Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving Week

I'll make this post just like the week was SHORT and SWEET!  Only three days of birding but a decent total of 22 birds.  The feeders were fairly quiet for the week with only 7 species. 

The Wild Turkey says: "Happy Thanksgiving"

11/19 - 11/21: Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow (f), White-throated Sparrow (f), Black-capped Chickadee (f), Blue Jay, Downy Woodpecker, Mourning Dove, American Crow, Rock Pigeon, European Starling, House Finch (f), American Goldfinch (f), Wild Turkey, Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull, FOX SPARROW (f), American Robin, Dark-eyed Junco (f), Cedar Waxwing, Northern Mockingbird, Turkey Vulture, and Red-shouldered Hawk.    (f)= seen at the bird feeder

Northern Mockingbird

 We have a new mammal on campus, a Norway Rat.  The rat has also been enjoying the bird feeders but not for long.  Curious that with the addition of the rat, there has been a visible reduction of bird activity at the feeders.  Is it coincidence? 

Norway Rat

Darn you Squirrels!

11/12 - 11/16

Anyone who does NOT have a bird feeder knows that squirrels are cute little rodents, whose antics are entertaining to watch.  Anyone WITH bird feeders know that squirrels are the enemy in fuzzy pajamas.  I decided the other day to make my own bird feeder and see if the birds would like it. 



Feeder- post squirrel devastation
This feeder was created using a 20 oz soda bottle, a dead pen, part of a dunkin donut iced coffee cup, some picture wire, and a washer.  I used hot glue to hold some things in place and had a brand new homemade bird feeder.  Within an hour of being out a Black-capped Chickadee had already taken a seed.  The feeder lasted exactly one week.  The squirrels, surely mad that they couldn't sit on the feeder and enjoy the seed, decided to throw it on the ground and gnaw at the bottle to get to every last seed.  Time for another soda.



Of note, almost 50% of the birds seen last week on campus were seen on the feeders in the courtyard.  Either the only birds that are around are usign the feeder or I've been hiding from the cold.  Here is the moderate list of birds for the week, 21 in total.



Feeder Birds
1. White-throated Sparrow
2. Fox Sparrow (FOS- first of the season)
3. Dark-eyed Junco (huge casualties this week)
4. Downy Woodpecker
5. Northern Flicker (eating thistle?)
6. Black-capped Chickadee
7. Blue Jay
8. Mourning Dove
9. House Finch
10. American Goldfinch

Non-feeder Birds
1. Northern Cardinal
2. American Crow
3. Rock Pigeon
4. European Starling
5. Canada Goose
6. Wild Turkey
7. Herring Gull
8. American Robin
9. Red-tailed Hawk
10. Cedar Waxwing
11. Tree Sparrow (FOS)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Birds? What birds?

Tree felled by the storm.
Another week of busy-ness out here at West Campus and just some odd schedules.  The months ahead will be interesting as Sue might not be contributing to the WC blog but may have to do a post or two about things downtown.  I had an unplanned short birding session due to a fire alarm but it was chilly and started to snow so birds were scarce.  We did have a decent movement of raptors heading south earlier in the week but over all the week ended quiet.  The bird feeders are up and running (except for a stolen one), all our data is being recorded and added to the New Haven Bird Clubs winter feeder survey. 


Male sachem skipper- a new late date for the state of CT


OK So here are the birds... let's organize them by color this week. 

Grayish
Black-capped Chickadee
Rock Pigeon
Dark-eyed Junco
Blue-headed Vireo
White-breasted Nuthatch
Cooper's Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk

Blackish
Downy Woodpecker (ok they're black and white)
American Crow
Fish Crow
Brown-headed Cowbird
Common Grackle

Iridescent
Mourning Dove
European Starling
Wild Turkey

White or Yellow
American Goldfinch
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Cedar Waxwing
Eastern Phoebe

Reddish-brown or Brown with red
Song Sparrow
House Finch
American Robin
Red-tailed Hawk
Hermit Thrush
Red-shouldered Hawk
Purple Finch

Brown
White-throated Sparrow
House Sparrow
Canada Goose
Chipping Sparrow

Blue
Blue Jay

Cedar Waxwing- where is our Bohemian?


Of course these color categories are pretty arbitrary.  Most people might think of the Accipiters (Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks) as brown and they are as young birds but at this point in migration the juveniles have mostly all moved through and the adults with grayish-blue backs are predominant.  Purple and House Finch females are really just brown and white.  Birds like Cedar Waxwings are filled with gradations and splashes of waxy colors.  Now that species are limited, it's time to pick out the little details.  Especially since by looking at the details we might find something really exciting. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Between the last post and this one we've had an extreme weather event concurrent with an extremely focused work project, hence not a lot of good birding going on.  Hurricane Sandy closed Yale University for two days, with rain, high winds and the resultant power outages. Low-lying areas along the Connecticut shoreline were inundated with a salty and debris-strewn storm surge as the hurricane's effects lasted through two high tide cycles, and coincided with a nearly full moon.

