Category Archives: Passerines / Songbirds

Acadia Birding Festival 2015 – Day 1

The Acadia Birding Festival is Maine’s premiere bird watching festival and was established in 1998.

Group at Indian Point Blagden Preserve
Group at Indian Point Blagden Preserve

This year, the Festival is from 28-31 May, plus two post-festival trips on 1-2 June, and over these days it visits 27 different birding locations.

Male Hairy Woodpecker feeding young at nest hole
Male Hairy Woodpecker feeding young at nest hole

For ourselves, the main Day One trip was to Indian Point Blagden Preserve – a path through mixed woodland leading down to the beach at the N.W. corner of Mount Desert Island and the Acadia National Park.

Red-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo

Our list of warblers seen included: Ovenbird, American Redstart, Northern Parula, and Black-and-White, Magnolia, Blackburnian, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Blue & Black-throated Green Warblers.

Black-throated Green Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler

Other species seen included Common Loon, immature Bald Eagles, Hairy Woodpecker (at nest), Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, American Robin and Dark-eyed Junco.

Magnolia Warbler
Magnolia Warbler

Species heard but not seen included: Mourning Dove, Eastern-wood Pewee, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Winter Wren.

Oven Bird
Oven Bird

And the guides for this event?  Well, there’s a whole truck-load of experts – too many to mention by name – but they are headed up by two internationally-known names:  Ken Kaufman, inter alia the author of several excellent books about birds, and David la Puma, Director of the Cape May Bird Observatory in New Jersey.

Harbor Seal, just off shore
Harbor Seal, just off shore

But for now, I’m just looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings!

Eddie

 

Other Photos from Five Rivers

Common Yellowthroat yelling "Witchety, witchety" at me.
Common Yellowthroat yelling “Witchety, witchety” at me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia) in breeding plumage
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia) in breeding plumage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spotted Sandpiper in flight, showing wing and tail markings
Spotted Sandpiper in flight, showing wing and tail markings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No, I still can't resist getting shots of Tree Swallows!
No, I still can’t resist getting shots of Tree Swallows!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Painted Turtle in the water
Eastern Painted Turtle in the water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Chipmunk
Eastern Chipmunk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well-camouflaged grasshopper on wood mulch
Well-camouflaged grasshopper on wood mulch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A geometrid moth larva, looping.
A geometrid moth larva, looping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Azure butterfly on the invasive plant, Garlic Mustard
Spring Azure butterfly on the invasive plant, Garlic Mustard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Azure butterfly from above while feeding
Spring Azure butterfly from above while feeding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Geranium
Wild Geranium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I believe this is Corn Speedwell (Veronica arvensis)
I believe this is Corn Speedwell (Veronica arvensis)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See also: ‘Here Be Dragons and Damsels‘ (same location & same day)

Kaaterskill Falls – Early May (Page 2)

Continued from Page 1…/

The walk back down from Kaaterskill Falls to the road was one of those occasions when verse by my favourite Welsh poet sprang readily to mind:

EWr-7D2-150502-011_KaaterskillFallsPath©2015_Eddie-Wren_All-Rights-ReservedEWr-7D2-150502-005_RedTrillium©2015_Eddie-Wren_All-Rights-ReservedEWr-T3i-150502-014_DelightfulCompany©2015_Eddie-Wren_All-Rights-ReservedEWr-T3i-150502-015_MossyBoulder©2015_Eddie-Wren_All-Rights-ReservedEWr-T3i-150502-013_TexturedBuds©2015_Eddie-Wren_All-Rights-ReservedWhat is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

W.H. Davies

As for the “streams full of stars,” I looked and wondered whether this particular one also held any Brook Trout.  I have a delightful little 3-weight, 7’6″ fly rod that I could be easily be tempted to go back with, to that gorge.

And then, of course, there are all the larger creeks and rivers in the Catskill Mountains.  They might need longer 4- or even 5-weight rods.  I wonder how many Americans know that the Catskills were actually the first place fly fishing was ever done in the U.S.A.  These mountains are certainly classed as the home of such in America.

The Red Trilliums (see above) were, of course, a wonderful bonus.  So many spring wildflowers are white or pale-coloured but not these ones!

We also saw a few small birds flitting about on the far bank of the creek and some long-lens photographs showed these to be Louisiana Waterthrush – a little gem in a lovely setting.

So yes, the path up to the Kaaterskill Falls is steep and a bit rough in parts but it is not much more than quarter of a mile so, as long as you take your time, a lot of people could manage it.  And as I hope my words and photos have shown, it is very worthwhile!

