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Monday, September 12, 2022

It's Prime Time For Hawk MIgration!!

 

Broad-winged Hawk, adult. Has thick, black-and-white tail bands.

The hawks are coming! The hawks are coming! We're entering prime hawk migration time for birders in the northern and eastern half of the U.S. Some hawks, such as Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks, Merlins, and American Kestrels, will move by flapping, but Broad-winged Hawks, an abundant migrant, travel by using rising thermals. Weather conditions of clear and sunny, with mild north or northwest winds, should produce ideal conditions for Broad-winged Hawk migration. The Hawk Migration Association of North America runs a large website where all the dates and numbers of migrating hawks are recorded. Go there to keep track of migration or to find a hawkwatch site in your area. Most of the Northeast hawkwatch sites will see many Broad-winged Hawks this fall as well as many other raptors.

Here are some tips for watching hawks:

1. Prime Broad-winged Hawk migration in the North is Sept. 11 to 25, in the South (TX) it is Sept. 25th to Oct. 10.

2. Prime Sharp-shinned Hawk migration in the Northeast is Sept. 1 to Oct. 10, in the Mid-Atlantic States it is Sept. 10 to Oct. 20, in the West it is Sept. 11 to Oct. 31.

3. Hawks usually move most under sunny skies with mild northwest, north, or northeast winds. Broad-winged Hawks require thermals to move.

4. Go hawk-watching at one of the many "official" hawk-watch sites here. Or find your own by going to a hill, mountain, or tall structure available to you that has good views to the north, because that is the direction the hawks are coming from.

5. Bring binoculars that are at 8 power, or even 10 power if you have them. Scan slowly back and forth across the sky at different heights to find the hawks. Most hawks will be fairly far away and some may look like specs. Learn hawk shapes at a distance to identify them. Many hawkwatchers also use spotting scopes to locate hawks.

6. Here's a brief look at the most common hawks you will see:

Broad-winged Hawk, adult

Broad-winged Hawk, juvenile

* Broad-winged Hawks. These are medium-sized hawks, 16" long, with broad wings, and soar together in groups. Look for the broad black-and-white tail bands seen on the adults, usually visible even at a distance. Juvenile Broad-winged Hawks have thin tail bands and dark streaking that is usually heaviest on the sides of the breast.

Red-tailed Hawk, juvenile

*Red-tailed Hawks migrate a bit later than Broad-winged Hawks and here in NH, we can see them all the way through Oct. or even later. People may confuse juvenile Broad-winged and Red-tailed Hawks. Note on this bird, the dark mark, called the patagial bar on the leading edge of the wings, a great clue, also the dark belly streaks form a "belly band" another great clue.


* Sharp-shinned Hawks. These are small, about Blue Jay-sized, 12" long, hawks in the accipiter group. They migrate mostly singly with flap-flap-flap glide flight and have short rounded wings and a somewhat long tail that has a squared end.


* Cooper's Hawks. These are extremely similar to Sharp-shinned Hawks, and are a tricky ID challenge, but are somewhat larger, 17" long, with a longer, rounded tail and larger, longer head and similar flight pattern.

* American Kestrels. These are a type of falcon. They are smaller than a Sharp-shinned Hawk, about 10 1/2" long, with pointed wings and a long tail and fly mainly with continuous flapping.

* Merlins. Very similar to a Kestrel but darker and larger, about 12" long. Has broad, pointed wings and a somewhat shorter tail than a Kestrel. Flies swiftly and strongly. See yesterday's blog entry for details on Merlin vs. Kestrel ID.

* Turkey Vultures. Very large, about 27" long, all black birds that constantly soar with their wings held in a V.

7. Keep track of your numbers and turn them in to your local bird or hawk-watching organization.

8. For more complete information on identifying hawks see our all new national photographic guide, The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America. It has 3,400 images and is the most complete photo guide available.

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Shorebird ID, Start With Size

 

shorebirds are migrating now and some of the best ways to ID them are by size and shape. One of the ways to judge size is to look at the shorebird in relation to other birds near it, especially other shorebirds.
In the above photo, there is a mixture of shorebirds and Sandwich Terns who have black bills with yellow (mustard, get it) tips.
Start at the top of the photo and you will see two shorebirds who are large. They have long, grayish legs and bills that are longer than the length of the head. These are Willets, a fairly common, large shorebird that is about 15 inches long. Having the Sandwich Terns, who are 17 inches long, nearby, helps confirm that the Willets are a large shorebird.

It's helpful to get to know Willets because if you're trying to identify a shorebird and it's standing near a Willet, you can immediately get a sense of that shorebird's size ( large, medium, or small) compared to the Willet. We say a Willet can be a good "marker bird," one that helps you measure the size of nearby birds. Get to know a few other shorebirds well that can also serve as your "marker bird."

In the middle of the photo are a large number of medium-sized (compared to the Willet) shorebirds whose bills are about the length of their heads. These are Red Knots (who are only red in their breeding plumage, not this winter plumage).

You can see two other shorebirds in the front of the photo. The one on the right, with the rusty back and brown "U" chest mark, is slightly smaller than the Red Knots. It's a Ruddy Turnstone.

After looking at the Red Knots and Ruddy Turnstone, who are medium-sized shorebirds, it becomes clear that the pale shorebird on the front left of the photo is quite a bit smaller. This bird is very white below with dark legs, a pale gray back and a dark bill. It's a Sanderling.
Practice this judging of relative size the next time you're near shorebirds.

Friday, August 26, 2022

American Goldfinch breeding magic!

