Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend

It's now the end of May. Most of the migrating birds have moved past, except for the occasional Blackpoll or Mourning Warbler. This past week, I had a Mourning Warbler in the yard, singing away. The male that showed up sang an unusual song. Rather than singing out the usual rolling song, this bird made a series of three whistled notes.

This Mourning Warbler was tough to
photograph, as it stayed in the densest brush

Other birds have already finished breeding here in Kunkletown. Barn Swallows, Eastern Phoebes, and Black-capped Chickadees have already successfully raised young this year. Other birds, such as Ovenbirds, Baltimore Orioles, and Eastern Bluebirds, have eggs in their nests.

For the past few days, the temperature has reached the upper eighties. This hot, humid weather has brought out more butterflies and odonates. The yard is filled with hundreds of Little Wood-Satyrs and lots of skippers. The pond edge is filled with several species of odes including my favorite, Calico Pennants.

Little Wood-Satyr
Little Wood-Satyrs are, by far, the most abundant butterfly in the yard right now.

Pepper and Salt Skipper
Finding a Pepper and Salt Skipper, like this one,
is always a treat. This one was found near a wooded seep.

Unicorn Clubtail
This is a Unicorn Clubtail, one of the common clubtails this time of year.

Painted Skimmer
This species was a bit of a surprise to find in the yard. Two Painted Skimmers,
like the one above, showed up in a wet meadow.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ode photos

This afternoon, when the sun came out, I went photographing odes (dragonflies and damselflies) in my yard. Here are a couple of shots:

Aurora Damsel
Aurora Damsel

Spangled Skimmer
Spangled Skimmer

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Back from the World Series of Birding!

This afternoon, I returned from the 27th annual World Series of Birding in New Jersey. This year was my 4th year in the event. My team the Subadult Skuaz, consisting of Luke Seitz, Ian Davies, and me, finished with 188 species. This total was enough for us to claim first place in the youth division!

Although we had some misses, we had some good birds and had a great time.

Here is a picture of us at the Awards Brunch accepting the Pete Dunne Future Leaders of Birding award and advertising eBird.

Finally, thank you to everyone who pledged for the team, drove us around (during scouting and on the World Series), and gave us scouting information!

As soon as I can, I will post a more detailed report of scouting and the big day.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

World Series of Birding Scouting, Day 1

Today I started scouting for the 2010 World Series of Birding. This year, I am on the Subadult Skuaz team, which consists of three young birders from eastern United States. All pledges that I raise are donated to the Lehigh Gap Nature Center. The event itself will be held on May 15, and this week, I am scouting for birds in southern New Jersey.

Early this morning, my mom and I left home at around 3:45am, and arrived at our starting location at around 7:00am. For most of the morning, we birded around many southern woodland habitats in areas such as Millville Wildlife Management Area and Belleplain State Forest. We drove around, stopping at any promising location and listened for birds. The extremely high winds made listening very challenging. Many birds were quiet and inactive. Despite the wind, we found territories for many of the "southern specialty" birds, including Orchard Oriole, White-eyed Vireo, Acadian Flycatcher, Prothonotary Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Summer Tanager, and Blue Grosbeak.

In the afternoon, we headed to southern New Jersey. Our first stop on the Cape May Island was along Steven's Street. We were only here for a few minutes, but saw an immature Broad-winged Hawk fly over. From here, we went to Cape May Point State Park. Here, we walked along the ponds while watching the numerous swallows. Here we found six species of swallows, a few ducks, and watched several Osprey. In a small pond in the back, I noticed a smalls shorebird running towards me. I watched it come closer and soon realized that it was a Piping Plover, most likely one of the ones nesting on the adjacent beach.

Our next stop was "The Meadows" also known as the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge. Here we saw a large flock of terns and gulls. The majority of the flock was Laughing Gulls (80+) and Forster's Terns (90+), but there were a few Common and Least Terns and Ring-billed, Herring, Great Black-backed, and Bonaparte's Gulls. In the water, there were several shorebirds, including several Least Sandpipers, both yellowlegs, and a Willet.

After birding Cape May, we called it a day and hit the sack. I finished the day with 98 species.

Sorry for the lack of photos. I cannot upload photos now, but as soon as I can, I will.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Backyard Big Day

The idea of doing a full-fledged backyard big day came to me on Friday night. Considering that there was most likely going to be a big movement of birds that evening, I decided that today, Saturday, would be a good day. I set my alarm clock to 4:30, and got a few hours of sleep.

At 4:30, I rolled out of bed and headed outside to begin my day of birding. I started by walking to the road, where I could listen for nocturnal migrants and any early-rising birds. The first bird of the day was a "chinking" Eastern Towhee, who for a short period of time was joined by a Song Sparrow, a Northern Cardinal, several Field Sparrows, a Chipping Sparrow, and a Brown Thrasher. The commotion lasted for about a minute, then stopped abruptly. In the silence, I was able to hear the flight call of an American Redstart.

