2013 and beyond

It's pretty simple: the most birds seen or heard from one's yard during 2013 will be the "winner". Want in? O.k....then do it despite that.

2013 promises to be a lot less mean but still a carbon-free birding competition, even if slightly less exciting than a MEGA x EPIC hybrid.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Connecticut Warbler, Cliff Swallow

Yesterday was an interesting day here to say the least. The first bird of consequence for the day and the only warbler, was a young Connecticut. It came out of the underbrush and landed in the open on the lower branch of a fir right in front of me. It wasn't there long, but it was long enough. It dove back into the underbrush and after an hour's search to re-find it I gave up. Another late bird was Cliff Swallow in a group of 5 that were obviously headed south. Being the time of year, they were closely scrutinized for tell-tale features of Cave Swallow without luck. Finally got my fall Turkey Vulture, as well.

Near miss

I got an unbelievable phone call today from a couple which live about 3 miles from my house. They claimed to have photographed a strange hummingbird at their feeder on Saturday (2 days ago) which was twice the size of a Ruby-throated, all green with blue near the middle of the throat/breast. Sure enough, the three photos they sent me clearly showed a Green Violet-ear (GREV)! The bad news is, it hasn't been seen now since Saturday late morning, and none of the neighbors with hummingbird feeders have seen it either, so it's likely long gone. But I left my cell # with at least 6 nearby homeowners with active feeders in hopes it will return and someone will call me. You know, one of these times, it would be GREAT if the rarity would just come to my feeders!

Amazing fact:
Some of you will remember that this is not the first GREV to have been present near my house which I have missed. In fact, just 11 months ago I was informed of another individual which spent 10 days at a feeder about 20 minutes from my house. Of course, in that instance, I found out about it the day after it was last seen. So, I am now 0 for 2 on GREVs near my house.

If the bird miraculously returns, I will let everyone know about it immediately. One last thing. If you think my trashtalk is bad, imagine what I would have sounded like if this bird HAD occurred at my feeders...

Very few birds at the bath today- the only warbler being 2 NAWAs.

Friday, September 25, 2009

First White-crowned & a couple welcome warblers

A quick movement of birds through the yard this morn a few minutes before work provided long awaited Northern Parula (FOY) and Tennessee Warbler. I must have missed some other goodies 'cause there was a lot of avian activity. This evening I had my first White-crowned Sparrow of the season at the water hole.

Nocturnal fun

Dave and I have been on the phone A LOT lately, and his computer genius (he wrote a script which automates the extraction of flight calls from 8+ hour long recordings in minutes!) has contributed greatly to my fun.

Although I cannot match his numbers from last night (WOW dude), I have actually recorded hundreds of warbler and sparrow seeps and thrush calls of my own. Here are some examples for you losers which have continued to hold out on building your mic (need I apply any more pressure??).

Savannah Sparrow (a would-be life yardbird!) Sep 23/24
putative Northern Parula/Pine Warbler Sep 21/22
Presumed Blackpoll Warbler (but possibly Connecticut, of all species)
Wood Thrush Sep 23/24
Grasshopper Sparrow (yes, my 2nd indeed!), Sep 21/22
White-throated Sparrow, Sep 23/24
Gray-cheeked Thrush, Sep 23/24

2 life yardbirds & more

A quick attempt to pull down a few unIDed warblers from the canopy using Screech-Owl whistles this morning brought in this yard rarity. At first I thought it was a life yardbird, but it is actually a second sighting:

I was then surprised by an ACTUAL life yardbird (2 individuals!) skulking around in the brushpile (113/113). Curtis, I know you're going to need all kinds of help IDing this one, so give me a call and I can walk you through it... (hint: concentrate on tail length to give you subspecies)

I then was very pleasantly surprised when this bird (114/114) joined the fray at the bath slightly before noon. Finally someone is starting to chip some more of Sean's 3 pointers down to two!
Plus this beauty:

And then, in updating the spreadsheet it was striking to discover that my year list
and my yard list are IDENTICAL! So, no species that I saw in 2008 has not been seen in 2009. Strange...

