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Monday, October 29, 2012

Hand Feeding Pine Siskins

While I was working in the yard getting ready for Hurricane Sandy, my daughter decided to try and hand feed the Pine Siskins that have been swarming our feeders for a couple of weeks.  At first she tried in her Halloween costume dress, then decided she would need to sit and wait it out in something more appropriate.

Pine Siskins can be quite approachable!

Close, but no takers yet

Come on, you know you want these sunflower seeds.

Settling in for a longer wait.
Success at last.  Pay no attention to the chipmunk.
All in all, over the course of about 20 minutes, she was able to get them to land in her hands three times before we had to get back to hurricane preparations.  Not a bad way to spend half an hour with dad, and the birds.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

NJ Nocturnal Migration--24 October 2012

A spot of rain about 3:30am didn't seem to slow things down very much.

Here is a sample of calls:

Mostly White-throated Sparrow, but some Savannah Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, and Yellow-rumped Warbler in the mix.  A quick look at the sort showed found a Common Yellowthroat and probable White-crowned Sparrow as well.  

More details as I sort these more carefully.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pine Siskin Swarm

Having fun watching a swarm of 75 Pine Siskins invade my patio and sunflower seed feeder.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Birding Becoming Less Popular?

So, we all want to believe that birding is as popular as ever, maybe even growing in popularity.

But here are some sobering figures--Google search trends.  Here is a graph for Google searches on the term "birding"--

Is that a graph that inspires confidence?  Looks like birding has dropped quite a bit as a Google search term,  though perhaps holding steady now?

Likewise with the American Birding Association.  I personally think the ABA is doing a lot better these last few years.  But the Google search trends for the ABA don't show it picking up as much as I would like to think--

So these appear to be going down.  Here's how birding compares to declines in overall searches for hobby and leisure category:

I don't know what to make of this, or what it all means.  But it looks like something worth talking about, so I'll throw it out there.

What's going on with these numbers?  Why is birding and the ABA not showing stronger results?  What are we looking at here?

Update: This topic has provoked an interesting exchange over at the ABA Facebook site.

NJ Nocturnal Migration--16 October 2012

Big sparrow flight on the night of 16-17 October 2012.  388 calls including 17 Thrush-X detections (mostly Hermit Thrush and Swainson's Thrush).

Lots of White-throated Sparrow and Chipping Sparrow, with Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, and perhaps others.  Warbler calls detected include Black-throated Blue Warbler, Palm Warbler, and Yellow-rumped Warbler.  There are bound to be additional species here upon closer inspection.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

NJ Nocturnal Migration--15 October 2012

So last night there was a moderate amount of bird movement shown or NEXRAD in NJ and across the coastal NE states after the front moved through earlier in the afternoon and evening.

Note line of green storm clouds moving off the east coast, with bird migration behind it.

Between 7:10pm and 6:30am, my microphone autodetectors picked up 69 detections, all from the Tseep-X detector, as the thrush migration winds down.  Here are the first 63 calls (click for larger view):

As seen so far this week, mostly sparrows including White-throated Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, and Savannah Sparrow.  Also still a few Common Yellowthroat (eg. 1C and 2F) and a Black-throated Blue Warbler (not shown).  Some of the calls (eg. 6C and 7D) are high pitched and faint, and I'm not sure yet what they are--perhaps waxwings or kinglets.  Stay tuned!

2012 Machine Assisted Big Sit

Since I normally don't bird on Sunday, I haven't done a real Big Sit since the mid-1990s in Texas.  This year, with the decision to open up the event to Saturday sitters, I jumped back in with a Big Sit from my back patio here at home.
Big Sit view from the patio
Actually, I got a slow start, so I kind of just eased into it.  I meant to get up early and listen to the nocturnal migration, but I was just too tired.  I did decide to do a machine assisted Big Sit--and count the night flight calls (NFCs) of birds that I was able to detect with my OldBird 21c microphone.  So first thing I did was check my recording in the morning (see nightly summary here), to start out the Machine Assisted Big Sit with:

1) Swainson's Thrush--NFC
2) Gray-cheeked Thrush--NFC
3) Hermit Thrush--NFC, FOS
4) White-throated Sparrow--NFC
5) Savannah Sparrow--NFC
6) Indigo Bunting--NFC
7) Common Yellowthroat--NFC
8) White-crowned Sparrow--NFC (new yard bird)
9) Northern Parula--NFC
10) Song Sparrow--NFC
11) "Zeep call"--NFC, probably Blackpoll Warbler
12) Palm Warbler

In the morning, I thought I would only sit for a few hours and call it good, but I forgot how much fun it is sitting there and watching birds go by!  See the eBird report here.  In the AM I added:

