Category Archives: Birds of Prey

Birds of Prey

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….

 

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!

Braddock Bay Raptor Research Center, NY — Part 4: WWNP Group Photo Gallery

Please submit photographs for our various WWNP ‘gallery’ pages (600 pixels on the long side, e-mailed as attachments (not zipped) to: blog [AT] eddiewren [DOT] com — just remove the [AT] and the [DOT] and replace them with the correct symbol, with no spaces…. writing it this strange way helps us reduce the number of spam e-mails we receive!)

And PLEASE FEEL FREE TO COMMENT ON EACH OTHER’S  PHOTOGRAPHS…. see the ‘Leave a Comment’ link, above.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher during banding.  Photo copyright, 2014, Kathy Fenna.  All rights reserved.
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher during banding. Photo copyright, 2014, Kathy Fenna. All rights reserved.
Golden-crested Kinglet during banding.  Photo copyright, 2014, Jan Barton.  All rights reserved.
Golden-crowned Kinglet during banding. Photo copyright, 2014, Jan Barton. All rights reserved.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet during banding. Photo copyright, 2014, Maureen Szuniewicz.  All rights reserved.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet during banding. Photo copyright, 2014, Maureen Szuniewicz. All rights reserved.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet during release.  Photo copyright, 2014, Maureen Szuniewicz.  All rights reserved.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet during release. Photo copyright, 2014, Maureen Szuniewicz. All rights reserved.
Captive Owl.  Photo copyright, 2014, Kathy Fenna.  All rights reserved.
Captive Owl. Photo copyright, 2014, Kathy Fenna. All rights reserved.
Captive Barn Owl. Photo copyright, 2014, Maureen Szuniewicz.  All rights reserved.
Captive Barn Owl. Photo copyright, 2014, Maureen Szuniewicz. All rights reserved.
Peregrine demonstration.  Photo copyright, 2014, Jan Barton.  All rights reserved.
Peregrine demonstration. Photo copyright, 2014, Maureen Szuniewicz. All rights reserved.
Peregrine demonstration.  Photo copyright, 2014, Jan Barton.  All rights reserved.
Peregrine demonstration. Photo copyright, 2014, Jan Barton. All rights reserved.
Peregrine demonstration.  Photo copyright, 2014, Kathy Fenna.  All rights reserved.
Peregrine demonstration. Photo copyright, 2014, Kathy Fenna. All rights reserved.

 


Other sections of this topic:

Part 1: Songbird Banding

Part 2: Raptor Watching

Part 3: Captive (i.e. Injured) Raptors

Part 4: Photo Gallery — you are on this page

Braddock Bay Raptor Research Center, NY — Part 3: Captive (Injured) Raptors

Vehicles, power lines and badly-located wind turbines are all stunningly efficient at maiming or killing birds, and birds of prey are certainly no exception.

Anne Schnell of Braddock Bay Raptor Research, with a rescued Peregrine Falcon.  Photo copyright, 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Anne Schnell of Braddock Bay Raptor Research, with a rescued Peregrine Falcon.                    Photo copyright, 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

Some of the less-badly-injured individuals are capable of surviving if they receive care from rehabilitation experts, and a lucky few are subsequently able to be released back into the wild.  However, this leaves a question about what should happen to the ones that are too badly hurt ever to be released.  They are, after all, wild creatures and may take very badly to the stress of being kept captive, surrounded by what they should logically perceive to be dangerous predators — we humans!

Peregrine portrait.  Photo copyright, 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Peregrine portrait. Photo copyright, 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
Captive (rescued) Eastern Screech Owl.  Photo copyright, 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Captive (rescued) Eastern Screech Owl. Photo copyright, 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

Should they be kept as pets?  That’s highly questionable.  But if looked after by experts who have the birds’ best interests at heart and they are used to genuinely improve understanding of wild creatures and their needs, then the desirability of this situation undeniably shifts.

We had the good fortune to watch a demonstration by Anne Schnell, of Braddock Bay Raptor Research [BBRR], who had a very clear understanding and affinity for her charges; on this occasion an Eastern Screech Owl (Otus asio) and a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus).

Another 'bird handler', in the audience! (Photo taken with permission of grandparents.) Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Another ‘bird handler’, in the audience! (Photo taken with permission of grandparents.) Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

But, albeit light-heartedly, the final photograph above is dedicated to the true target audience for such events — the younger generation (no matter how young!) who will need to take up the running and improve on the vital conservation work that has been done so far.  And if we fail to preserve the environment then everything else is a total waste of time and effort…. My apologies for the seriousness of this closing aspect, but that’s exactly what it is:  serious!

Eddie Wren


Other sections of this topic:

Part 1: Songbird Banding

Part 2: Raptor Watching

Part 3: Captive (i.e. Injured) Raptors — you are on this page

Part 4: Photo Gallery (submitted images)

Braddock Bay Raptor Research Center, NY — Part 2: Raptor Watching

(Part 1 of this article — Songbird Banding — may be viewed here)

 

Our Wildlife Watchers and Nature Photographers group trip to the Braddock Bay Raptor Research center [BBRR] was primarily about the annual springtime phenomenon of mass migration involving birds of prey.  By happy coincidence, many of our friends from the Buffalo Ornithological Society were there at the same time.

A few of the many people on the viewing platform at Braddock Bay.  Photo copyright, 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
A few of the many people on the viewing platform at Braddock Bay. Photo copyright, 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

Like many hawk-watch locations, success at Braddock Bay is very dependent on the weather, with the optimum opportunities coming on days when the wind is from the south west.  On the day of our visit, it seemed as though the wind, at various times, came from every direction except the south west!  Such is life.