Finally, I had this UNWELCOME addition to the fall yard list. Argh.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

15 warbler species, 6 woodpecker species = incredible morning

As I stepped out the door at 930am the first bird I saw was a Cape May Warbler in the spruce by the driveway. I knew it was going to be good especially from the number of warbler seets coming from the woods. Interestingly enough, nearly all of the warblers I saw during almost 2 and half hours were in one flock (numbering ~40 birds). Aside from that flock warbs were rather scarce. Sometimes you just have to get lucky and stumble on the concentration... Anyway here's the breakdown of the warb tally for the morning:
Tennessee Warbler 14
Orange-crowned Warbler 1 (FOS)
Northern Parula 1
Magnolia Warbler 5
Cape May Warbler 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler 1 (FOY)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 1 (juvenile plumage still) + 2
Black-throated Green Warbler 2
Palm Warbler 2 + 2 (FOS)
Bay-breasted Warbler 3
Blackpoll Warbler 10
Black-and-white Warbler 2
American Redstart 6 (2 adult male)
Ovenbird 1
Common Yellowthroat 1
warbler sp. 15

I also had six woodpecker species which I'm pretty certain is a first for my yard. The most unexpected was a young flyover Red-headed that was among the large numbers of flickers and jays that were moving over all morning. There was also a young YBSA in the woods being chased around by a Hairy Woodpecker.

Other migrants came in the form of SWTH, GCTH, a lingering WOTH, LEFL, RCKI, SCTA, LISP, and WTSP.
All told I observed 60 species in the yard this morning, the best of the fall thus far.
Edit: My birdbath attracted 2 YRWA, 2 PAWA, 2 BLPW, 1 FISP, and a RBGR this afternoon which is basically my first action at it all fall...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

You must see it to believe it

It is becoming difficult to express how crazy the bird bath "deluge" is becoming in my yard. Today, as it grew to the usual 7 birds, I got the camera ready and started snapping away, only to realize that suddenly there were at least 12 birds in the bath SIMULTANEOUSLY! Just watch the video:

The actual total was at least 15 individuals, with 14 visible in this still frame:

In my entire birding life I have never witnessed so many warblers shoulder to shoulder- if anyone has, please let me know when and where it happened, as well as what species were involved, and whether it was in a water feature like mine.

Also, today witnessed a resurgence in the species diversity of warblers, with the following being tallied:

Cape May- 1
Bay-breasted: 1
Black-throated Green- 2
Ovenbird- 1
Redstart- 1
Nashville- 5 simultaneously
Tennessee- 12 simultaneously
Magnolia- 1

Other interesting species:
Ruby-crowned Kinglet- 1 FOS
Horned Lark- daily

and a couple bonus photos:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Blackburnian Warbler

Well there are a few warblers yet to be found. A Blackburnian was in the old faithful walnut tree next to the garage this morning. This is not only a first for fall, but a year yard bird as well (123). Individuals of WIWA, OVEN, MAWA and 2 NAWA were here also. Otherwise it is a much more quiet day than yesterday - not a hawk around.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Broad-winged Hawk movement = new yard bird!

A good flight of hawks today added Broad-winged hawk to the yard list (122/147). A total of 39 Broad-wings, 2 Red-shouldered & 2 Sharp-shined were seen from the property this morning. Many of these birds were in two fairly low kettles. Unfortunately, Swainson's Hawk wasn't with them.

Other yard birds of note were 2 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 1 Red-headed Woodpecker, 3 Dark-eyed Junco, 6 Red-breasted Nuthatch, 15 White-throated Sparrow, 3 Blue-headed Vireo, 2 Magnolia Warbler & 1 Ovenbird.

Nocturnal fun

Sitting here at midnight, just had 2 Sandhill Cranes bugling above the house! Never have had them at night before. Also, Canada Geese. Will be going through lots of recordings of seeps from last night as soon as I get time. There were many tens audible in the 30 minutes or so I was outside, so there are bound to be scads of them on the recording. More soon...