Die-hard birders all staked out their favorite corner of shoreline, to watch for storm-tossed seabirds, and reported back to those of us who opted to hunker down indoors instead.  Yale graduate student Jake Musser (based at West Campus) shares his storm-birding experience here:

While hurricanes cause disruption in our lives, they also impact many animals.  In particular, pelagic birds – those that spend much of their lives on the open sea – can be displaced great distances and even entrained within the powerful cyclone.  On Tuesday, as the storm was calming down, I spent the day with a few birding friends on the coast observing thousands of storm-blown birds exiting the sound.  Our sightings included many shearwaters, jaegers, and storm-petrels, birds never typically seen in Long Island Sound.  Many of these species are currently migrating south along the open ocean and were displaced into the sound by the storm.  However, we also found a Sooty Tern.  The typical range of this tropical species extends only as close as the southern gulf stream (i.e. off the coast of the Carolinas).  The individual we observed likely got entrained within the cyclone for a very long distance.  Interestingly, this species is one classically known to get entrained within hurricanes as they seem unwilling to ever land, even when given the chance by a large piece of driftwood or the sight of land.
 
West Campus bird list for the two-week period between October 22nd and November 2nd.

Raptors:
Red-tailed Hawk and Red-shouldered Hawk
Osprey and Turkey Vulture
Coopers Hawk and American Kestrel

Corvids:
Common Raven and American Crow
Fish Crow and Blue Jay

Finchy things:
American Goldfinch and Pine Siskin
House Finch and Northern Cardinal

Sparrowy things:
Song Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned and Chipping Sparrows
Dark-eyed Junco and House Sparrow


More little birds:
Black-capped Chickadee and Eastern Phoebe
Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets
Brown Creeper and Winter Wren
Yellow-rumped Warbler and Northern Parula

Some non-passerines:
Mourning Dove and Rock Pigeon
Northern Flicker and Downy Woodpecker
Herring and Ring-billed Gulls
Killdeer and Canada Goose
Wild Turkey

And some more mid-sized birds:
American Robin and Hermit Thrush
Northern Mockingbird and Cedar Waxwing
European Starling and Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird and Common Grackle
Scarlet Tanager

Friday, October 19, 2012

It's a bird, a plane.. It's a CRANE!

I'm going to start out with the excitement for the week.  A brand new bird for the West Campus list, a brand new bird for my state year list, and only my 2nd ever sighting of one in the state, a Sandhill Crane.  Sandhill Cranes are an amazing group of birds that are found in a few different areas in North America.  To be a bit more specific there are about 5 or 6 subspecies of the Sandhill Crane in North America, two are isolated year-round populations in the Southeast.  One isolated population is also found on Cuba.  The other two or three are distributed in northern Canada, Alaska (also barely into Siberia), and out West.  The interesting part is that they mostly use the Mississippi River as a flyway or further out west for migration, so they don't really come to Connecticut that often.  The state does get a few records every year and luckily I got to add another one. 

Sandhill Crane 'record' shot  (photo: Lynn Jones)


The above picture is pretty horrible but it's a better look than I almost got with my binoculars.  The important features that pinpoint to the ID as a crane (that no other birds have) are the long dangling legs (to the right of the body) and the outstretched neck (to the left of the body).  Any other similar-shaped bird would fly with it's neck tucked in (like a Great Egret or Great-blue Heron). 

Other excitement for the week was ANOTHER new species for the West Campus list, one we have been waiting for: Winter Wren.  I happened to see one crisply moving in a shrub right in front of the A-21 (Collections Center) entrance. We also finally cleaned out the American Kestrel nest box.  Sue and I had attempted to clean out the box in the spring only to find a live although unresponsive squirrel in residence.  Thinking that maybe she was on a litter of babies, we left her in place.  Well cleaning out the box it appears the squirrel had in fact been sick.  We found a lovely decayed/ mummified squirrel carcass, gross.


Lynn heading to clean out the box, proper tools required (photo: Sue Hochgraf)

I'm not happy the squirrel is dead but I am happy to evict it!  (photo: Sue Hochgraf)

Squirrel Mummy (photo: Lynn Jones)


 Other than that we had an impressive 51 species for the week thanks to the efforts of both Sue and her sister Karen who is visiting.  They both put in a little extra birding this week to really help push our numbers to another top 5 week of birding, and that was with a rainy Friday.  Congrats ladies and thanks! 


Sparrow-things:
Northern Cardinal
Eastern Towhee
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco

Migrants:
Killdeer
Common Grackle
Eastern Phoebe
Cedar Waxwing
Blue Jay
Northern Flicker
Gray Catbird
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Palm Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Brown Creeper
Hermit Thrush
Swainson's Thrush
House Wren
Blue-headed Vireo
American Robin
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Kestrel
Merlin
Red-tailed Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Turkey Vulture
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Canada Goose
American Goldfinch

Other things:
Downy Woodpecker
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
Northern Mockingbird
American Crow
Fish Crow
European Starling
House Sparrow
Wild Turkey
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Common Raven




Yellow-rumped Warbler (photo: Lynn Jones)


Friday, October 12, 2012

GREAT week for birding!!

