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Friday, August 29, 2008

Nighthawks, Yes!

Last night we saw 169 Common Nighthawks migrating over our property in NH. Fortunately, our property fronts on a pond that is a dammed up part of a river that runs south to north and nighthawks often migrate along river corridors. So, we are in a very good spot for seeing migrating nighthawks. At about 5 pm we got ourselves stationed on our deck with binoculars and from 5-5:30 pm saw 81 nightawks. We realized making dinner would be a challenge, so we tag-teamed grilling the burgers, one of us always scanning through our binos. We ate dinner with one hand holding the burger, the other hand holding the binos. In the next half hour 54 more nighthawks came, then 34 more over the next hour and a half. We ended at 7:30 pm. Very rewarding to see these unusual birds whose numbers seem to be dropping. Tonight we'll be watching again.

There is an official nighthawk count that comprises southern NH and the upper two-thirds of MA. If you live in these areas, try and watch for the nighthawks tonight and enter your data at their website, click here. The more we learn about the migration routes, numbers, and breeding habitat of these wonderful birds, the better the chance for protecting them.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Common Yellowthroat

Saw this female Common Yellowthroat warbler recently. Adult males are the ones with the black mask. Keep your eye out for migrating warblers.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mississippi Kites in NH

Mississippi Kite in flight

Location of kite nest in Newmarket, NH

Mississippi Kites have been nesting in Newmarket, NH a town near the coast. These kites are far from their usual range and were quite the celebrity birds throughout the summer. This is the first accepted state record for NH for these birds. Not one, but three Mississippi Kites showed up, an adult male and females and a subadult female. Speculation was this was an adult pair and possibly one of their offspring from a previous year. Mississippi Kites are know to have subadults as nest helpers. The pair picked an isolated maple tree on a busy surburban street for their nest site. The male was seen copulating with both females but just the adults nested, producing one chick. Birders came from all over to visit them.
We last saw them on Aug. 22. We watched for about 45 minutes and saw the adults bring food to the nest 3 times and feed it to their chick, who looked about full grown but had different plumage from the adults,more mottled tan and brown. Word has it the young kite has now fledged from the nest. We were on our way from someplace else and stopped by and I only had my point and shoot camera.
For more photos of these kites click here,
and here,
and here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Nighthawk Alert

Common Nighthawks are on the move and migrating. Look for them at dusk, especially if you're near a river. They often feed on dispersing ants and move along river corridors.
If you live in the lower half of New Hampshire or the upper two thirds of Massachusetts, you can participate in the official "Nighthawk Migration Survey" for that area. Keep track of your nighthawk numbers and report them to their website, click here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More Fall Warblers

Black-throated Green Warbler, spring adult male

Black-throated Green Warbler, fall

Black-throated Green Warbler, fall

Black-throated Green Warbler, fall immature female

Speaking of warblers, at the end of yesterday I photographed a Black-throated Green Warbler (middle two photos) who was moving in some shrubs behind our bird feeders. Bird feeders not only attract bird-feeder birds, but you often get curious migrants coming over to check out what the bird activity is all about.

Note there is not much black throat on this "Black-throated Green" Warbler at this time of year and compare to the top photo of an adult male, Black-throated Green Warbler in spring. The facial pattern of this bird is duller, with a less discernable dark line through the eye, and less dark at the edge of the yellow below the eye.

Many warblers molt and have more subtle variations of their bright, spring breeding plumage in fall. In general, adult males in fall have the brightest fall plumage (although duller than their breeding plumage) and immature females have the most subtle colors. Adult females and immature males have plumage that is somewhere between those two and often it is hard to tell adult females and immature males apart in fall.

This information is useful to know if you are trying to ID warblers in fall. For more details and photos see our Stokes Field Guide To Warblers.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fall Warbler Migration Timing

Black-and-white Warbler

Prairie Warbler

Warblers are beginning their migration. We had fun this morning, searching our property for early moving warblers. Fall warbler watching is different and more nuanced than spring. Males are not singing conspicuously from perches on their breeding territories. Instead, you have to watch for movement in bushes and listen carefully for the different little chip sounds each warbler species makes. In addition, some warbler species change from their bright breeding plumage into more sublte colors.