Was gone in Ohio (met Kenn Kaufmann finally) all day so have no idea what was in the drink...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

At the water this evening

Activity seems to pick-up at 7pm at the water hole. Numerous (5+) SWTH and several GCTH visited until almost 8pm this evening. A group of 9 WTSP joined the festivities, but never went to the water itself. This afternoon an influx of a dozen RBGR made the feeding stations raucous. Here are some photos - luckily the water feature is close enough for flash. This is the first time I have posted pictures, so bare with me.
Stand-off series:

Pine Warbler

Birding before work this morning provided a few new fall birds. A PIWA was in the top of a dead tree over the house, a BLPW was on the field edge behind the house and a distant KILL was heard. Several Maggies are still hanging around. Thrush numbers are building with a minimum today of 10 SWTH and a single GCTH (mom sighting only). VEER & HETH have also been present this week. Yesterday, LISP & WTSP visited the water feature. Again, however, both of these sparrows were mom sightings.

On a sour note, my neighbor (cousin) brush-hogged about half of his wild acre and a half lot yesterday. A tremendous amount of underbrush is now gone as is a heap of poke weed with ripening berries. As this borders my property it will be interesting what effect it will have on the birds I get.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Warblers just won't stop

Every time I think the warblers have called it quits, they come back and surprise me. All morning all I had was 2 Tennessees, 1 Yellow rump, and 1 Cape May. But at about 2:45PM the deluge resumed. Witness:

I again had 8+ Tennesees visible at once, inc. 7 shoulder to shoulder in the bath! 2 of the Cape Mays looked very dull (here is 1 of 2 such birds:)
The tally for the day is so far:
Cape May- 4+
Yellow-rumped- 1
Tennessee- 10+
Nashville- 2+
Ovenbird- 1

The Brown Creeper was back again yesterday, and that's been about it the past few days. But as far as warblers go, this will be a fall to remember for a long time!


I honestly thought I was going to miss NRWS in my yard for the first year ever the later it got. I got pretty lucky this morning when a single chattering CHSW made me look up and there were 3 NRWS zippin over way up... Also heard and then saw my first American Pipit of the year while I was out. New for fall were PISI and RCKI. I also checked a ~500 individual blackbird flock just up the road that was 95% cogr. Defintely getting to be that time of year. I'm actually hoping that I'm able to go a little bit longer without yrwa, pawa, brcr, and wtsp...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fall bird #100 - BLBW

A fair number of birds going over this morning... Only 5 warb species represented by 10 individuals but they did include my first Blackburnian of the fall. I picked up a flyover HOLA earlier in the morning which tacked onto the new for fall SSHA and ROPI yesterday took me to 100 for the fall competition. Watched some big flocks of spizella come in mixed with bluebirds which was cool. And man have the swallows cleared out - had a lone BARS today that was my first swallow of any kind in over a week... EAPH is now the only flycatcher I've gotten in a week as well...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

YRWA= 3 pts (money)

I find it hilarious that the Yellowrump in my bath just earned me 3 pts! Anyone got House Sparrow yet?

A lot of warblers cleared out 3 days ago but I still have 6+ NAWA and 6+ TEWA, and about 2 Cape Mays daily (inc. individuals not present a few days ago, indicating some turnover). Add a Brown Creeper yesterday and it is starting to feel like the beginning of the end!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Peregrine Falcon - and a couple more warbs

As I jumped in the car this morning running behind schedule I got the frustrating taste of what was going over as I heard chip notes everywhere and I watched a warb drop in over my house. Of course when I got off work at 5 it was hot and buggy but I figured those birds had to go somewhere... I found one group of ~12 warbs accompanying BCCH and in it I finally picked up CSWA for the fall as well as my first adult male AMRE. While I was watching them I looked up at a falcon-like bird expecting either coni or amke and was surprised to see a Peregrine Falcon wing its way SE right over the yard! Only my 2nd or 3rd for the yard and my first southbound raptor of the fall... Also managed a NOWA by the tiny remains of the puddle in the stream.
BTW - Rick - you've got to update the sidebar warb tally as well as the spreadsheet! I had been doing it for you, but then you went on a sighting spree and I'm not even sure where you're at now. All you have to do is click the little wrench icon below and to the right of the warb war column.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bathing beauty

I thought the NOWA was decent yesterday, but at dusk tonight a skulker took a dip in the water. Yes Oporornis. Although I would have preferred COWA for the yard this year I will settle for another MOWA. This one was a young lady with the beginnings of a barely discernible breast band. Other birds of note at the bath this evening were WIWA, OVEN, AMRE & SWTH. This morning a BHVI came in to my pishing as I chimmed in with the jays and titmouse mobbing a SSHA.

