Maine Birding Field Notes-Update!

How To Be A Better BirderDerek Lovitch, author of How to Be a Better Birder and blogger for Maine Birding Field Notes, knows that as migration season continues, his feathered friends will be continuing south for the winter as the cold creeps up on all of us. While he’s always avidly posting on his Facebook page, he also recently posted to his blog to report some of his more recent findings, including a snowy owl!


Cape Neddick through Wells – Snowy Owl!

Jeannette and I birded from Cape Neddick through Wells on Tuesday, seeing a really pleasant variety of birds in the process in the calm before the storm. Delayed by a snowy start and somewhat slick roads (OK, not slick if didn’t drive like it was a dry race car track – 7 cars were off the road between Freeport and York, however) that backed up traffic (“Hey, there’s a car in the ditch, let me look!”), we didn’t reach the Nubble neighborhood until almost 9:00, but by then the snow had ended, the ceiling lifted a bit, and a very light wind made for decent  – albeit a bit raw – birding conditions.  Although we didn’t have anything earth-shattering, we did have a fair number of “good birds.”

Without a day off together in December (the store is open seven days a week from Thanksgiving to Christmas), our annual late November run through our usual route is the last time we focus on thickets and migrant traps in the hopes for lingering migrants and rare passerines.  Next time, waterbirds will be more of a focus.  And the limited number of non-resident passerines that we detected today (other than Dark-eyed Junco, White-throated Sparrows, American Tree Sparrows, and a scattered few Yellow-rumped Warblers) confirms that – as did the impressive, and growing, quantity of waterbirds.

Three Carolina Wrens was the highlight of a thorough check of the Nubble neighborhood thickets, although we did have a group of about 40 Snow Buntings fly over.  45 Black Scoters, 13 Purple Sandpipers, 8 Great Cormorants, 6 Harlequin Ducks, etc at The Nubble were a sign of things to come along the shoreline.

Passerines were few and far between along Marginal Way and the adjacent neighborhood, but great numbers of waterfowl along the shoreline more than made up for it.  As with everywhere we looked at the ocean today, all three scoters were present in numbers, including a close and talkative group of about 100 Black Scoters.  Lots of Long-tailed Ducks, Common Eiders, and a total of 20 or 21 Harlequin Ducks were also present, along with a half-dozen Purple Sandpipers.

To read the rest of this post, click here!


And to check out the free downloads we’re currently offering, check out the links below:
Crossley ID Guide Raptors : A sampler raptor guide in PDF format including photos and real text from the guide
Quick Finders from The Warbler Guide : A ‘quick finder’ designed to help you identify over 50 warblers faster with targeted color photos


Interview with Enrico Coen, Author of “Cells to Civilizations”

Enrico Coen, author of Cells to Civilizations: The Principles of Change That Shape Life, was recently shortlisted for the 2013 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books. In the following YouTube video, Coen is interviewed about his book, which is the first unified account of how life transforms itself–from the production of bacteria to the emergence of complex civilizations.


Enrico Coen is a plant molecular geneticist based at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, United Kingdom. He is the author of The Art of Genes, a fellow of the Royal Society, and a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. His awards include the Linnean Gold Medal and the Royal Society Darwin Medal.


Check out our Cells to Civilizations Facebook Page for all of the latest news on this book.

Migration Quiz Monday: It’s a Feathered Frenzy!

Stephenson_WarblerGGreetings bird-lovers! I know technically it’s Thursday (Happy Thanksgiving and first day of Hanukkah by the way!), but today is our ultimate Migration Quiz Monday! Our favorite warblers experts, Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle, authors of The Warbler Guide, have been incredibly busy touring for their book and attending birding festivals, while still trying to fit in their favorite pastime, birding!

They finally got a chance to post a slew of quiz questions and answers on their blog a few days ago, but rather than posting each one and crowding up your nest- I mean computer screen- with links and posts and bird puns, I thought it would be easier if I gave you just one simple link to click on and check out all of their quizzes at once at The Warbler Guide.com. Enjoy!


