Monday, September 23, 2013

Highlights from September 16th- 22nd 2013

"When the gales of November come early." A cold front from the northwest is the favorable direction for good fall migration. A major front with extensive rain arrived Friday night departing just before daybreak Saturday morning. Often migrants "balloon in front of the rain front but just as often they follow right on its heels as if drafting the pressure and precipitation change. This scenario is just what happened Saturday morning; and what a day Saturday was! Untold numbers of warblers and some thrushes could be heard calling the hour before light as they descended to land following the early morning lake crossing.

Blackpoll Warblers (BLPW) were arriving in flocks, and not to be outdone, the Cape May Warblers (CMWA) arrived in numbers we haven't seen for quite a few years. An additional 18 warbler species wee recorded that day or earlier in the week and included: Tennessee (TEWA), Nashville (NAWA), Yellow (YEWA), Chestnut-sided (CSWA), Magnolia (MAWA), Black-throated Blue (BTBW), Myrtle (MYWA), Black-throated Green (BTNW), Blackburnian (BLBW), Bay-breasted (BBWA), Black-and-white (BAWW), American Redstart (AMRE), Ovenbird (OVEN), Northern Waterthrush (NOWA), Connecticut (CONW), Common Yellowthroat (COYE), Wilson's (WIWA), and Canada (CAWA). 

Below is a closer look at the CMWAs from Saturday. There was a boatload (or in this case a sky and shrub load) of them around. This species is highly variable in plumage in fall.

Cape May Warblers: adult male left and adult female right.
Note fine streaks on breast and small pointed bill.

Some highlights from the week:

Blue-headed Vireo
Connecticut Warbler:adult male with complete white eye ring.Two CONWs were captured and banded on 9/21/13

Stay tuned for another week of increasing numbers of Blackpoll Warblers. Keep that dog-eared page of confusing fall warblers handy! Prepare for the October birds: kinglets, sparrows, and blackbirds to start cranking up. 

Please mark your calendar and join us for a free public banding demonstration at BSBO next Saturday from 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Highlights for the Week of September 9th- 15th

This week saw an increase in bird species and volume from the weeks prior. The presence of a series of cold fronts from the northwest resulted in excellent migration in the Great Lakes. Higher numbers of thrushes, and Blackpolls (BLPW) and Tennessee Warblers (TEWA) headlined along with 21 other species of warblers including: Golden-winged (GWWA), Nashville (NAWA), Chestnut-sided (CSWA), Magnolia (MAWA), Cape May (CMWA), Black-throated Green (BTNW), Black-throated Blue (BTBW), Myrtle (MYWA), Blackburnian (BLBW), Western Palm (WPWA), Bay-breasted (BBWA), Blackpoll (BLPW), Black-and-white (BAWW), American Redstart (AMRE), Ovenbird (OVEN), Northern Watertrhush (NOWA), Connecticut (CONW), Mourning (MOWA), Common Yellowthroat (COYE), Wilson's (WIWA), Brewster's and Canada (CAWA). What a list! It was the first for this fall for the Western Palm, Golden-winged, Brewster's, and Myrtle Warblers. 

As promised from last week, here is a review of Brown Thrush ID for those species at their peak now. Veery (VEER), Swainson's (SWTH) and Gray-cheeked Thrushes (GCTH).

A few key field marks for identifying the brown thrushes are the appearance of eye ring, the spotting on the chest, and the color of the back. 
Left bird has a visible eye ring.  The right bird does not.
Bird on left is the only bird with an eye ring in this photo.
Note the differences in overall color as well. 
Then note the coloration of the head, back, and tail. Is it olive brown or reddish brown?
Back coloration of these birds are both olive brown
Back coloration on these birds are left olive brown and right reddish brown. Notice the markings of the secondary coverts on the bird on the right, this indicates a hatching-year bird and can give the appearance of a wing bar on some individuals.
Compare spotting on these and look for eye rings. Bird in center has blurry spots. Also appears more reddish brown than the other two.
Left to Right: Swainson's Thrush, Veery, and Gray-cheeked Thrush. 
Of the two olive-brown backed thrushes, one has an eye ring and one does not. The one with the eye ring has an "i" in its name: Swainson's. Also a Swainson's has a "buffy " eye ring and buffyness to its chest. The other olive brown thrush with no eye ring is the Gray-cheeked Thrush (GCTH).
Guess which ones are here:
Birds from left to right: SWTH VEER GCTH
For those who would like to see some of these fall migrants up close, we will be holding a free public banding demonstration at the Observatory this weekend, both Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM in conjunction with Midwest Birding Symposium.

Also check online for the update on the banding totals for this fall.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Warbler Species Beginning to Increase

A full week into September and as expected, numbers have begun to increase in volume and species diversity. A couple of weak cold fronts came through the region this past week bringing in more warbler species and an increase in brown thrush numbers. Nineteen species of warbler were observed or heard this week including Tennessee (TEWA), Nashville (NAWA), Prothonotary (PROW), Yellow (YEWA), Chestnut-sided (CSWA), Magnolia (MAWA), Cape May (CMWA), Black-throated Blue (BTBW), Blackburnian (BLBW), Bay-breasted (BBWA), Blackpoll (BLPW), Black-and-white (BAWW), American Redstart (AMRE), Ovenbird (OVEN), Northern Waterthursh (NOWA), Mourning (MOWA), Common Yellowthroat (COYE), Wilson's (WIWA), and Canada (CAWA).
Blackburnian Warbler (BLBW)
The facial markings and wing bars are clue to this species.
Back of BLBW

 We will start out with a quiz bird:
Note wing bar and streaked breast
 Other warblers of note for the week:
Mourning Warbler
Adult female with split white eye-ring 

Wilson's Warbler - male

Yellow Warbler
Nice adult female with slate gray bill and fine red streaks on breast
More on quiz bird.
This is not the same bird as we showed you above, but it is the same species.
Note: thin pointed bill on small rounded head compared to most warblers which have
larger bills and heads
Breast of this species always has fine streaking in both spring and fall season

Quiz bird revealed: Cape May Warbler (CMWA)
 Adult male in this photo. On most CMWAs in fall you notice a
shadow of their auricular patch (cheek).
The Cape May is often referred to as a "Gypsy" warbler as it follows Gypsy Moth and other insect outbreaks in its boreal habitat. It can be extremely common or quite rare on any given fall due to this behavior.

Numbers of birds should continue to increase this coming week as the Blackpoll begins to arrive in volume. Thrushes will also increase and we will provide a comparison of our brown thrushes next week in this Blog. 

The coming week may also the last of some of the flycatchers, orioles and CSWA, CAWA, and YEWA. Enjoy the beauty of the season!