Eddie

[Go back to Page 1]

A Mixed Bag of Birds at Five Rivers

On the same walk I wrote about in ‘Honey Bees, Bumble Bees and Wannabees‘, I grabbed a few photos of birds that conveniuently appeared nearby.  I don’t think there’s anything that needs adding in terms of a ‘story’ here, so this is just a small selection of the resultant images:

Nesting territory dispute - Canada Geese
Nesting territory dispute – Canada Geese

 

Northern Roughwing Swallow (Stelgidopterix serripennis)
Northern Roughwing Swallow (Stelgidopterix serripennis)

 

Territorial dispute - Canada Geese
Tree Swallows (Tachicineta bicolor) staking their claim to a nestbox

 

An American Robin, nothing much like the Eurasian Robin from which, presumably, a homesick immigrant gave this ginger-breasted species of thrush its hand-me-down name.
An American Robin, nothing much like the Eurasian Robin from which – presumably – a homesick immigrant gave this ginger-breasted species of thrush its hand-me-down name.

 

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

 

 

Renewing acquaintance with the excellent Five Rivers NYS DEC wildlife preserve

Back in 2012, while living in Albany, I was able to visit the Five Rivers EEC/preserve several times and came to like it greatly, so now that we are back in the Capital District I’ll be renewing my acquaintance with this delightful location.

One of Five Rivers’ greatest advantages is its broad mix of environments – from grasslands and scrub, to pine and deciduous woodlands, the seeps and streams, and – last but by no means least – a variety of ponds.

My first photo, here, is simply a snapshot that I took with my cell phone to use on Twitter, and it’s a view of one of a cluster of the smaller ponds – a great place for Belted Kingfishers and Green Heron.

Pond at Fiver Rivers NYS DEC Preserve - April 2015
Pond at Fiver Rivers NYS DEC Preserve – April 2015

At the above pond, a large Snapping Turtle was basking on the sloping bank until a couple of people nearby spooked it and it launched itself back into the water with a tremendous splash.  Plenty of Eastern Painted Turtles were out basking, as well, but a gaudy interloper in the next photo looks to me like an entirely different species (unless it is just in mating colours).  It’s front legs had yellow stripes on a blackish background. It eventually gave up trying to get onto the ‘sun deck’ and slipped back into the water, so I never got a look at its upper side.  Can anyone help me identify it for certain, please?  My books aren’t helping!

Eastern painted Turtles basking, but what's the one that's pushing in?

Moving on from amphibians to reptiles, the only snake I saw was a tiny, 7-inch-long juvenile Garter Snake, and he was too far under a thorny bush for me to want to go crawling after his portrait!

A dead oak literally hanging on, from last year. Five Rivers - April 2015
A dead oak leaf,  literally hanging on, from last year. Five Rivers – April 2015

For those with botanical interests, all was visibly starting to stir.  There were still a few dead leaves left on some branches but there were also plenty buds in various stages of development and – for me – the first flowers of spring: the delightful Coltsfoot.  (Yes, I know that sadly this is one of many introduced species, here in North America but for giving us the first bright glow of spring, I still can’t resist it.)

So who can resist or ignore the sights and sounds of spring?

Bud Light!
Bud Light!

 

Honey Bee on Coltsfoot at Five Rivers - April 2015
Honey Bee on Coltsfoot at Five Rivers – April 2015

On slower sections of the streams and in among dead cattails on the ponds, Water Striders were busy whizzing around, looking for other insects trapped in the surface layer.  These fascinating creatures of the genus Gerris use their short front legs to grab prey, their middle pair of legs to ‘row’ at great speed, and their back legs to steer.  If you want a lesson in patience and frustration, try getting a sharp, close-up photo of them!

A 'Gerris' species of Water Strider - insects that we Brits refer to as 'Pond Skaters'
A ‘Gerris’ species of Water Strider – insects that we Brits refer to as ‘Pond Skaters’. Five Rivers.

 

 

The last photo I’m posting here is of another creature that often will not stop still long enough to have its photograph taken, but this time it’s the Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) a tiny (4¼-inch) bird which, along with its North American cousin the Golden-crowned Kinglet, is closely related to the very similar Firecrests and Goldcrests in Europe, in the same genus.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Five Rivers - April 2015
Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Five Rivers – April 2015

 

Here the ‘ruby crown’ is deliberately hidden away by drabber feathers on the top of its head, but when it has cause to display, just watch the dramatic change!

As for Five Rivers, I’ll be back… as often as I can!

Eddie Wren

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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