Just some local color to start off the post.  Fruit of an ornamental crab with morning dewdrops.
Bird list for the week of October 8-12, 2012

Eastern Towhee
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
9. Savannah Sparrow

Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Carolina Wren
17. House Wren

Eastern Phoebe
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
American Robin
Hermit Thrush
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Palm Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
27. Common Yellowthroat

Northern Cardinal
American Goldfinch
House Finch
Blue Jay
Common Raven
American Crow
34. Fish Crow

Killdeer
Canada Goose
Common Merganser - two males flew overhead this morning
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Merlin
45. Turkey Vulture

Wild Turkey 
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
Northern Flicker
Downy Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
53. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
video
A not-so-great movie from my ageing camera at full zoom, of a roving flock of grackles (mixed with starlings) in a West Campus parking lot one morning.  If you can stick with it to the end, you'll get to see the whole flock take off together - really pretty cool.
List continues:
European Starling
House Sparrow
Common Grackle
57. Brown-headed Cowbird

Wha???  Did somebody say we had fifty seven species of birds this week???
Sooo close to our previous record of 58 species in May
The third highest count (52) was just about a year ago, in September 2011.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Goodbye summer, hello autumn

Autumn reflections in the Oyster River at Yale West Campus. Photo by Karen Hochgraf
 Yep, we passed the autumnal equinox the weekend between this and my last post, so, goodbye summer it is.  With the sun rising later, I can say that I get to enjoy that moment of the day during my commute to work.  On the other hand, when I arrive back home in the late afternoon, there is less and less light for a bit of relaxing in the garden before darkness pushes me indoors.
This week there has been a full moon - beautifully bright, but flooding out the stars.  This time of year in the night sky (on the subject of goodbye, hello) we see the last of my favorite constellation, Cygnus the swan, winging through the Milky Way.  And if you're up late enough, you can greet Orion the hunter climbing up over the eastern horizon.
On the birding scene, it appears that this winter will be a good one for the "irruptive finches".  These finches generally stay north for the winter, but finding their preferred food scarce, have pushed southward for the cold season.  This week in Connecticut hundreds of Pine Siskins were reported, along with many Purple Finches and a few Evening Grosbeaks.  Here's a link to the birding blog, "10,000 Birds", which has a good page on this topic.  Corey, the host, has more time to research and write than I do, so enjoy his description of irrupting birds.
Um... all of that said, WE still don't have Pine Siskins - we'll just have to try harder next week!

American Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana. A great source of food for wildlife. Most Phytolacca are herbaceous like the one growing commonly at West Campus, but a few species, such as the OmbĂș (Phytolacca dioica) of Uruguay and Argentina grows to be a huge shade tree.
West Campus bird list for the two-week period between September 24th and October 5th (in which probably a grand total of one hour of actual birding was done) :

Departing birds:
American Redstart and Common Yellowthroat
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Blue-headed Vireo and Swainson's Thrush
American Kestrel and Bald Eagle
Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Golden-crowned Kinglet
House Wren and Eastern Phoebe
Common Grackle and Brown-headed Cowbird
Killdeer
Gray Catbird

Arriving birds:
White-throated Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco
Seen more frequently this time of year:
Blue Jay and American Crow
Downy Woodpecker and Red-bellied Woodpecker
White-breasted Nuthatch and Carolina Wren

And the year-round crowd:
Northern Cardinal and Song Sparrow
Black-capped Chickadee
American Robin and European Starling
Northern Flicker
Mourning Dove and Rock Pigeon
Northern Mockingbird
Canada Goose and Herring Gull
House Finch and American Goldfinch
Red-tailed Hawk

thirty-eight species for our latest two-week period
Have a great weekend - and go birding!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fall migration and...

Migration is so much fun.  We've been pretty busy at work these last few weeks, and haven't had much spare time for either birding or blogging, but this week we have something special to report... so... here goes.
Sparrows are beginning to pass through.

Lynn saw a White-throated Sparrow yesterday.  First of the fall, so, kind of exciting.  But not as exciting as Wednesday's bird.  As she drove through West Campus that morning, her attention was piqued by a big active flock near the "sparrow nook". 

Besides cowbirds, robins, flickers and a song sparrow, there was another sparrow.  A sparrow she didn't recognize.  With neither camera nor field guide handy, she made a beeline for her office and computer, where she was busy studying sparrow images when I walked in...
Whatcha lookin' at??

With a few minutes to go before official work time, the two of us took off back down to the sparrow nook.  The bird was still there!!  With a borrowed camera, Lynn took a few photos, and we studied the field marks from a safe distance.  A large-ish sparrow, plain pale belly with a dark smudge on the breast, the tail had big white corners, face and crown strongly striped with black, chestnut and white.  Anybody taking any guesses here?

