Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gotta Keep Up

The title of this blog may have you thinking, I'm referring to blog entries or keeping the feeders full or even my species count for my competition.  I wish it was in reference to the fun side of birding, the happy days of searching new species or of simply enjoying the ones I share my yard with and then share with my readers.  Today, I walked out into the courtyard at work and found a horde of birds that were casualties of circumstance.  These birds had simply picked the wrong place to forage and never saw the glass that they flew into. 

American Robins from the beginning of Nov.

I can't even count the number of dead or injured birds we have found around work that were victims of window strikes.   If I were to estimate over the last 4 years...  I'd guess around 300.  What amazes me is not the number but the fact that those are only the ones I've seen.  When I think of all the other building in the world and all the other windows, the estimates conservationist make seem beyond real and more like an understatement. 

Fox Sparrow, not all the birds die, at least right away.

Here the abundance of window strikes is without a doubt Dark-eyed Juncos.  These small gray-brown sparrows breed across Canada and into the northern US, including some higher altitude areas farther south.  During the winter they migrate south as far as parts of Mexico to forage for food and survive before heading north again.  There are quite a number of forms of Dark-eyed Junco as would be expected from the large distribution of the species.  To go into any more details about their behavior would require discussing separate forms.  Instead, I just also mention that they are NOT the only birds that have been killed.

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)- 10 in total today from one hall

Window Strike Species (off the top of my head): Red-tailed Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Mourning Dove, Hermit Thrush, Swainson's Thrush, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Northern Flicker, American Robin, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Indigo Bunting, Brown Creeper, etc, etc.

Squirt Bottle
filled with soapy water
So back to the title.  I take some of the blame for today's casualties.  We have tried a number of different methods for keeping them from flying into the windows but our options are limited because it is a workplace.  In vacant areas we've put some newspaper up on the windows but that's not an option for the higher traffic sections.  In those areas we try to do non-invasive window soaping.  The basic goal is get soap scum on the windows to breakup the reflection and let the birds know something is there.  BUT I haven't done it in awhile and with all the rain, most of the residue has washed away.  I "Gotta Keep Up" with making sure we're making an effort to reduce the number of window strikes. 

Me illustrating the final product, it doesn't stop the strikes
but it does reduce them.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

French Birds!

The French country-side is devoid of internet.  Maybe that's a bit of an over-statement but after having become accustomed to the internet access here in the states, spending a week without checking my email, playing on facebook, or posting a blog was rough!  (insert slight sarcasm).  Anyway, After having promised my faithful blog readers to post pictures and blogs from the trip, I still haven't.  As I've mentioned in other posts, my birding was WAY less successful than I had hoped for.  Here's a few images from the trip all from Brittany region.  Most were in the country but a couple were coastal stops.

Common Martins

Eurasian Collared Dove

Some Turdus

Wood Pigeon

Herring Gulls

Black-headed Gull (I think)

Great Black-backed Gull

Green Finch


Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

Barn Swallow

Blackbird (equiv to our robin)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fall FALL Migration!

I LOVE fall migration and this year is a great one.  This week at work we've had our second all time high for bird species on campus.  That's beating out three spring migration seasons, pretty impressive.  So why is fall migration my favorite (recently decided)?  The weather is nice, the birds are plentiful, and the species hint at how busy feeders will be in a few months.  One of the best parts is how tricky the birds are, leaves on trees obscure views, species are in nonbreeding plummage and those tricky sparrows that have been gone for months suddenly arrive and id's need refreshing.

Clay-colored Sparrow
Anyway, recently I've been hawk watching and enjoying the sparrows as they file back into the weedy grassy sections of lawns.  Rather than talk about species and birding adventures, here's a few photos.  As for how my competition is going... I'm not sure.  I'm doing ok but I don't know how the Oregon list is going. 

Northern Harrier- (young bird)

Palm Warbler- Yellow (Eastern)

Palm Warbler- Brown (Western)

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Could it be a Lincoln's Sparrow??

Nope, It's a Swamp Sparrow

Black Scoter (female) *LIFE BIRD*

Friday, September 21, 2012

Birdy Corner = Great Bird

On Wednesday while driving onto campus I was running a little later than usual and was planning on just heading straight up to my building without taking my usual diversion around grounds.  One corner of one of the parking lots is an edge habitat and lawn, we refer to it as the "Sparrow Nook".  I noticed some decent activity, a migrating flock of American Robins, congregating Brown-headed Cowbirds with European Starlings mixed in, and a few Blue Jays poking around as well.  The activity was too much to just drive by.

I noticed something sparrowy and once I had binoculars out was fairly perplexed...  yes it was a sparrow but one that I hadn't seen before.  With no camera and no field guide, I tried to pick out all the features I could and headed up to my building to do some quick internet research.  I couldn't quite pin down the species before my coworker came in and I tried giving her details that maybe she could ID.  Finally, I just dragged us both out there with a point and shoot camera with a 20x optical zoom. 

