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)

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^
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)*, #
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,

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.


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.