We kept our distance because the bird seemed shy and flushed easily.  Er, for those of you non-birders, flushing is when a bird flies away when disturbed.  Our bird is really unusual for Connecticut, normally inhabiting lands to the west of the Mississippi River.

Lark Sparrow, Chondestes grammacus, Lynn's photo.  Click link for more of Lynn's images
Lark Sparrow -- la la la Lark Sparrow!!!
A very exciting find for us, and of course a new bird for West Campus.  Lark Sparrow is a lifer for Lynn, and I was thinking maybe for me too, but found it on my life list from Tubac, Arizona in 1981.  Still, it's a bird that makes very few Connecticut bird lists.  Chondestes grammacus.  The genus is from the greek Khondros, for grain or seed, and edestes, an eater, and the species from greek grammikos, for linear or striped, referring to the striped head pattern.

In the interest of keeping your interest and limiting the narrative, I'll move on to the list.  It's a three-week list, yup, as I mentioned already, we've been pretty busy with work.

West Campus Bird List for most of September, (3-7, 10-14, 17-21), 2012:

Raptors in migration, including our resident 'tails':
Red-tailed Hawk
Osprey
Red-shouldered Hawk
Bald Eagle
Cooper's Hawk
Sharp-shinned Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin

Other non-passerines:
Canada Goose
Herring Gull
Killdeer
Wild Turkey

Northern Flicker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Chimney Swift
Mourning Dove
Rock Pigeon
Ruby-throated Hummingbird

And all the rest:
American Crow
Fish Crow
Common Raven
Blue Jay
European Starling
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
Gray Catbird

Eastern Phoebe
Tree Swallow
House Wren
Carolina Wren
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Sparrow

Finches and Sparrows:
Northern Cardinal
American Goldfinch
House Finch
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Lark Sparrow

Warblers and Vireos:
Common Yellowthroat
Magnolia Warbler
American Redstart
Red-eyed Vireo

Blackbirds:
Brown-headed Cowbird
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bald E

Mourning Dove in the courtyard, sitting on YOUNG!
 Well, I was a bit disappointed this past week that I wasn't able to break 40 species on campus for the week.  With 38 the week before and a couple of decent days for migration I thought it would be possible... and probably it was.  I spent more time enjoying the birds I did see than going out and hunting those that I didn't.  The one that I most enjoyed seeing... our first Bald Eagle of the season.  There was a full adult that I spotted flying over our building through the courtyard windows. 

Male American Goldfinch
In total there were 36 species seen this week, other highlights included a push of American Redstarts over by the leaf pile, a Merlin hunting in the parking lot one morning, and on Friday afternoon was a little push of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

Red-shouldered Hawk


Birds:
1. Merlin-1
2. Bald Eagle-1
3. Cooper's Hawk-1
4. Red-shouldered Hawk-1
5. Sharp-shinned Hawk-1
6. Osprey-6
7. Red-tailed Hawk-2 (migrating), 2 (resident)
8. American Robin
9. Mourning Dove
10. House Sparrow
11. Song Sparrow
12. American Goldfinch
13. European Starling
14. Common Grackle
15. House Finch
16. Northern Cardinal
17. Killdeer
18. Gray Catbird
19. Barn Swallow
20. Herring Gull
21. Blue Jay
22. Northern Flicker
23. Black-capped Chickadee

Red-shouldered Hawk, you can just see some red.
 24. Northern Mockingbird
25. Brown-headed Cowbird
26. Canada Goose
27. Rock Pigeon
28. Black Vulture (4 possibly migrating)
29. Empidonax sp.
30. Red-wing Blackbird
31. Carolina Wren
32. Tree Swallow
33. Chimney Swift
34. Fish Crow
35. American Redstart
36. Ruby-throated Humingbird

This coming week is stormy with some winds out of the South so I don't expect any big push of birds, especially Hawks.  It might be a low species count next week.  We did have one interesting window strike dead bird out from this week.  It was too far gone for a positive ID but I'd have to guess that it was a Canada Warbler

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hawks Landing... almost


The weather has turned beautiful in Connecticut with highs at or a little above 80F but the real story is the low humidity (at least by our standards).  It's taken away any excuses to not spend break times outside enjoying West Campus, avoiding the construction workers and shuttle buses.  With Sue being on break I felt I needed to step up and get a good species count in for the week since it was on my shoulders alone. 


So I sat in our courtyard at breaks and tried to be outside during lunchtime too, in an effort to spot any birds pushing through while migrating south.  Not everyone is migrating though, the American Goldfinch above is likely still in the process of raising young and I believe their nest is in the pine next to this one. 



The hawks however did make a little push last week, and I was able to enjoy some great views of a Red-shouldered Hawk sitting in a tree about 50 yards away (no camera at the time).  I spooked it enough that it finally took off showing the crescent-shaped windows in the wing used to identify it.  Also, two early Broad-winged Hawks took a look around campus.  They flew in low enough that I was able to get a couple of ok images. 


