Blog Birding #289


It’s worth noting, in this exciting time of year, that there are lots of wonderful resources available for birders looking to make the most of their fall. Birdcast, by the folks who brought you eBird, is one of the finest, and is worth a daily visit this time of year.

Marginal and locally favorable migration conditions early in the period eventually yield to slightly more widespread favorable migration conditions, featuring Northern Shoveler, Eared Grebe, Belted Kingfisher, Orange-crowned Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, and White-crowned Sparrow in the West and Bald Eagle, Chimney Swift, Northern Flicker, Merlin, Blue-headed Vireo, White-eyed Vireo, Magnolia Warbler, Pine Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and Wilson’s Warbler in the East.

A generation of birders has known them as one species, but the evidence is mounting that the Yellow-rumped Warbler complex consists of three at least. Laura Erickson shares the most recent research that suggests we might see a split sooner rather than later.

In May 1975, the year I started birding, I saw 5 species of warblers. In the summer, when I took my first ornithology class, I added 4 more. And then in the week leading up to Labor Day, Russ and I headed to Port Wing for a little break before fall classes began. And even with my novice skills, I managed to find three new warblers, including one that in retrospect I’m surprised I didn’t figure out in the spring, because it’s the most abundant warbler of all, the Yellow-rumped Warbler.

In addition to the flashy neotropical migrants, those species we think of as resident are migrating too. Carrie Laben, writing at 10,000 Birds, enjoys the annual movement of Blue Jays.

Happily, there is one facet of the fall migration here in NYC that I’ve come to cherish; the annual movement of Blue Jays. As a kid, I took the fact that Blue Jays were found at our feeders in winter and in our woodlots in summer as evidence that they were simple, sedentary birds. New York City makes it clear that this isn’t quite correct. In fact, some Blue Jays move around a lot and they draw a lot of attention as they go, shrieking down blocks lined with oak trees or, like my own neighborhood, planted with sunflowers. Fall migration in Blue Jays takes place generally from August to October, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy the show.

Bird banding offers a unique opportunity to put ID challenges to the test, and to take a closer look at plumage details that are less obvious in the field. At The Nemesis Bird, Steve Brenner shares some of the challenges of this insight into birds.

A caveat: birds in the hand are a great way to study birds, but sometimes this doesn’t always translate to useful birding tips. For one, behavior and vocalizations are completely eliminated from the equation. In that sense, general impression is replaced by field marks. Also, some birds really can look different in hand vs. in a tree or in the sky. But this does not discount the value of studying birds up close in order to improve ID skills. So, on with the post.

Heading to California’s Bay Area and wanting to see some specialty birds? Steve Tucker of Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds has the information you need.

Because the bay area has so much to offer in the way of birding opportunities, and is such a population center and transportation hub, we get a lot of visiting birders here. Aside from chaseable rarities, they are usually looking for the same set of species. Since we at BB&B are here to serve you, dear sweet most loveable reader, we thought we would slap together a quick post on where to find some of the most highly sought-after local goodness.

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