Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tom's Sighting #1

People may say that they 'like birds' but almost all people like raptors.  What's even better than just any old hawk (other people's opinion not mine)?  A falcon!  Here in Connecticut we have three regular falcon species.  Peregrine Falcon is the largest and can be found nesting on cliff edges like West Rock and Sleeping Giant.  In some cities the birds can even be found nesting on building ledges; in fact the Peabody Museum is trying to encourage a pair to nest on Klein Biology Tower.  American Kestrel is the smallest falcon found in Connecticut.  This grassland specialist is found throughout the migration periods and breeds in select locations.  Habitat loss is having a major impact on the breeding population.  Kestrels feed on small prey; one of their favorite is dragonflies!

The third species of falcon is just a bit larger than a kestrel and is a migratory and winter species in the state.  It's a Merlin!  Last Friday Tom, from the Peabody's West Campus Education Center, was lucky enough to have this falcon land long enough to grab this snapshot.  Merlins specialize on small birds and rodents but won't pass up an opportunity to eat a dragonfly snack either.  Keep your eyes open because at this time of year we might have any one of the three falcons on campus.  

MERLIN:  picture taken by Tom P. 17 Oct 2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It's good to be back...

Hey there West Campus birding fans - a voice from the past has returned - Sue is back... at least temporarily - back on the hilltop, working, lunching and hawk-watching with Lynn.
I have explored some of the trails cleared since I was last here, and lamented over some old places we used to go that are now overgrown and inaccessible.  The grassy slope where we saw the meadowlark in 2009 is nearly all grown up to shrubs and trees; the oak tree where we hung a nest box for kestrels in 2010 has filled out with branches, nearly obscuring the box; the little apple tree where we saw the Tennessee Warbler in 2011 is overrun with Russian olive; we found the Nashville Warbler in 2012 along a trail now overgrown with weeds; I missed all of 2013, when one of our favorite birdy haunts was cleared to create a groomed trail.
Now, lest you get the idea I'm only lamenting - the other day along one of those very groomed trails I picked up a new bird for the West Campus list.  I found a little patch of avian activity and spent a good 30 minutes tracking down all of the birds.

Tuesday September 30th, 2014
In the goldenrod area:
Song Sparrows
House Wrens
Common Yellowthroat
In the shrubs and tangles:
White-throated Sparrows
Carolina Wren
Black-capped Chickadee
Heard in the woods:
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Those neck-straining little tree-top flitters:
American Redstarts
Northern Parula
Ruby-crowned Kinglets
Passing through the airspace:
Blue Jays
Common Grackles
European Starlings
Red-winged Blackbirds
Feeding in the treetops:
American Robins and with them my new bird...
VEERY - Lynn and I will have to look over the records she's been keeping these past two years to confirm this record - but at the very least, it's new for the 2014 year list.  Hooray!  This is the last of the common thrushes to be added to the West Campus list. We have always found a few Hermit Thrushes in late fall and winter, had Wood Thrushes singing in June, had the occasional Swainson's Thrush during migration, but the Veery has been stubbornly elusive.
Photos and voice recordings here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Fall Birds and More

Silhouettes are often all that's
needed to ID a hawk.
Summer is slowly coming to a close; although, this weeks weather may well be some of the worst.  It's hard to think about fall when temperatures are supposed to be in the mid-80's all week.  But with a small storm predicted to come this weekend, what could follow is hawks, LOTS of hawks.

Hawk migration peaks in the months of September and October, most species picking a few weeks to move south.  Here in the Northeast, we are treated to something the West Coast never sees, the mass migration of Broad-winged Hawks. 

Red-tailed Hawk

You  can read past posts to see how our annual hawkwatches on campus have gone, the highlight being almost 2000 hawks flying by in one day.  No that isn't a typo, that day at other Connecticut sights the count was over 8000 birds.  This year our annual hawkwatch will be held in conjunction with one of the Peabody West Campus Community Education Center's nature walks.  On Friday, September 12th, educator Tom Parlapiano will lead a lunchtime hawkwatch program at the site of our annual hawkwatch.  Check out the West Campus weekly newsletter for more information.  Please Note: This progam is only open to Yale West Campus residents.


If weather conditions are just right we may well have another spectacular flight like we did in 2011.  Either way, there should be a nice diversity of raptor species going by to learn some basic identification skills and see some unique interactions that only occur at this time of year. 

Species of raptor seen at past watches
Bald Eagle
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Northern Harrier

Monday, July 7, 2014

Say What?

The last couple weeks have been pretty busy for much of the staff at the Peabody.  Many of us recently went to Wales to participate in the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections Annual Meeting .  I have been a little behind on keeping the bird sighting board for West Campus up to date between preparing for my trip and work related moves. 

This is what happens when I go away and leave my markers out...