The diagnostic feature of these small Buteos is the dark wing tips and black trailing edge of the wing.  When this genus of hawk is flying higher in the sky you have to use wing-shape and tail length to help distinguish them also.  One lunchtime push of 'raptors' included 5 migrating Osprey, 4 migrating Red-tailed Hawks, the Red-shouldered Hawk, and one lone Sharp-shinned Hawk.  With the potential for some northerly winds tomorrow afternoon into Wednesday, I'll be keeping my eyes to the skies.  

Species total this week was spectacular,  38 in total. 
*migrants (species at this point is probably only migrating through),
#residents(spends summers [babies dispersed or in identical plummage] or winters here),
^residents with young (birds who have spent the summer here nesting)

Birds
American Robin^
Mourning Dove^
House Sparrow^
Song Sparrow^
American Goldfinch^ (probably the only species with young still in nests)
European Starling^
Common Grackle*
House Finch*, #
Northern Cardinal^
Killdeer^
Gray Catbird^
Barn Swallow*
Herring Gull# (winter residents)
Cedar Waxwings*, ^
Blue Jay#
Northern Flicker#
Chipping Sparrow^
Turkey Vulture#
Black-capped Chickadee#, *
Northern Mockingbird^
Brown-headed Cowbird (young beng raised by Song Sparrows)^
Downy Woodpecker#
Canada Goose# (winter residents)
Rock Pigeon#
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher*
Empidonax sp. (flycatcher)*
Red-winged Blackbird*
Yellow Warbler*
Tree Swallow*
Chimney Swift*
Fish Crow#
Baltimore Oriole*
Black-and-White Warbler*
Red-tailed Hawk-4 (plus our two locals)*, #
Osprey-7*
Sharp-shinned Hawk-1*
Red-shouldered Hawk-2*
Broad-winged Hawk-2*

Friday, August 17, 2012

"Good" birds

End of another week of birding (and working) at West Campus.  This time 100% attributable to the efforts of Ms. Lynn Jones, since I was out, and out-of-it.  You'll likely be hearing more from Lynn in the next two weeks while I'm away, some near-away and some far-away.

Lynn saw a lot of good birds this week.  We love good birds.  We also love the lingo of our sport, in that there are even birds that we call "good birds".  What's NOT a good bird?  All birds are good birds - at least here in the wild frontier of West Campus - simply because we enjoy them.  If birds are ruining your fruit crops and eating your seed corn, then, they're not so good, eh?  But don't forget that they also consume mosquitoes, and locusts, and caterpillars, and and and. 

Good and bad, human labels.  Bird eats berries.  Berry bush loses a fruit.  Not good, not bad, just life.

Did I mention that Lynn saw a lot of good birds this week?  Hordes of American Robins and oh, about 27 other species as well.

West Campus birds for the week of August 13-17, 2012:
Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Black and White Warbler - those are in the "supergood" category
Barn and Tree Swallows, Cedar Waxwings, Chimney Swifts - these are good birds too
Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Northern Mockingbird, Killdeer - our regular good birds
Osprey, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Herring Gull, Canada Goose - large good birds
More good birds:  Song Sparrow, American Goldfinch, House Finch, Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay
And the last of the good birds:  Common Grackle, Mourning Dove, Rock Pigeon, House Sparrow, European Starling
Really??  you might ask.  Those last three are good birds?  Back to my words above - simply because we enjoy them.
I think by  now you're ready for me to go on vacation :-)
See you in September,
Sue

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fall Prep

Osprey- photo by Lynn Jones

It's a beautiful day out today (Monday) and it's really unfair to think ahead to Fall when the weather is being resonable after so much humidity but I can't help it.  I am not a HOT weather person and, since Sue is off for the day, I thought I would sneak in with a quick post, excited about the season to come.  For a birder the season to come is fall migration, in reality it's already here!  Shorebirds started moving south over a month ago, warblers are starting to trickle in to the area (highlighted by Sue's spotting of a Black-and-White Warbler last week), and the Hawks are coming, the Hawks are coming.


Red-tailed Hawk- photo by Lynn Jones

I love hawkwatches, you sit around staring at the sky on beautiful fall days until suddenly you have to jump up to get a good look at a bird heading quickly by.  Last year was the first fall that I spent a good deal of time out there at hawkwatches.  New Haven's Lighthouse Point Hawkwatch is probably the best known in our area, producing some amazing numbers.  I did spend a few weekend days there this past fall with Steve Mayo and company.  I also helped out Scott Kruitbosch at the hawkwatch in Stratford in Boothe Park, sometimes showing up by myself for a few hours. 


