Blog Birding #286


It’s peak time for Common Nighthawk migration across much of the continent. Finding them can be as easy as sticking your head out the window at sundown, but Don and Lilian Stokes have some more specific tips.

Common Nighthawk migration is in full swing here in New England. We have gotten good flights before, our previous high count has been 2,202 in one night. We live on a dammed-up section of a river, where the river flows north and nighthawks often follow river valleys on migration. We count from our deck and have been joined by our friends.

Common Nighthawk numbers have been declining in the Northeast so it is very exciting to see them.

Fall warblers are starting to trickle through as well, and Dan Tallman offers some in-hand pointers of what to look for when these dashing birds return in their more subdued plumage.

Fall Warblers are notoriously difficult, but not impossible, to identify. They are often referred to as CFW’s, Confusing Fall Warblers. Here I post six I banded in Northfield on 22-23 August 2016. I have linked each to previous blog posts showing spring birds and to some ecological notes. Here I discuss only their field marks. The first photo is of a Golden-winged Warbler. Because in the fall this species looks similar to spring birds, this CFW is one of the easier ones to identify. This warbler is a female, and is easily recognized by its dark cheeks, yellow crown, and golden wing bars.

How much do you know about your local National Wildlife Refuge? Writing at 10,000 Birds, Jason Crotty writes about what to look in each refuge’s Comprehensive Conservation Plan.

To learn more about one’s favorite National Wildlife Refuge, the first steps are to visit the refuge and its website (and its Friends group website, if any). But one way less obvious way to learn a great deal about a specific refuge is to locate and read its Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP).

Some background is required:  The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 overhauled the laws governing the Refuge System and one provision of that Act required CCPs. Each refuge (or group of refuges managed as a single unit) must develop a CCP that in turn guides refuge planning. (NWRs in Alaska are governed by their own rules.)

At Feathered Photography, Ron Dudley documents an interesting interspecies interaction involving a Golden Eagle and a Sharp-shinned Hawk (called Cooper’s Hawk in the post).

I’m not sure why they do it. I’ve wondered if it’s a way of establishing or maintaining dominance when it’s done within the same species or maybe it’s just a form of rambunctious play. When one species displaces another they don’t seem to do it in full attack mode so perhaps it’s a safer way of establishing and defending territory. Raptors displacing other raptors from perches is a behavior I see often. In fact I saw it happen twice on my last day in the field – once it was a Turkey Vulture displacing another vulture on the top of a power pole and the second incident I’ve documented below.

Last week’s NAOC meeting was an opportunity for ornithologists and conservationists to come together to share some really remarkable research. At All About Birds, Cornell’s contingent documented some of the more interesting stuff.

The final day of the conference kicked off with the somewhat checkered history of the study of sexual selection, summarized by plenary speaker Mike Webster of the Cornell Lab. Charles Darwin proposed the idea of sexual selection alongside natural selection, Webster said, but the prudish Victorian culture frowned on the idea of females having free will in selecting their mates, and the idea languished.


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