Presque Isle at Erie, PA, for the Warbler Migration – 11 May 2014

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In the excellent National Geographic book, ‘Guide to Birding Hot Spots of the United States‘, authors Mel White and Paul Lehman write:

Audubon's "Festival of Birds" weekend at Presque Isle.
Audubon’s “Festival of Birds” weekend at Presque Isle.

When it comes to variety and rarity, Pennsylvania’s birdiest place is a 7-mile-long spit of land that extends into Lake Erie from the city of Erie. Though it’s made of sand, Presque Isle State Park seems to have magnetic qualities for migrant birds, both regularly occurring species and long-distance wanderers. More than 320 species have been found in this relatively miniscule sliver of beach, ponds, marsh and woods. Though many records are of once-in-a-lifetime vagrants, the odds are better here than anywhere else in the state that something unusual will turn up….

Only six of our WWNP group made the 2-hour trip from Buffalo, NY, to Presque Isle on 11th May (although, to be fair, it was Mothers’ Day!), which was nice in terms of our small group size at the park but a pity for those who missed it.

Two-thirds of the WWNP ‘A-team’!

The day we went was also the final day of the Audubon Society’s ‘Festival of Birds’ weekend, and to be honest I was astonished at how few people — relatively speaking — appeared to be at that event, too, although I suspect they may have limited the numbers on purpose…. No bad thing!

A bright Yellow Warbler, surprisingly well camouflaged amongst the opening buds.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
A bright Yellow Warbler, surprisingly well camouflaged amongst the opening buds. (The rust-coloured streaking on the breast shows this to be a male, supported by the fact that it is singing.) Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

Of course, now that spring has eventually arrived (and not before time!) the trees buds are starting to open and are doing two things to nature watchers and photographers, namely making the spring ephemeral flowers wilt and disappear, and making it harder to see — and particularly to photograph – small warblers! The result is that we saw several more species than we were necessarily able to catch on camera.

A lightly-marked Yellow warbler, indicating that it is a female. (Males have red or rust-coloured streaking on the breast.)  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
A lightly-marked Yellow warbler, indicating that it is a female. (Males have red or rust-coloured streaking on the breast.) Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

The other delightful aspect, however, came from the fact that just as Julie Andrews’ hills were apparently alive with the sound of music, so the woodlands of Presque Isle were absolutely brimming with the sound of bird song. This fact, along with unbroken sunshine and temperatures in the high seventies, meant the day simply couldn’t have been better.

Another Yellow Warbler, glowing in the full sunshine.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Another Yellow Warbler, glowing in the full sunshine. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

According to bird books, the song of the Yellow Warbler sounds like: “Sweet, sweet, sweet;  I’m so sweet!” but until I’ve heard a bird a few times for myself, I’m rarely able to relate to such chorus-lines from books and I tend to make up my own word-strings to help me remember various bird calls, so — for me — the Yellow Warbler sings: “Two, two, three;  listen to me!”

Birders and bird photographers wait patiently (or impatiently!) for months, for the 3-4 weeks of the main warbler migration period each spring but the problem is that, once it’s here, it hurtles past so quickly.

Great Horned Owl chick/owlet, absolutely motionless, watching us watching it!  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Great Horned Owl chick/owlet, absolutely motionless, watching us watching it! Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

Early in the day, Andrea introduced us to a friend of hers, Brian Berchtold, who is a Presque Isle State Park ambassador/ volunteer and wildlife photographer. Amongst other things, Brian was kind enough to take us to see a Great Horned Owl’s nest, from which one of the two owlets could be seen peeping over the edge of the broken tree trunk and watching us watching it. One of the parent birds remained nearby but with not only branches but the aforementioned opening buds constantly thwarting our view, I don’t know whether any of the group got good photos of the mature bird.

A male Red-bellied Woodpecker searching for food.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
A male Red-bellied Woodpecker searching for food. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

For my own sins, I was also engrossed with a new lens that had arrived via UPS less than 36 hours previously: a Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM, to give it its grand title (and which was used for all the photos on pages one and two of this post). Sadly, my current camera doesn’t have ‘back-button focussing’ which I rather suspect made me a bit slower with the warblers than might otherwise have been the case. Never mind; that can be rectified in due course.