Me with bins to the sky- photo by Lynn Jones

Anyway, with bright blue skies today I thought I would get my eyes ready.  At afternoon break I headed out with my lawn chair and stared up the sky, squinting.  I guess I need to get my eyes into shape.  Not surprisingly there was almost nothing.  A few Herring Gulls flew by, Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows, and Chimney Swifts seem to be gathering to head south, and as I was getting up to head inside I finally got a hawk or two.  Reasonably high were two Red-tailed Hawks (one adult and one juvenile), likely our residents just stretching their wings.... I'll take it. Want more info on Hawkwatches, check out Hawk Migration Association of North America, they even have a map to find a site near you!

Birds- Aug 6th -10th
Total = 26 species

American Robin, Mourning Dove, House Sparrow, Song Sparrow, American Goldfinch, European Starling, Common Grackle, Killdeer, Gray Catbird, Barn Swallow, House Wren, Blue Jay, Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Rock Pigeon, Osprey, Black-capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, American Crow, Fish Crow, Canada Goose, White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-and-White Warbler, and Carolina Wren.

-Lynn

Monday, August 6, 2012

Charismatic Megafauna

Can you still call it birding when there are so few birds to be seen? A brief stop at the sometimes productive leaf pile produced a big flock of house finches which seemed to be taking the sun from every branch in a small sumac.  Then I heard a rustle and crunch of twigs.

White-tailed Deer with antlers in velvet.  Megafauna, yes, but charismatic is debatable, depending on your relationship to the natural world vs your landscaping.
It's rare when you notice wildlife before it notices you, but I watched this buck White-tailed Deer for several minutes, before I rustled too much and it noticed me.  The deer eventually wandered off, but not before my attention was distracted by a loud clear song, which I traced to an Indigo Bunting.  Yes, I was still birding!

Summer greens in the nature preserve along the Oyster River.
Bird list for the week of July 30 - August 3, 2012:
Canada Goose and Killdeer
Red-tailed Hawk
Mourning Dove and Rock Pigeon
Northern Flicker
American Crow and Blue Jay
American Robin and European Starling
Northern Mockingbird and Gray Catbird
Yellow Warbler and House Wren
Barn Swallow and Cedar Waxwing
Northern Cardinal and Indigo Bunting
Song Sparrow and Chipping Sparrow
House Finch and American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

After moving farther away, the buck stood quite exposed, watching me.

Friday, July 27, 2012

What's up?

My post titles really are not very creative, but one afternoon at break-time, instead of making a cup of tea or working a crossword puzzle, I went outside and lay on my back in the grass.  The intensity of the sky's blue was mesmerizing - how can I just lie there and look at a blank sheet of blue?  Well, it has depth, it has nuance, and time spent gazing at that sky freed my mind from the moment-to-moment clutter - break-time indeed.
Sycamore, Platanus sp.
I expected a few birds, and indeed goldfinches and mourning doves flew through my sphere of blue at the level of the treetops. Just at the lowest margin of the tree's leafy branches, two different species of dragonfly zipped through, and a few small tufts of white drifted by - I guessed thistledown.  But that was all - no gulls, no hawks, no planes even.
Maple, Acer sp.
Most of the West Campus bird species this week were counted in the usual way, while walking around or driving through campus.

Bird list for the week of July 23-27, 2012:

Canada Goose - the flock is back
Wild Turkey - a mama with two youngsters
Herring Gull - fly-overs
Killdeer - three are seen regularly in one of the parking lots
Oak, Quercus sp.
Mourning Dove
Northern Flicker
Fish Crow
Barn Swallow
American Robin
European Starling
Locust, Gleditsia sp., with the moon visible.
Northern Mockingbird
Gray Catbird - pretty quiet these days
Yellow Warbler - a few singing down in the old leaf pile
House Wren - still defending territories near the nest boxes
Black-capped Chickadee - one in the woods
Tufted Titmouse - several in the same woods as chickadee
Spruce, Picea sp.
Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow - nobody singing, but one softly chipping
Chipping Sparrow - loudly trilling in the A-21 parking lot, along with numerous cicadas, which just appeared this week
Common Grackle - one down by the river
House Finch
American Goldfinch - so many, and so vocal
House Sparrow
Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia glyptostrobiodes.
Twenty-three species for the week, a week of clear skies mixed with storm clouds and brief rain showers.  A week of dry pleasant days and hot humid days - but that's summer - and it's Friday afternoon so what do I say now - get out and enjoy it!!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Looking down, rather than up

In the heat of summer when birds seem to be hidden from view, I find myself birding by ear, perhaps while looking down.  Here at West Campus where I stopped my car to listen for birds in the woods I took a few photos of hardy flowers at my feet.

Queen Anne's Lace, Daucus carota
In the woods at this same spot the American Robins were making a ruckus, and for the same reason as in my previous post - the Red-tailed Hawks were about.  This time it sounded like a young raptor calling to a parent, as the cries were quiet different one from the other, and came from different treetops.
 