13) Pine Siskin--over 20 birds at my feeder most of the day
14) Purple Finch--over 10 at my feeder most of the day
15) American Goldfinch
16) Downy Woodpecker
17) Canada Goose
18) White-breasted Nuthatch
19) Tufted Titmouse
20) Dark-eyed Junco--FOS
21) American Crow
22) Blue Jay
23) American Robin
24) Northern Cardinal
25) Black-capped Chickadee
26) Chipping Sparrow
27) Red-breasted Nuthatch
28) Red-bellied Woodpecker
29) House Finch
30) Black-throated Blue Warbler--male and female together
31) Carolina Wren
32) Sharp-shinned Hawk (quick bird through the trees)
33) Mourning Dove
34) Northern Flicker
35) Red-tailed Hawk
36) Brown-headed Cowbird (flock flyby)
37) Turkey Vulture
38) Golden-crowned Kinglet
39) Yellow-breasted Chat--new yard bird, 2012 county bird--locally rare highlight of the day at 10:35am
40) House Sparrow

The chat was awesome!  I had looked for chats in the spring and they are always on my mind when I am birding brushy hedgerows in the fall, but we are on the edge of their range and they are rare here.  As I was sitting and watching, I saw a yellow catbird-sized bird fly up from the multiflora rose and grapes on the edge of my woods.  I quickly got on it and saw the black lores and white spectacles.  I watched it for a few seconds before it slipped back into the brush.  I ran and got my camera, but it was moving quickly through the brush in the woods and I never got a shot of it.

Well, at this point I pretty much decided I would be watching in my yard all day and do a full Big Sit!  In the afternoon, things are usually slower, and the landscapers were putting in a walkway in the back, so I watched from an upstairs window over the patio (see eBird report here), adding:

41) Black Vulture--2:00pm after a long watch with no new birds
42) Northern Harrier--new yard bird, a migrant soaring with vultures at 2:20pm
43) Cooper's Hawk
44) Yellow-bellied Sapsucker--3:30pm
45) European Starling--4:00pm
46) Yellow-rumped Warbler

At 5:15pm I had to go to a party at church, so I missed the last hour of the day.  After I got home in the evening, I wanted to finish up right, so I got out my iPod and called up:

47) Eastern Screech-Owl

The OldBird21c microphone manned the station again from 8pm-midnight, but the autodetectors didn't pick up anything that would be new for the day--though perhaps on further review of the tape there might be a goody or two in there that the detectors missed.

So, not bad--47 species, including 10 only recorded by the microphone (I got White-throated Sparrow and Palm Warbler myself later during the sit).  While I could have seen more birds at Spruce Run, or one of my other local patches, I liked the personal feel of doing the sit in my yard--and it payed off with some new yard birds and a county year bird.  But more than anything, it was a way for me to connect with my yard and bird neighbors.  Next year I'll get my kids more involved, and maybe have some friends over as well for a Big Sit party!

NJ Nocturnal Migration--14 October 2012

Another slow night of migration, with sparrows dominating--61 detections.
Thrush-X: 1 detection
Tseep-X: 56 detections
Other: 4 detections, including series of finch calls 1A-1D and apparent Pine Siskin 1E/7A.

Sparrows dominated by White-throated Sparrow calls, a few Savannah Sparrows (1F-1H), and Chipping Sparrow (eg. 5H).

NJ Nocturnal Migration--13 October 2012

Migration slowed recently, and the switch from warblers to sparrows in the mix is almost complete.  On 13-14 October 2012 the autodetectors located 68 calls, including
Tseep-X: 3
Thrush-X: 60
Other: A series of finch calls (1A-1E)
Here are most of the calls:

Note mostly White-throated Sparrows, with a few presumed Savannah Sparrow (2H, 4A).  Thrushes appear to be Swainson's Thrush (1F, 1G, 1H).

Monday, October 15, 2012

Birdchaser at Wyncote Audubon

I'll be presenting a talk on Birds of the Ancient and Modern Maya to Wyncote Audubon outside of Philly this Friday.  Come and check it out if you are in the area.

Plymouth Friends Meeting House on Germantown Avenue at Butler Pike in Plymouth Meeting.

View Larger Map

Saturday, October 13, 2012

NJ Nocturnal Migration--12 October 2012

With the switch to north winds yesterday, a big migration was expected across the Northeast last night.
Wind map from
 As shown in the radar, there was a big movement of birds.

Unfortunately for ground based observers, most of these birds were very high.  At the distance I live from the NEXRAD station, the radar is picking up birds over 5,000 feet up.

So there were lots of birds, but flying so high the microphone may not have picked up many of their calls.