Nocturnal flight calls- heating up

I am officially now up and running, recording & analyzing the nocturnal flight calls over my house!

The purpose of this post is to get you guys to all do this so we can add another subcontest to the blog for all species recorded by one's mic (translation: b/c it is the coolest thing ever but you will not recognize this fact until it is up and running at your house, and I am your friend). Plus, this will REALLY help you out Sean as you move to urban Illinois and have few passerines by day, and Curtis it should greatly increase your list as well, since much of what migrates over will never stop in your yards. Here is my final setup:
Last night I began looking through calls for the first time and I am just now starting to assign them to species or categories. All of these calls were recorded during the first half of the night on 11/12 Sep 2009, I exported about 20-25 that were legible from that period. These are the ones I feel most confident about, but there are many more mystery calls. (In each case the y axis goes from 0-10 kHz, but I didn't take the time to create axes. The x axis varies but typically the full screen shows about 0.3-0.6 seconds):

Tennessee Warbler (possibly but less likely Nashville):
Oblong-winged Katydid
Cape May Warbler:
American Redstart (possibly but less likely Ovenbird)
American Redstart (possibly but less likely Ovenbird)
Grasshopper Sparrow? Dave, need some help on this one:
Bay-breasted Warbler?:
Magnolia Warbler:
Chestnut-sided Warbler:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Northern Waterthrush plus

The yard has held some surprises today.

I was heading down a path to see what I could find when Mom, who was birding from the back steps, called to me quietly and motioned to the water feature. An inquisitive NOWA was bobbing on top of the brush stacked beside it. This happened not 20 minutes after complaining to Putz about how unproductive my water feature has been. Unfortunately, this is not a first for the yard this year. Gosh, there I go complaining again.

Earlier in the day I found a CMWA sallying out after insects from the top of a tall spruce along the south boundary. A couple of YTVI were feeding with several MAWA in a tangle on the east side of the property and an individual RCKI was in the understory by the house. Others of interest: BGGN, BAWW, multiple REVI and scads of SWTH enjoying poke berries.

Yesterday a BTNW was with a WIWA in the walnut tree by the garage, a WOTH was feeding on Virginia creeper berries and a couple EABL finally showed themselves.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 update

On this somber anniversary the birds continue to please in the Putnam water feature. For a while it looked like most of the birds from the past 2 days had moved on, but at 2:14PM the flurry of warblers again returned to the watering hole. Today's tally:

Blackburnian- 1 female, first for fall
Magnolia- first for all of 2009! what took so long?
Black-throated Blue- 1
Tennessee- 8 AT ONCE!! Likely 10-12+
Nashville- 5 AT ONCE. 6-8 total??
Cape May- 2
Bay-breasted- 1
Black-throated Green- 1
Black-and-white- 1
Redstart- 1

Today's 3 pointer:

The other 4 TEWAs were directly above these 4:

I believe there are 7 birds visible in this frame:

I think this must be an adult male given the all blackish wings and tertials (young males would have obvious molt limits in the coverts), plus the red breast. This is a plumage I don't typically expect to see in Michigan, but have likely just overlooked.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Warbler onslaught continues...

Incredibly, I seem to have held on to everything but yesterday's Black-throated Blue, plus I have added some more birds. The excitement level in my bloodstream is ridiculous. Here's the tally for today:

Cape May- definitely at least 4 individuals- up to 3 in bath at once!
Bay-breasted- 1, possibly 2
Blackpoll- 1
Chestnut-sided- 1
Nashville- 3-4 minimum
Tennessee- 6-8
Black-throated Green- 1
Redstart- 1
Black-and-White- 1

Now, how's about an Oporornis to join the activity, anybody? Also, how is it possible that Magnolia is still missing from my fall list?

My fav fall warbler plumage, hands down:

Can you see all 5 birds including the Cape May?Another view of 5 different warblers coming to the bath at once (starting to become a typical look!):
An uncommon pair!

Far less common than Cape May right now is this bugger (never thought I'd say that):