In between the persistent cries of the robins and several cardinals as well, I heard one distinctive little "metallic" chip note.  When we birders describe a note as being metallic, we're referring to a sound as metal being struck by metal.  One of our common, but less frequent, summer residents which makes a sound like this is the Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  I stood patiently waiting and watching - and also pishing - and it eventually came into view.  The cool thing is that it was a young male!  Pretty well along into acquiring its black and white adult coloring, with a chevron of rosy pink on the breast, it still had streaks of brown on the flanks and belly.

With limited time to stand and watch, I moved on.  Looking down the path I noticed a small brown shape at the edge of the chainlink fence - a young White-tailed deer, still wearing the spotted coat of a fawn.  It watched me cautiously while continually flicking flies off its ears.  As I advanced it stayed and watched, then trotted away a few meters, stayed and watched again, trotted away again.  While I stood pishing for birds, the fawn actually moved nearer and when I took an action that often brings the birds in closer, it had the opposite effect on the young deer.  I crouched - and the fawn bolted away - perhaps I suddenly appeared four-legged rather than two.

West Campus bird list for the week of July 16-20, 2012:

Red-tailed Hawk
Herring Gull and Killdeer
Mourning Dove and Rock Pigeon
Northern Flicker and Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay and Common Grackle
American Robin and European Starling
Cedar Waxwing and Barn Swallow
Song Sparrow and Chipping Sparrow
American Goldfinch and House Wren
Northern Cardinal and Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Friday, July 13, 2012

It's a bird eat bird world (groan).

breast feathers
We watched this morning, with the fascination only biologists have, as an adult Red-tailed Hawk devoured a freshly-caught medium-sized gray passerine.  High in the same tree an adult robin called continuously, with its strident warning note, and several goldfinches chittered nervously.  The hawk ignored these smaller birds but kept a wary eye on the humans watching from inside the building.

secondary feathers from the right wing

A few hours later we stepped outside to look for remains and found only those pictured here.  The pale rufous breast feathers tipped with black and the size of the secondaries are both definitive marks for a young American Robin.

So many hazards out there for a young and inexperienced bird... and an unlucky Friday the 13th it was.

Well, other than the drama we just witnessed this morning, it was rather a quiet week of birding at West Campus.  Earlier in the week I saw a duck fly overhead - which at first I tried to turn into a Black Duck (new for West Campus) - then thought better and called it a female Mallard.  Yesterday Lynn saw a pale bird with slender tapered wings soaring overhead which she narrowed down to possibly a tern.  Without binoculars, she just wasn't certain enough to name it and add it to the list.

What these sightings alert us to, is that - in birding terms - things are moving.  The earliest migratory shorebirds are already moving down the coast from Arctic breeding grounds.  We should keep an eye out for something really different, after all, we're only a mile from the coast as the sandpiper flies.

Birds at West Campus for the week of July 9 to 13, 2012:

Red-tailed Hawk and Turkey Vulture
Mallard
Herring Gull and Killdeer
Mourning Dove and Rock Pigeon
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay and Fish Crow
American Robin
Gray Catbird and Northern Mockingbird
Song Sparrow and Chipping Sparrow
House Finch and American Goldfinch
European Starling and House Sparrow
Common Grackle and Brown-headed Cowbird
Yellow Warbler
Barn Swallow and House Wren
Cedar Waxwing and Northern Cardinal

twenty six species for this week

Friday, July 6, 2012

Birds by the numbers

Although we did not participate in a formal Summer Bird Survey, I thought I'd try to group the West Campus birds this week by the numbers. These are mental notes on observation frequency - no actual paper tallies, hence the broad ranges, with repetition, yes - a flawed system.
 Common chicory, Cichorium intybus - link to Wikipedia page - such a summer color.  My camera has trouble with some purples, but caught this blue pretty well.  I have tried valiantly to identify the insects.  They are not bees, but hover flies, of the family Syrphidae (sometimes called flower flies).  Maybe genus Eristalis.  Any entomologists out there? Start looking at insects, and you realize we birders have it really easy.

Here we go... bird list for the week of July 2-6, 2012:
40 +:
American Robin
20-40:
House Sparrow
American Goldfinch
10-20:
Mourning Dove
Song Sparrow
European Starling
5-10:
Gray Catbird
House Wren
Brown-headed Cowbird
Rock Pigeon
Northern Cardinal
3-5:
Barn Swallow
Chipping Sparrow
Herring Gull
Blue Jay
Northern Flicker
Red-winged Blackbird
Red-tailed Hawk
Killdeer
Yellow Warbler
Common Grackle
American Crow
2-3:
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Northern Mockingbird
Wood Thrush
Wild Turkey
Only one individual observed:
Willow Flycatcher
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Great Egret
Black-capped Chickadee
Downy Woodpecker

Thirty two species for the week - really pretty good for mid-summer.
Rubus phoenicolasius - (name links to Wikipedia) - a non-native species, Japanese Wineberry is related to our wild raspberries and blackberries and is equally edible.  Speaking of which, looks like there will be a decent crop of blackberries this summer.  Berry pie anyone?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Zen of Summer

Before work this morning, I walked along the perimeter fence to the edge of the Oyster River. Closing my eyes for a moment to listen to the birdsong, I was in a wild place, but after a few minutes a commuter train roared through and a distant plane cruised overhead. But hey, we find our zen in nature when and where we can.