And to check out the free downloads we’re currently offering, check out the links below:
Crossley ID Guide Raptors : A sampler raptor guide in PDF format including photos and real text from the guide
Quick Finders from The Warbler Guide : A ‘quick finder’ designed to help you identify over 50 warblers faster with targeted color photos


Editor Speaks Out In Defense Of Undiluted Hocus-Pocus

Undiluted Hocus PocusI bet Martin Gardner, author of Undiluted Hocus-Pocus: The Autobiography of Martin Gardner, never imagined that his autobiography would stir up so much controversy. Since Gardner unfortunately passed away after the completion of his book but before it was officially released, some people have been saying that he did not actually write it and that it was pieced together by his friends and published under his name.

To set the record straight, Vickie Kearn, the Mathematics Editor here at Princeton University Press who worked closely with Gardner during the writing and editing process of this book, is speaking out about her experience with Gardner to prove once and for all that he is the author of Undiluted Hocus-Pocus. The full article can be found here at Wild About Math.


Derek Lovitch’s Rarity Season So Far

How To Be A Better BirderAccording to Derek Lovitch, author of How to Be a Better Birder and blogger for Maine Birding Field Notes, Rarity Season has been great this year for birders. He’s been avidly posting on his Facebook page about his finds, but in case you haven’t been following along, here’s a little summation thus far that he recently posted to his blog.


Rarity Season-to-date in Review

I hope you didn’t think that my lack of blogging of late equated to a lack of birding!  Quite the contrary, actually – it is Rarity Season afterall!  I’ve just been posting more frequent, shorter updates on our store’s Facebook page (you can scroll through the timeline here to see recent posts), especially since I have found myself a bit over-extended with a variety of other projects at the moment – I’ve been working late most nights recently to make up for my morning birding gallivanting.

In fact, I have been birding even harder than usual – if you can believe that!  Spurred on by extraordinary late October finds of an “Audubon’s” Yellow-rumped Warbler at Fort Foster and a Bell’s Vireo (a state bird for me!) on Bailey Island, I found myself somehow even more motivated to beat the bush through the first half of November.  In addition to the 10th Annual South Coastal Maine Rarity Roundup that I organize every year, I worked hard at various traditional hotspots, favorite late fall patches, and various attempts to think “outside the box,” such as walking the 4.5 miles into work today to check a handful of swales and thickets en route (not very productive, except for the exercise, for the record)

While Audubon’s Warbler and Bell’s Vireo are going to be tough to beat – the early-rarity-season bar was set awfully high! – I have had some outstanding birding in November, even if there has yet to be another “Mega.” Personal highlights in the first half of November include a very nice variety of lingering (pioneering?) warblers, a Yellow-breasted Chat, multiple Orange-crowned Warblers (I’ve had four this season to date), huge numbers of Ruddy Ducks on Sabattus Pond, and overall just really good birding with good diversity.

Elsewhere around the state, current highlights include a Northern Hawk-Owl in Lincoln – not a vagrant in the “Rarity Season” sort of way, but exciting nonetheless! And perhaps that, along with an early Snowy Owl report from Biddeford Pool, portends a decent owl irruption this winter? There certainly won’t be any winter finches around this year.). Other birders have detected a variety of late warblers around the state (wow, November Chestnut-sided in Falmouth!), and lots of lingering shorebirds – especially in Scarborough Marsh. But as far as the first half of November usually goes, there have been no truly exceptional birds. Looking around the region, we see goodies such as a Calliope Hummingbird in New Hampshire, A Black-chinned Hummingbird in Connecticut, and the usual fun array of rarities in Massachusetts (Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Western Tanager, American Avocet, etc). However, it is an ultra-spiffy adult Ross’s Gull near Montreal that is the real headliner of the fall in the Northeast so far (and yes, I am being tempted to chase this, I have to admit).

