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.