Friday, October 14, 2016
Today, Friday October 14, 2016, it was a blackpoll morning in Cape May, a tad late in the season for thousands of these amazing long-distance migrants to still be passing through, but there they were. Yellow-rumped Warblers out-numbered Blackpolls, but certainly won't outdistance these long-distance migrants, some of which fly from Alaska to the Canadian Maritimes, then over the ocean to South America in a flight that takes as long as 88 hours non-stop!
Blackpolls are the classic greenish-yellow wing-barred confusing fall warbler things that trouble more than one good birder. The photo above is a tad more difficult than even the usual fall warbler, because I took it during the low-angle sunlight of dawn. This means the bird looks slightly yellower than it is.
One favorite approach to bird i.d. is to ask, "Why isn't it a . . .?" With Blackpoll, the why isn'ts are Bay-Breasted and Pine Warblers, both of which are less common where I live than Blackpoll. There are other why isn'ts, like Blackburnian or Cerulean, but they're easier to sort out.
So why isn't it a Pine Warbler? The obvious back streaks are a good go-to here, though structure helps if you are familiar with both birds. Blackpolls are slimmer than Pines and have finer bills and much longer wings, manifested by primary feather tips sticking way out past the tertial feathers.
Why isn't it a Bay-breasted? This is the toughest similar species to Blackpoll, plus everybody wants it to be a Bay-breasted since they're scarcer. The warm light in this photo temps one to call Bay-breasted, because the flanks look slightly yellow or even bay. But: the undertail coverts are contrasting bright white, the wing bars are too narrow, it has obvious streaking below, it lacks a contrasting light collar on the nape, and if you don't like those reasons, it has yellow feet (Bay-breasted has dark feet.)
Posted by Don Freiday at 8:47 AM
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Thursday, October 6, 2016
“The reason birds can fly and we can't is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.”
― J.M. Barrie, The Little White Bird [Barrie also created Peter Pan]
Posted by Don Freiday at 10:48 AM
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Angels. That's what meteorologists and defense workers called these then-strange signals showing up on radar at night when it was clear there was no precipitation involved. It was a real national security problem during an era when aerial attacks on the U.S. had happened (Pearl Harbor) and could happen again.
Then, in the 1950's, meterologists and ornithologists figured it out. The angels are birds. The linked article is worth a look.
By 1:00 a.m., any nocturnal migrant bird that is going to migrate this day is in the air, so that's a good time to check the radar. http://weather.rap.ucar.edu/radar/ And migration was on last night, warblers and others in the thousands, and thousands were seen this morning in morning flight at Higbee Beach, Cape May NJ, and other points, e.g. my favorite watch points along the Delaware Bay.
In contrast, above is the 1:00 a.m. radar from the night before last, showing pretty much jack sh. . . .I mean, there wasn't much flying, and instead of the 3500+ warblers I counted this morning, yesterday (Monday October 3) I counted 32.
[Above, nationwide radar last night at 1:00 a.m. EDT. It was rocking in the eastern half of the country on northeast winds, and on the fact that, hey, it's October, we've got to go.]
[Above, my FOS (first of season) Eastern Meadowlark, in the mist of the bayshore this morning.]
[The beloved Yellow-rumped Warbler, above, came in second numbers-wise today. This one shows the yellow crown that gives the bird its scientific species name, coronata.]
Years and years ago, I was birding Cape May with Paul Lehman, and we saw a Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Paul remarked with a bit of sadness in his voice, "The beginning of the end." When the time of Yellow-rumpeds is here, the time of the big, diverse warbler flights is done for the year. But - big flights of short-distance migrants are ahead.
Oh, the smoke signal thing. My phone quit me this morning, which in some ways is quite a relief, but meant that until I got it fixed, I was removed from the bird communication network of Cape May, one of the hallmarks of this great place to watch birds. Had to find 'em on my own for a while, though I did email friends asking for smoke signals if a hot bird appeared.
Posted by Don Freiday at 2:53 PM