So there are some good birds around the region, and no doubt there are some good birds still to find in Maine. Other than a couple of days, it has been fairly temperate to mild all fall, and I can’t help but wonder if birds that arrived in the state through various vagrancy mechanisms (see Chapter 7 of my book, How to Be a Better Birder) have yet to concentrate along the coast as they seek out more favorable microclimates or seasonal food sources. Also, as the season progresses, more rarities turn up at feeding stations as natural food supplies diminish. December rarities, for example, are often discovered at feeders. Two tardy Chipping Sparrows are at our store’s feeders as I type this, by the way; I’m hoping they pick up a clay-colored cousin. A lot of folks are reporting very busy feeders right now, which is a good sign, especially considering the lack of irruptive finches.

To read the rest of this post, click here.


And to check out the free downloads we’re currently offering, check out the links below:
Crossley ID Guide Raptors : A sampler raptor guide in PDF format including photos and real text from the guide
Quick Finders from The Warbler Guide : A ‘quick finder’ designed to help you identify over 50 warblers faster with targeted color photos


Crossley’s Rough-legged Hawks

Winter is coming. (Game of Thrones anyone?) Richard Crossley is author of The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors and of The Crossley ID Guide: Britain and Ireland, and the supplier of this awesome plate of a rough-legged hawk.While Migration Season is starting to wind down (which is the same direction every leaf in the state appears to have gone), we’re still fascinated by some of these fierce feathered foes.

Check it out!

Rough-legged hawk


And to check out the free downloads we’re currently offering, check out the links below:
Crossley ID Guide Raptors : A sampler raptor guide in PDF format including photos and real text from the guide
Quick Finders from The Warbler Guide : A ‘quick finder’ designed to help you identify over 50 warblers faster with targeted color photos


American Kestrels In Flight

As the leaves continue to change and begin to fall, Richard Crossley, author of The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors, has provided as with a very cool plate of some American Kestrels, both in flight and close up. American Kestrels are aptly named, since they are the only type of kestrel that can be found in the Americas. They are also the smallest falcon to be found in North America. Plus, they’re kind of cute. Check it out!

American kestrel


And to check out the free downloads we’re currently offering, check out the links below:
Crossley ID Guide Raptors : A sampler raptor guide in PDF format including photos and real text from the guide
Quick Finders from The Warbler Guide : A ‘quick finder’ designed to help you identify over 50 warblers faster with targeted color photos


Derek Lovitch’s Tenth Annual South Coastal Maine Rarity Roundup

Derek Lovitch, author of How to Be a Better Birder, is still flying high this migration season, spending part of last week along the southern coast of Maine to do some serious birding. In the midst of this ‘rarity season’, Lovitch and his crew recorded some exciting sightings, which he wrote about in this post from his blog, Maine Birding Field Notes.


South Coastal Maine Rarity Roundup TEN!

http://mebirdingfieldnotes.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/blpwsheridanstreetportland11-3-14.jpgEach year on the first weekend of November, a group of us get together to scour the Southern Maine coast for vagrants, lingering migrants, pioneers, irruptive, and other seasonal highlights. Coinciding with the peak of “Rarity Season,” we set out to use the geography of the Maine coast, coupled with knowledge of the best habitats and vagrant traps in order to find as many “good” birds as possible. While this year failed to produce any “Megas,” we once again had a great day in the field, found lots of fun stuff, and enjoyed good food and beer at the Great Lost Bear at the end of the day (the real reason we all get together for this event!)

119 species were tallied by the 8 teams of the TENTH Annual South Coastal Maine Rarity Roundup, six species above our 10-year average, despite somewhat more limited coverage than in the past few years. The continuing “Audubon’s” Yellow-rumped Warbler was added to the cumulative checklist, while we also had our second-ever Snowy Egret, Prairie Warbler, and Nelson’s Sparrow. Blackpoll Warbler and Clay-colored Sparrow appeared for the third time.