Do you have 30 seconds to watch the river flow by?

video

Do you have 60 seconds to listen to the sound of a Wood Thrush singing in the morning?

video

Find the zen of summer - don't make yourself crazy with unnecessaries - these beautiful summer days don't last forever - and they're all around you - right now.
Enjoy it!!
--Sue

Friday, June 29, 2012

Breeding Birds

June is definitely all about breeding birds.  As Lynn mentioned earlier, most species we see with their "feet on the ground" here are breeding birds.  The campus grounds has abundant habitat for those birds adapted to suburban survival - with shrubs, lawns, mature trees and some wild and weedy areas being our prevalent habitat types.

I'm always surprised when I find our Wood Thrush still singing away on its territory - a small patch of hardwoods with a fairly open forest floor and adjacent dense tangles of invasive vines and shrubs.  Recent research on the habitat needs of this species indicates that although it is a fairly common breeder in small forest fragments such as ours, its breeding success rate is higher when it occupies larger forested areas.

Above, one of the pups from our coyote family - a typical coyote sighting for most Connecticut residents.
And here's a different pup from the family, taking the sun about 3 meters from a parking area - a typical coyote sighting for us at West Campus
With Mama Coyote and four pups around, it's no wonder we see very little of our turkey flock these days, and the resident Red-tailed Hawks are actively hunting on campus, making the squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits not as visible as they sometimes are.

So, Lynn and I both had time to get out birding this week, and here's the result of our modest effort:
Bird list for the week of June 25-29, 2012:
Herring Gull
Killdeer
Red-tailed Hawk
Osprey
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
European Starling
10. American Robin
Wood Thrush
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Yellow Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Barn Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
20. Cedar Waxwing
House Wren
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
American Goldfinch
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
30. House Sparrow

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Back to Birds

After months of planning, the 27th annual meeting of the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections finally took place at the Omni Hotel in New Haven, CT.  The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History was the host this year and much of our collections staff was involved in the planning and hosting of this amazing event.  It went off great!  Now that it's over.... we can finally get back to the birds.

Sue and I have had almost no time for lunch time walks or keeping our bird board up to date.  The first thing we did on Tuesday morning (after the meeting), was wipe down the birds to start over fresh.  The weather's been jumping around with a heat wave of 3 consecutive days over 90 degrees (that's what a heat wave technically is) to overnight lows last night of somewhere near 60.  Everyone on campus at this time of year are likely breeders.  Of course some are just passing over.

Great Egret
Red-tailed Hawk
Turkey Vulture
Killdeer
Herring Gull
Common Flicker
Mourning Dove
Blue Jay
Barn Swallow
House Wren
Northern Mockingbird
Gray Catbird
American Robin
Yellow Warbler
Cedar Waxwing
Tufted Titmouse
European Starling
Song Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
American Goldfinch
House Finch
House Sparrow
Common Grackle

Baby Robin- photo by Lynn Jones

24 species total for one week.  Gray Catbirds have been seen flying into the Pussy Willow bushes to pluck off some berries and then fly back to their hidden nests and young.  Baby American Robins have been spotted all around campus waiting for their parents to bring them snacks. 


Monday, May 21, 2012

Weekly species tally

Bird list for the week of May 14-18, 2012
Mourning Dove
House Finch
Downy Woodpecker
etc
etc
Here's how we keep our weekly tallies at West Campus:

Panel 1
Panel 1 - top, middle and bottom
The bird names stay in place on these glass panels and we mark the day of the week when seen.  Panel one (shown in the three images above) is the regulars, those we're likely to see nearly every day.  We shift to the second panel as more species move through West Campus, and add names in the order of occurrence.  When winter is over, we remove strictly winter birds from the first panel and fill in those gaps with spring and summer birds.

Panel 2

Panel 2, top, middle and bottom
 The second panel, shown in the above three images, is a mix from common year-round species (Rock Pigeon) to early spring migrants (Barn Swallow).  Some of the spring species just pass through on migration and are not seen again until fall, so these will be removed from the list in a few weeks time, when the likelihood of seeing them diminishes.

Panel 3
  
Panel 3, top, middle and bottom
As we fill the second panel, we round the corner to the last panel (above three images) which shows only the most recent arrivals - including our first of the year Blackpoll Warbler.

The records I keep here on the blog do not include these daily observations, so these data are lost.  However, the weekly tallies reflect the frequency and duration of our birding outings, inasmuchas we have to be in the right place at the right time.  If we don't get out much, we don't see the birds.  The Blackpoll Warbler might have been out there on Wednesday - and Friday too, but Thursday was the day Lynn was there and saw the bird - so it goes on the list for the week.