Now that would be a good week of birding!  Back to American Robins and Mourning Doves now. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

WC Community Noon Time Nature Walk: Spring Bird Walk

Walk participant finding a bird
The Peabody Museum's Community Education Center is now hosting Noon Time Nature Walks throughout the summer and fall for members of the West Campus Community.  Tom Parlapiano, the community education center coordinator, led a spring bird walk on Friday, May 2nd to kick off the series.  Check out the bottom of this blog for information on upcoming walks as well as how to sign up. 

Spring has sprung along the Oyster River

Four members of the west campus community joined Tom for a walk in the woods behind the nursing building in search of spring migrants.  Each day during the spring thousands of birds pass through Connecticut on their way north to breeding grounds and many of these stop at West Campus for a rest.

Walk participants with leader Tom Parlapiano

New birders were given a brief introduction on how to use the binoculars provided by Tom for the walk.  Luckily, American Goldfinches fighting for mates were willing to act as models for focusing lessons.  Once in the woods a Great-crested Flycatcher caught our attention.  The states largest flycatcher, the Great-crested is one of the earliest to arrive in Connecticut and while some continue north, many will remain in our area to breed. 

Great-crested Flycatcher

In the tangles along the river, Yellow Warblers, Song Sparrows, and even a Chipping Sparrow all made an appearance.  At one point a Red-tailed Hawk came flying by at tree-top height, either looking for a meal or trying to figure out what we were doing.  Along the river, we were able to find an American Robin's nest, although there were no eggs inside yet, the adult kept scolding until we had walked away. 

American Robin nest
Totals for the walk included, about 20 different birds seen with 18 identified to species.  A blackbird (probably a Brown-headed Cowbird) and a crow (either a Fish Crow or Common Crow) were not positively ID'ed.  Those totals are actually pretty impressive considering that noontime is when birds are least active during the day.  Birds are most active during the early morning hours when they fly to different spots in their territory and sing.  Highlights not already mentioned include: Double-crested Cormorants (flying over), Osprey (flying over), Barn Swallow (WC nesters), and Mallard Ducks. 

As our time wrapped up we did get one non-avian highlight.  This six-spotted tiger beetle came out onto the sidewalk for a quick view.

six-spotted green tiger beetle
Upcoming Walks
Friday, June 13th- Non-Native Invasive Plant ID Walk
Friday, September 12th- West Campus Hawk Watch
Friday, October 10th- Fall Tree Identification Walk
Friday, November 14th- Fall Bird Walk
Let Tom know you want to participate by registering HERE

Friday, April 4, 2014

Early Spring Walk

**CAUTION** Content at end of blog may be disturbing for some readers.

Thursday looked to be a nice day starting off with a mild morning, so I planned on getting into work to take a quick walk around the new trails.   Robins were out in abundance, calm in the early morning before normal territorial disputes that would unveil themselves later in the day. 

American Robin
 Almost as soon as I entered the lower field area, I was treated to a great surprise.  Our first of the year Osprey showed itself on a fly over, probably wondering what I was doing.

Osprey- FOY
Birds were all chorusing their songs, practicing after getting rusty over the winter.  I love hearing Song Sparrows trying out their voices for the first time in spring.  It's usually only bits and pieces of their song before getting back into the swing.

Song Sparrow

Another sparrow, the White-throated Sparrow is only a winter resident in this part of Connecticut but they have also begun to practice their songs.  Once they make their way north to breeding territories they will be ready to go. 

White-throated Sparrow
Audio- White-throated Sparrow song
I was also treated to the early morning arising of a Red-tailed Hawk.  This one seemed ready to go and find itself some breakfast.   Red-tailed Hawks seem to be taking advantage of disturbed areas and human activity where rodents are easier to catch.  This is the number one 'huge hawk' seen sitting on light posts along highways. 

Red-tailed Hawk
And now the *CAUTION* part of the post.  Mourning Doves are one of those birds that we all like.  They aren't all that smart but they are really pretty .  They are also one of the birds that doesn't stand a chance with a window that is good for window strikes.  While sitting in my office yesterday, I heard the tell tale thud of a large bird flying into the window.  I went out to investigate and sure enough, there was a morning dove in the ground vegetation that had died.  I decided that I would go get it in a bit, after a quick break.  Shortly there after, I walked by again and saw something I hadn't seen before.  I was grossed out a bit but not really surprised to see a cute little fluffy squirrel eating the dove head off the body.

Gray Squirrel eating a Mourning Dove
I've found dead headless birds before and new something had eaten it off.  I know rodents are advantageous and will get a meal whenever.  A nice brain-packed high caloric skull is a treat that a rodent won't turn up.  I know that there are about 5 or 6 different squirrels that occasionally raid my bird feeders in the courtyard and I'm fairly certain this is a female with babies back at home in her nest.  One less dove for the Peabody collections. 

Close-up of nature