Ever spectacular, a male Northern Cardinal.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Ever spectacular, a male Northern Cardinal. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

The other problem I met with was that as a lifelong birder I found myself sometimes watching new or less-common species through binoculars for too long and by the time I got around to attempting a photograph, they’d gone! {:-)

Highlights of the day included excellent views of several relatively common but still spectacular birds, such as Baltimore Orioles, Yellow Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Palm Warblers, Black and White Warblers, American Redstart, Red-bellied Woodpeckers and one of nature’s finest — Northern Cardinals.

One of several important signs that some people saw fit to ignore!
One of several important signs that some people saw fit to ignore!

If there was a down-side to the day, it was the fact that at the eastern tip of the Presque Isle peninsula I saw several people blatantly ignoring signs telling everyone to keep out of sensitive nesting areas — one of the few situations in life that can make me wish I was still a police officer!

Continued on next page….

 

Presque Isle at Erie, PA, for the Warbler Migration – 11 May 2014 — Page Two

Back to Page One/Introduction

This page shows my own remaining photographs, with very little commentary.  If any of our WWNP group that went with us to Presque Isle  send me suitable images, I’ll create an additional gallery on a third page.

A male Baltimore Oriole singing.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
A male Baltimore Oriole at his singing station. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A male Baltimore Oriole in the early stages of building a nest. (One of the materials that can be seen here is discarded fishing line, which can be dangerous to some wildlife and should always be taken away and destroyed.)   Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
A male Baltimore Oriole in the early stages of building a nest. (One of the materials that can be seen here is discarded fishing line, which can be dangerous to ducks and swans, and should always be taken away and destroyed.) Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A male Baltimore Oriole nest building, with his female partner looking on.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
A male Baltimore Oriole nest building, with his female partner looking on. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

Watching a male Baltimore Oriole starting the construction of a nest under the watchful eye of his mate was a light-hearted moment. She was certainly keeping an eye on his every move!

 

A female Baltimore Oriole examines the early stages of her nest.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
A female Baltimore Oriole examines the early stages of her nest. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American Redstarts were present in significant numbers.  One of my shots of these was of an immature bird and another was a grab-shot of a male flying above us, with the sun gleaming through the orange patches on his tail.

An immature American Redstart (i.e. one of last year's young).
An immature American Redstart (i.e. one of last year’s young). Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

An adult male American Redstart with the sun glowing through his tail. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
An adult male American Redstart with the sun glowing through his tail.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps it is too easy to ignore some birds on the basis that they are ‘common’ or drab, but I — for one — actually find that hard to do.

A female Brown-headed Cowbird, looking positively prehistoric! Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
A female Brown-headed Cowbird, looking positively prehistoric! Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The same female Brown-headed Cowbird, looking positively pugnacious!  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
The same female Brown-headed Cowbird, looking pugnacious! Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many new birders are surprised when told this is a female Red-winged Blackbird, but how about this for a spectacular pattern!  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
Many new birders are surprised when told this is a female Red-winged Blackbird, but how about this for a spectacular pattern! Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of nature's great mimics: the Gray Catbird.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
One of nature’s great mimics: the Gray Catbird. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even some hummingbirds are as big as or even bigger than the Kinglets, of which this is a Ruby-crowned.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
Even some hummingbirds are as big as or even bigger than the Kinglets, of which this is a Ruby-crowned. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White-crowned Sparrow.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
White-crowned Sparrow singing. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My one wader/shorebird of the day was well camouflaged against dead cat-tails and reeds:

Spotted Sandpiper.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All Rights reserved.
Spotted Sandpiper. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All Rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, a species I have so far failed to identify, so if any good birders out there can help me with this one, I would be grateful.  (Please use the ‘Leave a Comment’ link at the top of the page, if you can help.)