                      

Me and Ignacio
Phil and Ignacio
American Goldfinch female on nest
Male goldfinch feeding female
Nesting habitat American Goldfinches

Repost from last summer. Ok, sometimes birding is just serendipity magic. I am studying American Goldfinches (more on that later) and wanted to see a nest. So Phil Brown (NH Audubon awesome birder) was birding with Ignacio Oreamuno (Costa Rican bird guide who owns a bird-friendly coffee plantation, was drinking coffee and wearing Stokes DLS binoculars) and a goldfinch flies right in front of them and goes to a nest. Phil texts me. I fly over there, and we have a great time watching Mrs. Goldfinch incubating. Female American Goldfinches sit on the nest almost continuously until the nestlings are about 4 days old and she is fed regurgitated seeds by the male. That's about 24,480 minutes of sitting!! Breeding is a highly cooperative venture between the male and the female; she protects the nest by continuously sitting, he provides all the food to her and nestlings. After day 4, the nestlings are fed by both parents. Oh, and did I mention an Olive-sided Flycatcher showed up and distracted us? Serendipity? Or meant to be?
Note: All nest photos were taken at a distance with a long telephoto superzoom camera at 2000 mm. Nikon P950. It is highly important not to disturb nests.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Friday, July 08, 2022

BIRDS IN FLIGHT PHOTOS






 Gravity-defying things
defining birds from me
the difference is wings

I wrote this Haiku poem because I am in awe of birds' flying ability and love taking flight photos of them.

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

BUTTERFLY QUICK START TO KNOWING THEM!



When the birding slows down look for butterflies! Here's a Monarch Butterfly. They lay their eggs on milkweed and their caterpillars feed on this plant.

Great Spangled Frittillary on Purple Coneflower

Close-up of Great Spangled Fritillary

American Lady Butterfly, told by the two eye spots on underside of the hindwing

Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies are unmistakable

Spicebush Swallowtails can be told from other big, dark swallowtails by their single row of prominent white dots inside the margin of their forewings.
The larvae of Spicebush Swallowtails feed on spicebush and sassafrass.

Pearl Crescent butterfly. Scores are feeding on white clover on our path so we keep the path mowed high to preserve the clover flowers for them.

Mourning Cloaks are widespread across much of North America. They are one of the few butterflies who overwinter as adults, finding protected places in log piles, nooks, or under loose bark, and when they emerge in the spring they look worn, as this butterfly does. They are one of the longest lived butterflies and some may live as long as 10 months. Mourning Cloaks feed on sap and fruit.
Our butterfly bushes will bloom soon and they're magnets for the butterflies. Here's a Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly on one of them.

We've written two books to help you attract and identify butterflies.Stokes Beginner's Guide To Butterflies, has an easy ID key to help you quickly identify the butterflies you see by size and shape.


Stokes Butterfly Book gives you plans for a butterfly garden, lists and photos of butterfly plants, and chapters, with color photos, on the identification, behavior and caterpillars of common butterflies. Both are available at amazon.com and stores.

In the middle of the day, when birds become less active, a wonderful thing for birders to do is look for butterflies. Butterflies are colorful flying creatures, just like birds. The identification skills birders already have can be transferred to identifying butterflies. Look at butterflies through your binoculars, no need to catch them in a net.

The hot weather favors butterflies as they need to warm their bodies to fly. They need to get their body temperature up to 85 to 100 degrees Farenheit in order to fly well. Adult butterflies come to flowers for nectar, lay their eggs on special host plants, which can be unique to each species of butterfly. The eggs hatch, larva feed on the plant then turn into a pupa or crysalis from which the adult butterfly will emerge. A complete cycle or generation is called a brood, and butterfly species can go through from just one to as many as four broods per year, depending on the species and the number of warm months. Different butterflies are on the wing at different times during the summer, so you will continue to see new species.

There are about 17,000 species of butterflies in the world. In North America there are about 700 species but only a small fraction are common and likely to be seen by the average person.

When you see a butterfly watch it closely for several minutes. Observe how it flies, its size, shape, and the colors and patterns on its wings, both above and below.

Start by knowing the major families of butterflies that are distinctive. Below are some:

Swallowtails - are our largest butterflies and most have long tails coming off their hind wings.

Whites and Sulfurs - these are all medium-sized butterflies that are predominantly white or yellow.

Gossamer Wings - this group is easy to identify since it includes all of our smallest butterflies, such as the blues, coppers and hairstreaks, and metalmarks. The blues tend to be iridescent blue, coppers are often copper, hairstreaks often have hairlike tails on their hind wings, and metalmarks often have metallic spots on their wings.

Brush-footed Butterflies - this is a large and varied group of medium-sized, generally dark-colored butterflies with such strong and rapid flight they are hard to follow. Their is no one field characteristic, besides their flight, that makes them easy to identify as a group.

Satyrs - these are medium-sized butterflies that are almost all brown, often with darker eye-spots on their wings. They have a weak and bobbing flight and are often seen at woods edges or among grasses.

Skippers - are small butterflies whose flight is extremely rapid and erratic. They are mostly rich brown or orange-brown.

Enjoy the butterflies!

Saturday, July 02, 2022

HAPPY 4TH OF JULY WITH RED, WHITE AND BLUE BIRDS!

Indigo Bunting

Eastern Bluebird


Blue Jay


Great Egret


Florida Scrub-Jay


Great Egret


Indigo Bunting


Northern Cardinal 


Scarlet Tanager


Snowy Egret


Summer Tanager