Recently we saw a Black-and-white Warbler. This morning we saw a Prairie Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler and two Common Yellowthroats. People often don't realize you can see migrant warblers as early as August. Warbler migration can extend into October and beyond.

From our Stokes Field Guide To Warblers here's a list of which warblers to be on the look-out for. Dates refer to the earliest times these birds may move, when the first birds start to migrate south, obviously there is overlap in their migration:

For the East

Early (Begins before 8/1)

Cerulaean Warbler
Hooded Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Prairie Warbler
Worm-eating Warbler

Middle (Begins between 8/1 and 8/20

American Redstart
Black-and-white Warbler
Blackburninan Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blue-winged Warbler
Canada Warbler
Kentucky Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Northern Parula
Northern Waterthrush
Prothonotary Warbler
Swainson's Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
Yellow-throated Warbler

Late (Begins after 8/20)

Bay-breasted Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Connecticut Warbler
Golden-winged Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Palm Warbler
Pine warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

For the West

Early (Begins before 8/1)

Colima Warbler
Golden-cheeked Warbler
Hermit Warbler
Lucy's Warbler
Yellow Warbler

Middle (Begins between 8/1 and 8/20)

American Redstart
Black-throated Gray Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Grace's Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Red-faced Warbler
Townsend's Warbler
Tropical Parula
Virginia's Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat

Late (Begins after 8/20)

MacGillivray's Warbler
Olive Warbler
Painted Redstart
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

Birding is often about knowing who to look for when. If you have a sense of this, you will be much more likely to see interesting birds and expand your horizons about the complex lives of these beautiful warblers we share the planet with.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Birding Acadia National Park, 4

While going around the park, you can stop anywhere on the road and look out over the beautifully scenic, rocky coast. We stopped frequently and scanned the ocean.

There's always someplace where you can find Common Eiders, those wonderful ocean ducks that can dive down and eat mollusks and other crustaceans.

One of the stops on the road is at "Thunder Hole" a small cavern worn at the base of the rocks.

When a big wave comes in it produces a thundering sound and splashes up high, sometimes on you!
If you go to Acadia be sure and bring your binoculars and enjoy the wonderful birds, great scenery and lobster!
We will be on vacation next week see you on Monday, Aug. 18th.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Birding Acadia National Park 3

Don looking up at Champlain Mt. for the Peregrine Falcons

Peregrine in flight, taken last time we visited here in 2006

Photo from a sign showing this year's Peregrine chicks

Photo of sign, showing this year's nest location

When we were in Acadia National Park we stopped at the Precipice trailhead which goes up the 1,058 ft. Champlain Mt. The trail was closed at this time due to nesting Peregrine Falcons. The Peregrine's have been nesting there each spring since 1991. Historically, Peregrines once nested on the east face of Cadillac Mt. By 1964 Peregrines had become extinct in the eastern U.S. due to the harmful effects of the pesticide DDT on their eggs. Beginning in the 1970's, there was a coordinated effort to bring back the Peregrine and they were re-introduced into Acadia National Park. 23 birds were released near Jordan Pond in Acadia between 1984 and 1986. One of them, a banded bird, returned to Acadia in 1988 and between 1991 and 1998 he and his mate reared 26 offspring on these cliffs.

Other Peregrines have nested here since, and this year's pair nested on one of the Peregrines previous sites (see black circle in photo from the sign). In April they laid eggs and the young were flying by mid-June. We did not see the young near the mountain, but we learned they might be seen anywhere around the island. They had recently been seen near Bar Harbor catching Black Guillemots, grackles and goldfinches. Peregrines catch other birds in mid-air and can dive reaching speeds of over 100 m.p.h.

Peregrine Falcons are not on the federal endangered list anymore, although they are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In Maine, however, they are still considered endangered. That's why the park closes off their nesting site area from March to August. Nice to know that the Peregrines are thriving here in Acadia National Park.