Currently unidentified.... Help welcome!  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
Currently unidentified…. Help welcome! Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And some more of the warblers that we made our 210-mile round-trip specifically to see:

The delightful Black & White Warbler, the only bird in North America except nuthatches that can walk down as well as up tree trunks.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All Rights reserved.
The delightful Black & White Warbler, the only bird in North America except nuthatches that can walk down as well as up tree trunks. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All Rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An acrobatic Black & White Warbler.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All Rights reserved.
An acrobatic Black & White Warbler. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All Rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rufous-capped Palm Warbler.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All Rights reserved.
The rufous-capped Palm Warbler. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All Rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palm Warbler. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All Rights reserved.
Palm Warbler. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All Rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ubiquitous Yellow-rumped Warbler.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All Rights reserved.
The ubiquitous Yellow-rumped Warbler. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All Rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Yellow-rumped Warbler in full song.  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All Rights reserved.
A Yellow-rumped Warbler in full song. Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All Rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The yellow rump of a Yellow-Rumped Warbler!  Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All Rights reserved.
The yellow rump of a Yellow-Rumped Warbler! Photo copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All Rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

<– The End! 🙂

 

 

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Spring’s Top 10 Wildlife Spectacles in the USA (The Nature Conservancy)

“Looking for an excuse for a road trip, or maybe just an afternoon at a local park? Here are ten top must-see natural spectacles that you can catch each spring….”

Eddie adds:  The good news is that events in at least three of the ten categories (four, if you are a fly fisherman) happen here each year in the North East USA, so check out the suggestions in the above link, from The Nature Conservancy!

The world is losing bees at an alarming rate. What will happen if they go extinct?

Where would we be without bees? As far as important species go, they are top of the list. They are critical pollinators: they pollinate 70 of the around 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world. Honey bees are responsible for $30 billion a year in crops.

That’s only the start. We may lose all the plants that bees pollinate, all of the animals that eat those plants and so on up the food chain. Which means a world without bees could struggle to sustain the global human population of 7 billion. Our supermarkets would have half the amount of fruit and vegetables.

It gets worse. We are losing bees at an alarming rate….

To read the full article and view a video from the BBC, click on this sentence.

An Increase in Tick Bites and Lyme Disease in the UK

Walkers in Britain are being urged to take extra precautions against tick bites this summer because an epidemic of blood-sucking ticks is likely, following a mild, wet winter that gave them perfect breeding conditions.

The warning was delivered by Richard Wall, Professor of Zoology at Bristol University, who says there’s no definitive data on how many ticks are in the country. Some areas have none. Others – usually woodland and heath areas – may have more than 100 per square metre. However, the general consensus among rural communities is they are on the increase, largely as a result of the warmer and wetter weather (good breeding conditions) and the growing number of wild deer (ticks like living on their skin).

Dog walkers are also being advised to check their pets thoroughly as well, because ticks spread other diseases too, not just Lyme Disease.

The number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease — the most serious bacterial infection spread to humans by infected ticks — has also increased, according to Dr Tim Brooks, head of the Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory. He says laboratory proven cases have risen from about 200 in the late 1990s, to 1,200 last year, although the actual number of cases is probably three times that. Awareness and testing of the disease has also gone up, so the figures have to be seen in that context, he adds.

Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics if it’s diagnosed early. But neurological problems and joint pain can develop months or years later if it’s left untreated. In the worst cases, it can be fatal.

Typical bulls-eye style of rash around a bite from a Lyme-disease carrying tick.  Source: Wikimedia Commons
Typical bull’s-eye style of rash around a bite from a Lyme-disease carrying tick. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The most common symptom is a pink or red circular “bull’s-eye” rash that develops around the area of the bite, but it doesn’t appear in everyone. Flu-like symptoms and fatigue are other noticeable signs of infection.

Eddie adds:

Before feeding on the blood of their victim, the ticks are extremely small and difficult to see.  What is grimly worse is the fact that they actually burrow into their host’s flesh and become very difficult to remove.  The best way to do so is with forceps, pulling gently, directly upwards but it is extremely imortant not to squeeze too hard and burst the tick as that may leave its mouthparts embedded and can add to the subsequent infection.