Most teams experienced a decidedly “birdy” day, especially from Portland through Scarborough. A fallout of Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, and Hermit Thrushes occurred with overnight northwesterly winds and a line of pre-dawn showers, with the fallout especially evident on the Portland Peninsula. I’ll have more about the fallout on a blog entry later today.

The fallout that I mentioned above was very evident in the morning, as we birded Portland’s East End. 150+ White-throated Sparrows and 100+ Song Sparrows littered the Eastern Promenade. White-throats were everywhere: 50+ on Sheridan Street for example. And once again there was a decidedly disproportionate number of White-throated Sparrows in gardens and landscaping of downtown Portland. A short loop from One City Center through Monument Square, behind Portland High, and back through Post Office Park yielded 35 White-throats, with the only other native migrant being 7 Hermit Thrushes. Like the sparrow, Hermit Thrushes appear in a wildly disproportionate number to other migrants – especially all other thrushes – in downtown Portland. I’m convinced that something causes White-throated Sparrows and Hermit Thrushes to either a) become disoriented by urban lights more often/more readily, especially under low ceilings (it was cloudy for most of the night and morning) or perhaps b) they simply don’t leave these lots in a morning flight as species such as Dark-eyed Juncos might. In fact, I just read in an article in the Brown Alumni Magazine that a friend of the store dropped off about collisions in New York City that since 1997, more White-throated Sparrows have been found dead than any other species. Coincidence?

Our sum of 26 Hermit Thrushes was truly amazing, as was our overall diversity on the day. While the mild weather certainly has a lot to do with the number of lingering/pioneering birds that we, and other teams, encountered, the late-season fallout earlier in the morning certainly helped our cause.

In other words, it was another great day of birding in urban Portland in the heart of “Rarity Season!”

To see the rest of this post on Lovitch’s blog, click here.


And to check out the free downloads we’re currently offering, check out the links below:
Crossley ID Guide Raptors : A sampler raptor guide in PDF format
Quick Finders from The Warbler Guide : A ‘quick finder’ designed to help you identify over 50 warblers faster with targeted color photos.


Happy Hour Online with Richard Crossley and Dominic Couzens

Crossley ID Guide: Britain and Ireland: Happy Hour with Richard Crossley and Dominic Couzens

crossley_irelandCalling all birders, young and old, experienced or beginner with an interest in British and Irish birdlife! Join Richard Crossley and Dominic Couzens, co-authors of The Crossley ID Guide: Britain and Ireland (Princeton University Press) for a happy hour chat on their new guide to Britain and Ireland (BYOB). Richard and Dominic will share stories from their own adventures along with tips on finding, identifying and photographing birds. They’ll also discuss the design, layout and purpose of The Crossley ID Guide: Britain and Ireland. No need to head out into the November cold – just settle down at your computer with a cup of tea,coffee or your favourite tipple (that’s alcoholic drink for our American audience) and join in the fun.

The event will take place on November 21st  from 7:00pm – 8:00pm (GMT), or 2:00pm – 3:00pm (EST). Watch your time zone!

To RSVP for this Shindig event, click here.


And to check out the free downloads we’re currently offering, check out the links below:
Crossley ID Guide Raptors : A sampler raptor guide in PDF format
Quick Finders from The Warbler Guide : A ‘quick finder’ designed to help you identify over 50 warblers faster with targeted color photos.


Migration Quiz Monday: The Swamp Answer

Ready for the big reveal? It’s time to find out where Scott Whittle and Tom Stephenson, co-authors of The Warbler Guide, found this bird call, and which of our three winged options it came from.


Audio Quiz: Swamp Answer

Click Here To Listen

QUIZ SONG – ONE SECTION OF REPEATED, 4-ELEMENT PHRASES – PITCH MOVES IN ONE DIRECTION.

