Tag Archives: migration

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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Looking Forward to the Arrival of Swallows and Swifts (video)

My inspiration for this post comes directly from the Oakmoss Education blog, where Mary Jo Graham has written an interesting post about tree swallows.

What I would like to do is mention similarities and differences between the swallow family (more technically known as hirundines) in the USA and the swallows and martins in my native Britain, where there are only three such species, compared to America’s eight regular species and two ‘casual’ visitors.

video from BTO explaining how to identify UK hirundines & swifts

Two of these species are found as regular summer visitors in both countries. The bird that Brits call just the ‘swallow’ is known in the USA as the ‘barn swallow’ (Hirundo rustica).  The British birds spend their winters in Africa whereas the American birds head down into South America.  Interestingly, the North European subspecies are always white-breasted, whereas the American birds are a buff or cinnamon color underneath.  I’ve also seen many birds of this species in several African countries where some of them are very bright orange underneath, and I presume these are yet another subspecies — perhaps one that is resident year-round in the so-called  ‘Dark Continent’.

Is it worth knowing these differences, here in the States?  Well, if you travel within North America it might be, because two of the white-breasted, Eurasian subspecies are casual visitors here.  Hirundo rustica rustica and Hirundo rustica gutturalis are both occasionally seen in west and north Alaska, and the latter has also been seen in the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Another hirundine that is found on both sides of the Atalantic is the bank swallow (USA) or sand martin (Britain).  Again, the scientific name — Riparia riparia — shows that these birds are indeed the same species.

Britain’s third member of this family is the house martin (Delichon urbica), which has been seen on both sides of North America: Western Alaska, where it is a casual visitor in spring, and a record of a single bird at an island off the coast of Newfoundland.

Although not closely related to swallows, swifts cause some confusion to new birders.  North America has four regular species, only one of which — the chimney swift — is to be found on the eastern side of the continent.  Britain, on the other hand, only has one — the common swift (Apus apus) — which is an ‘accidental’ visitor to islands off both Alaska and Newfoundland.  Records of visits also exist for Bermuda and (quote) “probably the north east” of the USA.

Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Survey – Your Help is Requested

Scott Kruitbosch, the Conservation & Outreach Coordinator at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, NY, is asking for help monitoring Rusty Blackbirds during the Spring Migration.

Learn more in this blog entry:    http://rtpi.org/rusty-blackbird-spring-migration-blitz/

Soott asks:  “Please help find Rusty Blackbirds — one of the fastest declining species on the continent — wherever you are during the blitz.    Feel free to email me if you have any other questions and good luck finding them.”

His e-mail address is: skruitbosch@rtpi.org

You might also like to visit the website of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History.