We had come up with a tentative ID of Lark Sparrow and with some more internet research it was confirmed.  Sue (my coworker) will probably blog some info about the species on our work blog HERE.  The quick story is that Lark Sparrows are vagrants in Connecticut and only a couple show up in CT every year if that.  Oh and it was a LIFE BIRD for me.  Enjoy the grainy photos!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Little Off Course

Emails came over the listservs all day of an American Avocet in Stratford, CT near the Birdseye Boat Ramp.  In need of some species for my state challenge and in need of some gym time, I did a quick workout after work and with plenty of light left, I made my way to the boat ramp.  The last email came in at 5:50pm that the bird was still sitting on a jetty near the boat ramp. 

Tough looking into the sun but the Avocet is way in the back.


I managed to find the bird right away, sitting on the jetty just as stated.  An Avocet had been first sighted on Monday, I'm guessing this is the same bird.  No surprise it was far out, easy to quickly pick up with binoculars, not so great to photograph with a cell phone.  American Avocets breed throughout much of the west and can be found year round on the West Coast.  They winter in Florida and according to The Sibley guide can be found up through North Carolina during migration.  This one got a little off track. 

'record shot'- zoom from the cell phone.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Species Spotlight: White-breasted Nuthatch

Squirrel waiting his turn
Today I made the decision to every now and then post on a specific species with a few little bits of info.  It seems only fitting that I start with a member of the group that I am proud to say, I have seen every species that occurs in the U.S.  There are 4 nuthatch species in the U.S. and I have seen them all.  Since 50% of them (aka. 2 species) occur in Connecticut I guess it makes for a good start.  There is one other species in the Southeast (the Brown-headed Nuthatch) that is associated with Pitch Pine forests and one on the West Coast, the Pygmy Nuthatch. 

W-b Nuthatch showing off by walking down the tree.

The White-breasted Nuthatch is the more common species found in Connecticut and will readily come in to bird feeders.  In the field, they are most easily identified by their behavior of clinging to tree trunks and are the only bird species that will 'climb' down a tree trunk head-first. 

White-breasted Nuthatch

They are cavity nesters and have one brood per year with 5 to 9 eggs.  For more information see the All About Birds page on this species.  I consider this species one of the three... The White-breasted Nuthatch along with Black-capped  Chickadees and Tufted Titmouse are known to stick together in foraging packs especially during the winter.  It's always a good idea to look at tree trunks when you have a group of the other species in a small flock. 

White-breasted Nuthatch with seed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Little Movement

A little cheating post here since I don't have time or inclination to go find any pictures...  Ok maybe I'll put one in.  Anyway, I promise I'll get a few pics up from my trip although over all it was pretty unbirdy.  BUT it's the start of Hawk Watch season here in CT and I am super excited.  I went out to my secret lunch spot today, binoculars at the ready, and had our first nice little push of raptors.  In about 10 minutes there were around 3 Red-tailed Hawks (besides our 2 resident birds also out), at least 1 Red-shouldered Hawk, 3 Osprey, and 1 Sharp-shinned Hawk.  It got pretty quiet after that, more Red-tailed action but probably just our local two. 

Speaking of our local birds.... they could use a good molt.  Both birds are missing numerous feathers and look pretty ratty. 

Here's an old picture of an Osprey.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Nothing New

Just getting excited to get over to France and start birding.  This picture on Wiki by Martin Mecnarowski was just way too cute to pass up.  Hopefully this is one species I'll have a chance of seeing, the Bearded Reedling.  It looks like a Tit but is apparently more closely related to larks. 

Here's my book!  Organized a bit differently than the standard US field guides so I added some quick tabs to easily get to the group I am looking for.  22 Tabs.... that's not a lot or anything. *eyeroll*  There's also my quick eBird list for Brittany aka. Bretagne!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Before heading to Europe I realized that I have been slacking on keeping my CT year list up to date!  In case you forgot (or dont read my blog all the time), I'm challenging my friend Heather in Oregon to a birding challenge.  Who will get the most species in there respective state for the year. 

My list, over there on the right had been hanging out at 60 species even though I have been out, I swear!  Well, before I get carried away with all the European birds I'm about to see and hopefully blog about, I wanted to update my CT bird list!!!  yup I'm up to about 160 species.  That's probably about 100 species under what's been seen in the state so far.  I'll have to start chasing harder when I get back to CT. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

France 2012 Prep

Chartes Cathedral- wiki photo

In a few days I will be setting foot in France for the first time in my life.  A small group of friends and myself have decided to go see the Olympics in London this year and a stop in France at a friends family house will take up the first week of our trip.  After a quick stop in Chartres to see the Tour de France, we will head further west out to Brittany.  The exact town we are staying in is still beyond my knowledge but the general area will be near Quimper. 

