimore Oriole. This bird surprised me last year, because I didn't know that the adult male takes two years to reach its ultimate breeding plumage of rich chestnut and black. The first year male is yellow, with a black face and bib.
The bird Lynn and I saw today was one of these first-year males, and I recognized it only because I had such a difficult time puzzling it out when I first saw it last year.


one of many ornamental flowering crab-apple trees on campus

Many of these neotropical migrants are feeding in the flowering trees right now. They love the apple blossoms - I think they're plucking the stamens right out and eating them whole. I understand pollen is a pretty good source of protein.

Okay, guess I have to stop gushing and get around to posting the week's list:
May 2-6, 2011

Double-crested Cormorant, fly-over
Wild Turkey
Canada Goose
Common Merganser, fly-over
Killdeer
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Red-tailed Hawk
Northern Flicker
Red-bellied Woodpecker

Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
American Crow
Blue Jay
American Robin
Grey Catbird
European Starling
Barn Swallow
Tree Swallow
Red-eyed Vireo

Warbling Vireo
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Black-capped Chickadee
House Wren
Tennessee Warbler, Oreothlypis peregrina
Blue-winged Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Northern Parula
American Redstart

Common Yellowthroat
Northern Cardinal
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
House Finch
American Goldfinch
Brown-headed Cowbird
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Baltimore Oriole

Orchard Oriole, Icterus spurius
House Sparrow

Forty two species for the week, with some regulars missing (no chipping sparrow, no downy woodpecker, no fish crow)
But, hey, did I tell you? We saw a TENNESSEE WARBLER today!!!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Our own Freedom Lawn


Freedom lawn in the courtyard of A-21. We had been enjoying the violets and dandelions for over a week when I finally went out to photograph the scene. As it turned out, I got there just two hours before the grounds crew came through with the mower.

Freedom lawn is a term coined by faculty at our own Yale School of Forestry nearly two decades ago. In their 1993 book, Redesigning the American Lawn: a search for environmental harmony, Herbert Bormann, Diana Balmori and Gordon Geballe proposed the concept of the freedom lawn. Their basic idea was to promote cultivation of lawns to allow natural and unrestricted growth of grasses, clover, wild flowers and other broad-leafed plants often regarded as weeds. This in turn reduces the need for application of chemical treatments.

Towns throughout Connecticut have picked up the idea of the freedom lawn and encourage residents through friendly competitions to establish their own. The highest priority is the effort to protect water supplies from ground-water pollutants common in lawn and garden run-off. Other environmental considerations are a reduction in air and noise pollution from excessive mowing, and finally for the homeowners themselves, a practical cost-savings in time and money.

The 1993 first edition of Redesigning the American Lawn has been supplanted by a 2001 second edition. Now, ten years later, when you look around at our suburban landscape, what do you see?

I'm afraid I still see an awful lot of truturfchemgreenlawn trucks. But I always cheer for the violets, dandelions and sorrel - and hey, you know what - those three all make great additions to a spring salad! Make sure there has been no pesticide use before you harvest...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Nest Box City

Here at West Campus we have a variety of nest boxes scattered throughout the landscape. You've recently read about our new Kestrel box - but sadly, we did not see the Kestrels this week at all - maybe next year.


Lynn checking nest box #6

For the small boxes, we've set up a monitoring route. Lynn and I cover one end of campus, Tom checks the boxes at the other end. Our thirteen boxes include those with specifications for Eastern Bluebird, House Wren, Black-capped Chickadee, Tree Swallow, and the big Kestrel box.


nest box #7 - stuffed full of House Sparrow nesting material

Many years ago Tree Swallows nested here, and the nestlings were banded by Connecticut Audubon volunteers. We haven't yet seen bluebirds on campus, so it would would be very exciting to find them this spring. House Wrens actively used a few of the next boxes last year, and we're hoping to attract a few chickadees also.


Bird list for the week of April 25 to 29:


Wild Turkey
Canada Goose
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Great Blue Heron - flyover
Killdeer
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon

Downy Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Northern Flicker
American Crow
Fish Crow
Blue Jay
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch - should be heading north before too long

American Robin
Grey Catbird - returning to nest here
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
House Wren - returning to nest here
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
- likely to nest here
Black-and-White Warbler - likely to nest here

Black-throated Green Warbler, Dendroica virens - is this a gorgeous bird, or what?!?
- new for West Campus
Yellow Warbler - common nester here

Northern Parula - not sure whether this species will stay to nest


Blue-winged Warbler, Vermivora cyanoptera - Tom saw this one while out with a group of first graders, and I just realized it's the first time we've recorded it here at West Campus
Eastern Towhee
- could nest here
Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco - should be heading north before too long
American Goldfinch
House Finch

Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Sparrow

A big 44 species for the week - we love spring migration!