Gray-cheeked Thrush (1D top below) at 8:55pm
The autodetectors were able to pick up 181 calls on my recording from last night, including:
Thrush-X--11 detections (including 2 Gray-cheeked Thrush with the more numerous Swainson's Thrush)
Tseep-X--159 detections, almost all sparrows
Several others, including a couple series of Canada Goose calls (1A, 1I, 2A-2D top)
Here are spectrograms of the calls from last night (click to enlarge the images).

A preliminary look shows mostly White-throated Sparrows (eg. 1C-1F bottom), Chipping Sparrows (eg. 2A, 2C middle), and a few Savannah Sparrows (eg. 2E middle).  Indigo Buntings have mostly passed through by now, but see for example a call at 7I (middle).

There were only a few warblers, including Common Yellowthroat (7A bottom), Black-throated Blue Warbler (7F top), Palm Warbler (7D middle), and Northern Parula (4D middle).

Also note the first Hermit Thrush of the season at 3D (top).

Friday, October 12, 2012

NJ Nocturnal Migration--11 October 2012

Last night brought light southwest winds to NJ, and with them slightly better bird migration than the strong west winds of 10 October.  

Below is the NEXRAD image from 10pm, showing fairly heavy reflectivity across NJ.

But not a lot of southward movement--most of the white in the middle is reflectivity--probably birds--since it is moving eastbound against the wind and parallel to the radar station rather than towards it.

At any rate, my autodetectors picked up 109 NFCs, including:
       9 Thrush (all Swainson's Thrush) and
     95 Tseep-X detections.

Here are the detected calls (click on image to get a larger view):

In addition to higher numbers of birds, it also is apparent that warbler numbers are down and sparrow numbers are up.  There appeared to be a few Chipping Sparrows moving (including 3B-3F top, and 4C and 4D bottom).  Of interest to me is the apparent Northern Parula (3A bottom)--while this species is still showing up as regular on my local eBird checklist, I haven't seen one on the ground for weeks.  I'm also intrigued by what looks to be Black-throated Blue Warblers (including at 1A, 1C bottom)--I'm not seeing these on the ground either, though a few are still being reported on eBird.  Common Yellowthroat is at 3H and 6C, 6D (top)

Otherwise looks like we've got some Savannah Sparrows (including 5G top), Song Sparrow (including 7G top), and White-throated Sparrows (including 5D bottom).  5A and 5B (top) look like they might be White-crowned Sparrow, so I need to look at them more closely.  Also, at just over 7kHz the call at 4G (top) looks a little low for the examples I have of Grasshopper Sparrow, but not sure what else it might be.

I also haven't figured out yet what if anything is at 1A, 1B (top).  At the time I thought it sounded like a heron, but with the bulk of the sound between 2-3 kHz, I haven't quite identified it yet.

Note also the American Goldfinch "pu-ti-ti-ti" flight calls at 2C and 2D (top) recorded going over at 4:41am EDT.

Such are the joys and excitement of NFC listening and watching.  While I was listening to my mic last night I heard a giant car wreck out in front of my house.  OK, I only figured that out later after I talked to my neighbor this morning.  At the time it just was an overwhelming noise.

Looking forward to tonight--as temperatures have dropped and winds are predicted out of the north!  Bring on the migrants!

Wind prediction for 12 October 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

NJ Nocturnal Migration--10 October 2012

So last night NJ had some pretty heavy winds from the WNW, up to 15 mph or so, making night flight call recording a bit difficult at times, and perhaps limiting some of the migration.  Here's the wind map at midnight.

On NEXRAD you can see what looks like a few birds in the air in western NJ (arrow), though migration was light across most of the NE and heavier in the SE and Midwest.

My recording station at home in Hunterdon County picked up a light migration.  I listened from 8:43-mindnight and heard mostly a few Tseep calls, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, and Swainson's Thrush.

Tseep-X and Thrush-X autodetection software located a total of 73 calls, including:
Thrush calls:  3 (all appear to be Swainson's Thrush)
Tseep calls:  68
Other:  1 possible heron call

Here are most of the bird calls detected by Tseep-X and Thrush-X software as viewed in the Oldbird GlassOFire software.

Click for larger view

Some initial quick IDs:
Swainson's Thrush calls (1B, 1D, 1E)
Ovenbird (2A)
Savannah Sparrow (1H, 5C)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (4B, 4C, 4F, 4G, 4H)
White-throated Sparrow (5H, 6G, etc.)
Northern Parula (7I)
Common Yellowthroat (2C, 3D)

Some of th eothers are faint or unclear.  Not sure what the tseep calls including 2B, 3B, 3F.  Blackpoll Warblers are still moving through in small numbers, so that might be the most likely candidate.  3G might be a Bay-breasted Warbler.  I'll have to take a closer look at the double-banded upsweeps at 2E and 6B--might be Tennessee Warbler.

Warbler numbers are declining, and sparrow numbers are climbing.  Hoping for better wind conditions and migrant passage tonight.
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