A small part of a 'kettle' of over 200 broad-winged hawks, together with a few accipiters.  Photo copyright, 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
A small part of a ‘kettle’ of over 200 broad-winged hawks, together with a few accipiters. Photo copyright, 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

Even so, for those with the patience to wait on the viewing platform, there was still plenty to see.  Sightings while we were there included:

  • Bald Eagle
  • Golden Eagle
  • Broad-winged Hawk (in ‘kettles’ of 30-200)
  • Rough-legged Hawk
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Northern Harrier
  • Turkey Vulture

The lakeside location plus the nearby bushes and woodland also provided plenty of interest with relevant species.

Eddie Wren


Other sections of this topic:

Part 1: Songbird Banding

Part 2: Raptor Watching  — you are currently on this page

Part 3: Captive (i.e. Injured) Raptors

Part 4: Photo Gallery (submitted images)

 

More Photos from the WWNP Group Visit to the Iroquois N.W.R. on 13 April, 2014

Esther Kowal-Bukata has kindly sent me some photos to add the the Iroquois ‘collection’, as posted below.  (The the original Iroquois NWR post and photographs may be viewed here.)

Osprey. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014.  All rights reserved.
Osprey. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Bluebird.  Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014.  All rights reserved.
Eastern Bluebird. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tree Swallow.  Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014.  All rights reserved.
Tree Swallow. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tree Swallow.  Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014.  All rights reserved.
Tree Swallow. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Shoveller.  Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014.  All rights reserved.
Northern Shoveller. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Teal.  Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014.  All rights reserved.
Blue-winged Teal. Copyright, Esther Kowal-Bukata, 2014. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View the original Iroquois NWR post and photographs here.

WWNP Group Visit to the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge [NWR], Alabama, NY

As we are still in the height of the spring migration of waterfowl, today was a follow-up from our visit last week to the Montezuma NWR, which is about 100 miles E.S.E. from Iroquois.  These two preserves, however, do tend to have a different complexion to each other.

The southwest corner of Cayuga Pool at Iroquois NWR.  Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
The s.w. corner of Cayuga Pool at Iroquois. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Iroquois NWR on a fairly regular basis for the past 12 years or so, which has let me see the seasonal variations in a little detail, and so we met this morning at the Cayuga Pool Overlook.  The downside of Cayuga is that the birds tend to be quite distant, which drastically reduces the photographic opportunities, but the upside is the wealth of species that can be viewed, using binoculars, spotting scopes or — of course — longer lenses on one’s camera.

Blue-winged Teal. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Blue-winged Teal. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

My own species list from today is as follows, but I hope anyone in the group who saw other birds will e-mail me so they can be added here:

Osprey. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Osprey. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

 

Briefly kidnapped for a photo! (Leopard Frog). Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Briefly kidnapped for a photo! (Leopard Frog). Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
  •  Canada Goose
  • American Wigeon
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Northern Shoveler
  • Redhead
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Bufflehead
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Horned Grebe
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Osprey
  • Bald Eagles (at nest)
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • American Kestrel
  • American Coot
  • Killdeer
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Mourning Dove
  • American Crow
  • Tree Swallow
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • American Robin
  • Song Sparrow
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
  • American Goldfinch
Tree Swallows at nest box. Copyright 2014, Kathryn Fenna. All rights reserved.
Tree Swallows at nest box. Copyright 2014, Kathryn Fenna. All rights reserved.

One of the commonest but many would say most delightful birds to be seen arriving at ponds and lakes each April is the Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor).  The “bicolor” part of its scientific name refers to the fact that the refractive sheen on this bird’s back changes from typically being more blue in spring to green in fall.

In spring, however, some birds appear to have only the back of their head showing colour, with their back being a drabber brown. These are first-year females that are just coming up to their ‘first birthday’.

Tree Swallows at nestbox. CVopyright 2014, Cherie St. Pierre. All rights reserved.
Tree Swallows at nestbox. Copyright 2014, Cherie St. Pierre. All rights reserved.

As at least two of our group photographed tree swallows during this outing, I’ve included some photographs here.

I’ve also added an older photo of my own, taken in May 2011 at the same location (Cayuga Pool), just to make the point that even pocket-sized, point-and-shoot cameras can occasionally be used to get acceptably pleasing bird photos.

Tree Swallow emerging from hole in post. Copyright 2011, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
Tree Swallow emerging from hole in post. Copyright 2011, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

The shot in question (below left), of a tree swallow emerging from a nest hole in an old post, was taken with a Pentax Optio 80 camera, and despite the angle may show one of the first-year females I referred to above.

More photographs from this visit to the Iroquois NWR will be posted on the next page of this write-up [link to follow shortly], but for anyone wanting to visit the refuge on their own, you can be sure it is well worthwhile (otherwise it wouldn’t have that “national” importance in its title!).

The three primary habitats to be found at Iroquois are:

  • emergent marsh
  • forested wetlands
  • grasslands

On this occasion, our own WWNP group visit focussed almost entirely on the areas of open water but we will certainly be going back to look at the other environments, including a ‘warbler walk’ in May. To contact the WWNP group and potentially join us for various outings, please e-mail wwnp [AT] eddiewren [DOT] com — replacing the ‘at’ and the ‘dot’ with the relevant symbols and leaving no spaces. (This is done to cut down on spam e-mails.)

You may view more photos from this visit to Iroquios, by Esther Kowal-Bukata, here.

Useful web  pages are here:

Plan your Visit

Wildlife and Habitat

Seasons of Wildlife (i.e. what you might see)

The best map of the Iroquois Refuge (pdf)

Eddie