Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fall Brings Late Migrants

Winter Wren (WIWR)
Welcome to fall! This week we had our first captures of Winter Wren (WIWR), Myrtle Warbler (MYWA) and Western Palm Warbler (WPWA). Some of the volunteers weren't ready for the colder weather and were not pleased to see these birds arriving so soon. The cold fronts that passed through this week resulted in some later fall migrants mixing with some early fall migrants such as the Chestnut-sided Warbler (CSWA).
Western Palm Warbler (WPWA)
Here are some additional highlights for the week:
Golden-winged Warbler (GWWA) and Yellow-throated Vireo (YTVI)
Hooded Warbler (HOWA)

White tail spots characteristic of the HOWA
Here are a pair of tanagers: can you tell which female tanager this is?

Scarlet Tanagers (SCTA) have white axillaries (wingpits) versus yellow axillaries on a Summer Tanager (SUTA).
Scarlet Tanager (SCTA)
The male has black wings all year 'round. This bird can be aged by its primary coverts seen at tip of red arrow. It is a hatching year bird with its dull brown coverts contrasting with its black primaries.
Scarlet Tanager (SCTA) Male
Next week we anticipate the kinglets appearing.  There have been a few reported in NE Ohio.  Enjoy your fall birding!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 5-11th Highlights

I write this on September 11th, a day I spent in the same place doing my part of the BSBO mission in 2001. It is impossible not to remember the tragedy 10 years ago in New York City, Washington D.C., and in western Pennsylvania. We are very thankful for our freedom and for those who are on the frontlines every day ensuring those freedoms we often take for granted. It is these freedoms that allow us to appreciate the natural world, a natural world we have the responsibility to protect and conserve. 

This responsibility is reflected in Aldo Leopold's Land Ethic, where community is people and wild places including animals, plants, land, and water.
Cape May Warbler
Understanding migrational timing and the interaction of habitats of birds in migration is what BSBO continues to investigate to fill our role in the big picture of  conservation.

Chestnut-sided Warbler

One of the last Yellow Warblers seen before spring

This week had a slow start with the remnants of Hurricane Lee hanging to our east. You could see the influx of migrants coming into the marsh region. Even with a strong Northeaster the birds could be seen and heard crossing the lake. The Observatory, which is about a half mile off the lake, had a large influx of migrants on Tuesday September 6th. We saw the diversity of warblers and thrushes on the Navarre beach ridge but the birds moved inland fast that day to escape the strong lake winds. By the 9th, with west winds the beach ridge took center stage.

Highlights for the week were 19 species of warblers and four of the brown thrushes (Wood (WOTH), Veery (VEER), Gray-cheeked (GCTH), and Swainson's (SWTH)). The warblers included Black-throated Green (BTNW), Wilson's (WIWA), Tennessee (TEWA), Cape May (CMWA), Blackburnian (BLBW), American Redstart (AMRE), Black-throated Blue (BTBW), Northern Waterthrush (NOWA), Blackpoll (BLPW), Magnolia (MAWA), Ovenbird (OVEN), Common Yellowthroat (COYE), Nashville (NAWA), Chestnut-sided (CSWA), Black-and-white (BAWW), Mourning (MOWA), Connecticut (CONW), Bay-breasted (BBWA), and Yellow (YEWA). Blackpolls and Magnolia warblers dominated the warbler scene this past week. Blackpolls have only just begun to arrive and will be picking up in the coming weeks.

Here is a quiz bird to keep you sharp:
Note the distinctive facial pattern and it's wing bars... Color should not be needed for the identification of this hatching year bird.

And to show you that there really are Connecticut Warblers out there. We share two caught at the same time. Note the larger bill and the complete eye ring.

It is always interesting to observe two similar species up close to compare their distinguishing features. Take a look at this NAWA and MOWA. Note the size of the two species, plus where the yellow appears on the front of each (the yellow goes all the way up the throat on the NAWA and the MOWA has the hood coloration on its throat), also the complete eye ring of the NAWA and the split eye ring of this hatching year MOWA.
NAWA left and MOWA right
This week saw the capture of three species of vireos including Red-eyed (REVI), Warbling (WAVI) and Philadelphia (PHVI). Note that the yellow on the PHVI extends all the way from the belly to the bill. The WAVI may have yellowish wash along the flanks but does not see yellow extend to the bill.
Philadelphia Vireo

Philadelphia Vireo front view
Next weekend begins the Midwest Birding Symposium and fall migrants should start to peak in numbers and diversity. Get out and enjoy the season and take time to share your love of birds with someone new!

