Monday, June 30, 2014

Damon's Spring Warblers (with pictures!)

I love warblers, but honestly who doesn't? Gulls are fun and challenging, ducks have a nice variation, tend to sit on the water to be watched, and both groups are there to help pass the dreary winter months. They are good. Eagles and hawks and falcons are showy and neat, but are usually a dot on the sky and aren't that common. They are good, and even non-nature people know that. Woodpeckers are great and hummingbirds are charming and sparrows make you focus on things you should, but they just aren't warblers.
I'll let Kenn Kaufman explain a bit (from the Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding):

"No group of birds in North America separates birders from non-birders so sharply as the warblers. The average person may have never seen a warbler, even unknowingly, and may not know that such birds exist. Birders, on the other hand, may focus a major amount of their energy on warblers, especially in spring and fall. The arrival of warblers migrating north from the tropics is a highlight of spring for many birders, especially in the East. The challenge of identifying fall warblers is an absorbing puzzle for many observers, and the search for vagrant eastern warblers is a major preoccupation for many western birders, particularly in fall."

Spring migration is over, and I already miss it, but instead of wallowing in pity over it being done, I thought it would be better to celebrate the wonderful birds that we did see. This works well because I got my new camera just before migration started (not a coincidence) and I tried to get as many pictures as I could.

So what warblers did I see this year? I saw 26 all of last year (lame!), but this year I did much better and saw 30, though remember this is just for spring (come on fun fall warblers!). There are a couple that I could have gotten but didn't, which I'll go over first, along with my excuses.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Fish Crow Predation on Barn Swallow Chicks, a Photoessay by Damon Orsetti

While migration is long over (fall migration is right around the corner though!) we can still see interesting things while birding. Sure, there are those that get more interested in breeding bird stuff this time of year, but the best things we see are often those we don't expect.

When I was at John Heinz NWR the other day I was lucky enough to find something I was not expecting (see my eBird for that trip checklist here). You see, on the boardwalk there they have lots of Barn Swallows nesting underneath and apparently a Fish Crow found out about the delicious and tender, yet crunchy, morsels that are Barn Swallow chicks.

I first noticed this when a huge (probably at least a hundred) swarm of birds was absolutely freaking out on the boardwalk. They were mostly Barn and Tree Swallows, with a couple Baltimore Orioles and a single Eastern Kingbird and Red-winged Blackbird. And they were pissed.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Upcoming Goodness on The Year of Birds

Yeah...we've been busy.

Since we last posted we've had migration come through, and this time we were prepared. There was a point where I was WAY behind Paul, but then I not only caught up, but surpassed him in year total. But then a week later the birds got up to him and he re-took the lead.

As always, migration seemed far too short and we already miss it some. Paul keeps insisting he is out of birds to find, yet he adds one or two every so often. I feel like I am tapped out around here (besides the nesting Kentucky Warblers nearby that I've unsuccessfully tried to get a few times), but I still have Cape May to go to so I can add some shorebirds and terns. So the game is not over!