We have no set plans for our time in Bretagne (Brittany) and I plan on doing some birding!  and maybe some blogging.  This is my first time going to Europe with a pair of binoculars and the time set aside to do some birding.  My Christmas present this year was a copy of the Birds of Europe and after a few months of lazy studying I put the book down.  Now with days to go I am kicking myself for not putting in more effort but here illustrates my true nature of being a bird watcher/ observer as opposed to a true tick-er. 

To maximize my study time ( I still have packing to do of course), I have turned to eBird for some help.  The birding observations in this area of France are very limited, from what I can poke through it looks like there are maybe 5 checklists in total for the 50 mile radius of Quimper.  At least one of those is an older checklist from 1980 and the others seem to be quick lists.  Still it's enough to use the "Explore Data" feature and churn out the following bar chart for the months of July and August. 

My plan is to use this condensed list of 135 species to cram in the next few days and on the 6-hour flight.  With any luck, I will come home with LOTS of pictures, a few interesting stories, and some more data to feed into eBird.  More data will not only give some more info as to what is actually in the area but may be a baseline for future species expansions and declines.  At the very least it will give someone else making a trip to the area a better idea of what birds they may encounter on their trip.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Scouting Trip

Almost two weeks ago on a beautiful Friday I headed up to the Northwest part of the state to do a little scouting for a bird field trip I'm helping lead next month for the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collection 2012 meeting.  I met CAS conservation biologist Twan Leenders at Mohawk Mountain State Forest, our first potential stop.  There is a small Black Spruce Bog located in the forest with a small boardwalk.  When I got out of the car the first thing I noticed was a chorus of Chestnut-sided Warblers up and down the forest road. 

This area has a great variety of plants, it's a mix of upland forest, some cleared early successional habitat, and the spruce bog.  There were many High Bush Blueberry plants and lots of them in flower.  One Ruby-throated Hummingbird was enjoying their inflorescence.  This female hummingbird was taking a rest before flying to another flower and inserting her bill into the flowers to drink some nectar.  As we walked along there was a good variety of birds, many of which will stay around and nest.  Some birds seen or heard, Black-and-White Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Canada Warbler (a lifer for me), Blackburnian Warbler, Veery, Ovenbird, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Common Raven, Red-shouldered Hawk, Rufous-sided Towhee, and Red-eyed Vireo.

This Rufous-sided Towhee was hanging out in the edge habitat of a cleared area.  Vegetation in was all low and shrubby, perfect for these sparrow relatives.  I love their 'tow-hee' song and there was more than one.  This male sat out on the edge of a branch to show off for a few minutes. 

Not an extraordinary bird but still one of my favorites!  The ever adorable Black-capped Chickadee made an appearance in the spruce bog.  There were two birds moving around in the underbrush both seeming to be as curious of me as I was of them.  While watching the two, one began loudly begging to the other although to my amature eyes, they both seemed adults.  Possibly courting behavior?

Our last stop was not really a part of our scouting... it was really to try for another life bird!  And I was successful!  Thanks to Twan's knowledge of the area and great ears, we were able to chase down this Cerulean Warbler on River Road.  Cornell's allaboutbirds website says this of the Cerulean Warbler "Cerulean Warbler is one of the species of highest concern in the eastern United States because of a small total population size and significant declines throughout its range. Under consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Listed on the Audubon Watchlist".   

This spot produced many good birds and was teeming with life in general.  American Redstart, Barn Swallow, Tree Swallow, Veery, Blackburnian Warbler, Warbling Vireo, and Indigo Bunting, among others.  A fantastic day in the field, with a great companion, and many birds to add to my year list for my competition.  I need to get outside more often!

Monday, March 5, 2012

3 More for the List

Scaup in New Haven Harbor
Spring crawls closer every day but the temperatures this past Sunday seemed the same as a month ago.  Probably because they were.  I took a few hours mid-day to try to add a couple of species to my year list.  My totals are crawling slowly and steadily upward.  My first stop was at East Shore park in New Haven, rumors of warblers and swallows enticed me.  Maybe it was a little too cool or late for much activity but I didn't get any of my target species.  I did manage to find a cute little Golden-crowned Kinglet, my first of the year.

Greater White-fronted Goose
I was about to head home but feeling the pull of the chase I headed up to Wallingford, in search of the Greater White-fronted Goose that has been seen the past few weeks.  I went to North Farms Reservoir and glanced over the geese scattered around the pond with no success.  After enjoying nice views of the American Coot and the companionship of a nice couple out birding, a gaggle of around 200 Canada Geese flew in.  Searching through the pack, I finally spotted the Greater White-fronted Goose on the far side of the water.  Not a great picture but enough to ID the species.  Looking back through emails later, I found that the bird was located earlier in the day in another pond in Wallingford. 
Sanderling and Dunlin
Headaing back to Stratford I stopped at Long Beach to see if I could pick up Common Goldeneye, one of the winter ducks that I haven't been able to find.  Once again the species evaded me but I did manage to find my first Dunlin of the season.  These shorebirds were mingling with Sanderling as they very frequently do.  A nice three species added for the day.  With any luck, I'll be able to pick a couple more up this weekend.