Banding demonstrations at the Observatory are on Friday and Saturday from 8 AM to 9:30 AM. This is a great opportunity to see those confusing fall warblers up close.

Answer to the quiz bird is Hatching Year female Blackburnian Warbler.
After Hatch Year male Blackburnian Warbler

Monday, September 5, 2011

Connecticut Warbler and other fall migrants

If you were not able to get out much during the month of August, some of the early migrants are still hanging on including Baltimore Orioles, Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, Canada Warbler, and Prothonotary Warbler. The Navarre Banding station continues to hold at 20 species of warbler for the fall season, a pretty good tally for this early in the season. We are still awaiting Northern Parula (NOPA), Orange-crowned Warbler (OCWA), Western Palm Warbler (WPWA), Blackburnian Warbler, and Myrtle Warbler (MYWA). 
Here is a quiz bird (profile and front photo) to sharpen your fall warbler ID skills:

An early and a late migrating flycatcher pair graced us with their presence, on September 4th. Actually, there is a dispersal of Eastern Phoebes shortly after fledging to the beach ridges along Lake Erie. Where they originate isn't known but the behavior results in strange migrational timing for the species as it may be seen from August to November.

The Eastern Phoebe (EAPH) and Eastern Wood Pewee (EAWP) are pictured below from left to right. The EAPH has a dark head and a dark bill (both upper and lower mandibles (bill) are black). Whereas the EAWP has a bi-colored beak (top mandible is dark and lower mandible is yellowish or lighter color) in the fall. Neither has an eye ring which separates them from the other Empidonax flycatchers.
Here we share with you an uncommon warbler for any season, the Connecticut (CONW). This individual is one of two we have caught so far this fall. It is a hatching year bird with a buffy eye ring. An adult male would be just as you would imagine with their slate-colored head and bright white eye ring.



Enjoy the early days of September, more birds are to come in the following weeks. Watch for cold fronts from the north and northwest. If you can identify these confusing warblers in the fall season, you are certain to be an expert by spring. Remember Saturday, September 10th at 10 AM is the Free Public banding demonstration at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory. For more information on all the fall happenings at BSBO, visit our website at:   and Kenn Kaufman's Best Bets for Birding at

Answer to the quiz bird: Bay-breasted Warbler.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

August tallies 20 species of Warblers!

Eastern Kingbird (EAKI)
With the passing of the month of August, many consider the start of fall passerine migration just around the corner, but in fact it is already here. Prothonotary, Canada, and Yellow Warblers have begun their trek south with flycatchers following their lead. American Goldfinch and Cedar Waxwing are finishing up their nesting duties as well. At Oak Openings, we had an American Goldfinch nest with 3 eggs and two pink nestlings on August 4th. It demonstrates that not all birds are done nesting by the end of July. Some wait until later in the summer to even begin. Something to keep in mind when the urge to manicure and mow fields and hedgerows before the end of August manifest itself.

Here are examples of Hatching Year birds-note the eye color on the Brown Thrasher (BRTH) and the difference in the juvenile plumage of the Cedar Waxwing, left, (CEDW) and the adult CEDW.

The Prothonotary Warbler below (PROW) will not be around these parts for long, so get out and enjoy this bird with fanfair or fantail. We refer to it as  a touch of the sun with its golden body plumage.

This week we have racked up 20 species of warbler, if that is not enough to get you outside we do not know what is. The species captured so far are Tennessee, Cape May, Nashville, Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Black-and-white, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, American Redstart, Pronthonotary, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Mourning, Connecticut, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson, and Canada Warblers. Not a bad list for August!

Let us throw in a few quizbird photos:

Note the buffy eye ring which helps with aging it as a Hatching Year (HY) bird.

Take a look at this Black and White Warbler and age and sex the bird: (Hint-red arrow helps in pointing out the primary coverts to assist in aging)

(This is a Hatching Year Male BAWW- brownish coverts confirm HY as well as the distinct black streaks on the side tell you it is a male (HY). Females have blurry black streaks on flanks. Adult male BAWW would have the black facial patch.)

To prepare you for fall warblers here are some previews for the birds to come:

Black-throated Blue Warbler (BTBW)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (CSWA)

Black-throated Green Warbler (BTNW)
Why not have another row of Quizbirds? Front and back views to give you a better size comparison.

To help you refresh your fall warbler ID, join us for our public banding demonstrations. The first one is Saturday September 10th at 10 AM -11 AM at the BSBO office. Hope you can join us!

Answer to quizbird #1: Nashville Warbler (NAWA)-eye ring not wing bars or tail or breast spots or streaks.

Answer to the quizbird lineup: from left to right front view-Canada, Mourning, and Magnolia Warblers.