So this is a 1-Section song. It consists of one Phrase that is repeated over and over. (A Phrase is a group of different Elements that are repeated several times.) The Phrase is intricate, with 4 Elements.

Notice that each Phrase covers a lot of frequencies, including some that are very low. The first Element of each Phrase looks like a very straight line. This indicates many frequencies being sung at the same time, creating a very strong accent or even noise-like sound. The Elements in the rest of the Phrase sound staccato, as they are short, and have a much smaller pitch range.  And they rise in pitch, one to the next.

All of the suggested species share this same basic structure: 1 Section with several repeated Phrases, each of which consists of a few Elements. Let’s first look at Kentucky Warbler and see if it fits.

Click Here To Listen

KENTUCKY WARBLER: THE ELEMENTS ARE LOW AND COMPRESSED IN PITCH RANGE.

The first thing we hear (and see) is that all of these Elements are very similar to each other. There is nothing like the variety of sound we hear in the target song. Also, the pitch is low and doesn’t cover nearly the same range, making the song sound duller and less strident.

Common Yellowthroat’s song does have a lot of variety in its Elements.

Click Here To Listen

COMMON YELLOWTHROAT: LESS ACCENTED, SLOWER, AND HIGHER, WITH UP/DOWN PITCH MOVEMENTS.

And it covers a very wide range of frequencies, although it doesn’t go nearly as low as the target song. Also, the Elements are somewhat longer, and thus sound less staccato or accented. The speed of the Phrases is also noticeably slower, in fact about half as fast. That enhances the more melodic quality of the Common Yellowthroat’s song.

Finally the pitch profile of each Phrase is a slower, more gentle, up/down form. All in all, Common Yellowthroat sounds more mellow or sing-songy than the target song, which has a very strong accent followed by a rapidly rising series of short Elements.

All of the features of the target song fit the various, variable songs of Carolina Wren. The key to identifying this species, and separating it from other species, is each Phrase’s very fast, sharp, accented Element that is then followed by a series of short Elements with either a rising or falling overall pitch profile. The fairly fast speed and wide pitch range, adds to the song’s effect.


And to check out the free downloads we’re currently offering, check out the links below:
Crossley ID Guide Raptors : A sampler raptor guide in PDF format
Quick Finders from The Warbler Guide : A ‘quick finder’ designed to help you identify over 50 warblers faster with targeted color photos.

The Warbler Guide to Aging and Sexing Sheet

Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle, authors of The Warbler Guide, have a reputation for presenting information to their readers in new and helpful ways. This includes looking at birding in the field as realistically as possible while teaching people to not just look for the same obvious features every time when trying to identify a bird. Taking it to another level, the two have a sheet designed to help birders determine the age and sex of the warbler they are viewing:


And to check out the free downloads we’re currently offering, check out the links below:
Crossley ID Guide Raptors : A sampler raptor guide in PDF format
Quick Finders from The Warbler Guide : A ‘quick finder’ designed to help you identify over 50 warblers faster with targeted color photos.


Migration Quiz Monday: The Swamp Question

After a short hiatus, we’re back with Migration Quiz Monday! Hope you don’t get too stumped by this birdcall, along with a couple distinguishing features. Have a guess? Comment below and check back later this week for the answer!


Audio Quiz: Swamp Question

carwre quiz fin

Click Here To Listen

This species is a very vocal singer, has many variations, and is often confused with other species, especially from the distance. This one Section song could be Common Yellowthroat, Kentucky Warbler or even Carolina Wren. Which is it?

COMYEL_042608#2KENWAR100422_35CARWRE_022009#10

(click to enlarge)


And to check out the free downloads we’re currently offering, check out the links below:
Crossley ID Guide Raptors : A sampler raptor guide in PDF format
Quick Finders from The Warbler Guide : A ‘quick finder’ designed to help you identify over 50 warblers faster with targeted color photos.