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!