Before long, the real dawn chorus began. The birds mentioned above, minus the redstart, again sang, and were joined by American Robins, Gray Catbird, and Wood Thrush. As the sky got lighter, small groups of Blue Jays started flying over, a sight that would not end until sundown. In the field, a couple of Eastern Bluebirds near the nestboxes sang, while a Common Yellowthroat "whichity-whichity"-ed from the scrubby edge.

As the air warmed, Ovenbirds and Black-and-white Warblers started singing in the woods. Once the sun rose above the Kittatinny Ridge, small flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers could be found feeding at the tree tops. These warblers were often joined by chickadees, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets.

Black-and-white Warbler
male Black-and-white Warbler

As I walked up the ridge a bit, I heard the insect-like trill of a Worm-eating Warbler. I followed the sound, and found the bird on the side of the hill. I watched as it buzzed several times, then fly directly above me, allowing me to get some interesting photos. While watching the buffy warbler, I heard the song of a Hermit Thrush and the burry notes of a Scarlet Tanager.

Worm-eating Warbler
Worm-eating Warbler

When I returned up the hill, I immediately heard the "boing" flight call of a Bobolink. While listening to the call, I heard several Zee-zee-zee-zoo-zees from the Black-throated Green Warblers, a couple Beer-beer-zeeeees from the Black-throated Blues, and a single Zeeeeeeee-up from a Northern Parula.

Before long, the sun had heated up the air, bringing the temperature to the upper-70s. Unfortunately, the heat caused the birds to stop singing. Fortunately for me, when the birds stop, there are always butterflies to watch! Butterflies were everywhere, but many seemed to be concentrated on a gas line cut which runs through the property. Along this strip, I found 17 species of butterflies, including some unusual ones: Canadian Tiger Swallowtail, White M Haistreak, Common Roadside-Skipper, Sleepy Duskywing, Eastern Pine Elfin, and Cobweb Skipper.

Around 2:00pm, the raptor flight picked up. I sat in the shade and peered into the scattered clouds, and was able to find four hawk and two vulture species. Mixed in with a group of buteos was a pair of Common Ravens.

When late afternoon arrived, the bird activity picked up again. Several Prairie and Blue-winged Warblers sang from the edge of the field, adding buzzy notes to the clear-noted chorus of Field and Chipping Sparrows.

Blue-winged Warbler
Blue-winged Warbler

Finally, as the day wound down and the sun set, my list stood at 63 species. However, sunset does not mean stop birding. In the remaining light, I was able to pick out a pair of Rock Pigeons fly by, a species I had missed earlier in the day. Once the sky got dark again, I took a peek at the NEXRAD radar map. This is what I saw:

NEXRAD radar showing birds

That is a lot of birds!

Seeing the massive movement on the radar screen, I headed outside to listen for migrating birds. Before long, I got my 65th species for the day, a Gray-cheeked Thrush. Before long, another new bird for the day called, a Virginia Rail. This bird, which was flying over, is secretive during the day, but quite frequently heard by those who listen for nocturnal migrants. This bird was also a new bird for the yard.

Before wrapping up, I listened for a few minutes. I heard the flight calls of Yellow-rumped Warblers, Song Sparrows, Wood Thrushes, and an Ovenbird, all birds that I had seen earlier in the day.

What a great day! And if the birds keep coming in, tomorrow morning may be a good time to listen for more migrants!

Canada Goose 6
Mallard 2
Wild Turkey 4
Black Vulture 1
Turkey Vulture 13
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Cooper's Hawk 1
Broad-winged Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 4
Virginia Rail 1
Rock Pigeon 2
Mourning Dove 7
Red-bellied Woodpecker 5
Downy Woodpecker 3
Northern Flicker 3
Pileated Woodpecker 3
Eastern Phoebe 3
Eastern Kingbird 1
Blue Jay 86
American Crow 13
Common Raven 2
Tree Swallow 4
Northern Rough-winged Swallow 3
Barn Swallow 16
Black-capped Chickadee 9
Tufted Titmouse 7
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Carolina Wren 2
House Wren 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 4
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 6
Eastern Bluebird 3
Gray-cheeked Thrush 1
Hermit Thrush 2
Wood Thrush 4
American Robin 13
Gray Catbird 1
Northern Mockingbird 1
Brown Thrasher 3
European Starling 1
Blue-winged Warbler 3
Northern Parula 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler 45
Black-throated Green Warbler 3
Prairie Warbler 2
Black-and-white Warbler 12
American Redstart 2
Worm-eating Warbler 1
Ovenbird 20
Common Yellowthroat 1
Scarlet Tanager 3
Eastern Towhee 7
Chipping Sparrow 6
Field Sparrow 9
Song Sparrow 4
Northern Cardinal 3
Bobolink 1
Red-winged Blackbird 6
Common Grackle 2
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Baltimore Oriole 2
Purple Finch 4
House Finch 2
American Goldfinch 7
House Sparrow 4