Ticks are tiny when they first bite but dig themselves into the host's flesh (which is painless) and swell as  and they suck the blood.  You will NOT feel them doing it and MUST check your body. Source: CDC and Wikimedia Commons
Ticks are tiny when they first bite but dig themselves into the host’s flesh (which is painless) and swell as and they suck the blood. You will NOT feel them doing it and MUST check your body. Source: CDC and Wikimedia Commons

The longer the tick is on its victim the larger it gets as it fills with the blood it is feeding on.  The illustration on the left shows the different life-stages.  (The American ‘dime’ coin that is used for scale is smaller than a British ‘penny’ and significantly smaller than a British ‘one pound’ coin.)

However, the good news — as established over many decades of this problem here in the USA — is that if the tick is removed within 36 hours of first attaching itself, the chance of a person getting Lyme Disease is somewhere between very low and zero, so the crucial task is checking oneself very carefully each day after being outdoors in relevant areas.

Get your partner or a family member to check your back, too, because even though some say the ticks only bite up to an adult person’s waist height, this is actually goverened by the height of the vegetation in the area.  Tall grass or brush raises the waiting insects higher and any resultant bites can therefore be higher on one’s body.  The back of one’s neck and shoulders should certainly be included if you’ve been through tall vegetation, and if you are wearing a short-sleeved top, check your armpits as well.

Ticks climb onto tall or overhanging vegetation in wait for a suitable host. They sense a suitable mammal's presence by the increase in carbod dioxide and get agitated, ready to climb onto their unwitting victim.  At this stage, the ticks are minute.  Source: Wikimedia Commons
Ticks climb onto tall or overhanging vegetation in wait for a suitable host. They sense a suitable mammal’s presence by the increase in carbon dioxide and get agitated, ready to climb onto their unwitting victim. At this stage, the ticks are minute. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Some people in the USA advocate wearing light-coloured clothing so you can see any ticks that are on the outside of such (where they are harmless) before they potentially find an opening and get inside.  Similarly, if you are in a bad area for ticks it is a good idea to tuck your trouser legs into your socks — another way to stop them getting in, even if it won’t win you any points in a fashion competition.

This is certainly a problem I take very seriously and the fact that I always wear insect-repellent shirts and trousers, from early spring until winter sets in properly, undoubtedly helps.

Are such garments available in Britain?  I don’t recall ever seeing them there.  If you are planning an outdoorsy vacation anywhere warm, I would certainly recommend you search for such clothing online as it also stops mosquitoes and other biting insects from spearing you through your shirt!

One good source is Ex Officio and the relevant page is:  http://www.exofficio.com/search/bug-repellent%20clothing but there are several other sources that I know of so just do searches for ‘bug-repellent clothing’ and ‘insect-repellent clothing’.

 Eddie Wren

 


Sources:

  • http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/environment/article4078667.ece
  • http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-27255853
  • http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/epidemic-ticks-hit-britain-summer-3484449
  • http://www.examiner.com/article/mass-health-officials-warn-residents-about-dangers-of-lyme-disease
  • http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bullseye_Lyme_Disease_Rash.jpg

 

 

Live cameras watch for first Eurasian Crane chick to hatch in Britain for 400 years!

Eurasian Cranes (Grus grus), last known to have nested in Britain in the 16th Century.  (Wikimedia Commons)
Eurasian Cranes (Grus grus), last known to have nested in Britain in the 16th Century. (Wikimedia Commons)

 

An attempt by a pair of cranes to raise the first wild-hatched crane in western Britain in 400 years is being filmed on a webcam.

The webcam has been installed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at its Slimbridge reserve in Gloucestershire.

The 4ft (1.2m) tall cranes… first tried to nest at the centre last year but their chick died.

The one or two eggs are due to hatch mid-May and can be watched by internet users via the trust’s website.

The cranes are part of a reintroduction programme to re-establish the once-common birds in the UK….

Read the full article, from the BBC.