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.

Rarity Season Begins!

Derek Lovitch, author of How to Be a Better Birder and an avid birdwatcher, is at it again with his blog, Maine Birding Field Notes, posting about another exciting day of bird-watching as ‘Rarity Season’ starts up. Keep your eyes peeled for some more rare sightings coming your way!


AUDUBON’S WARBLER at Fort Foster!

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of leading our annual “York County Rarity Roundup” Field Trip for York County Audubon today. With no rarities to “round up,” we set out to find our own, birding from Kittery through Wells.  We followed a very similar route to what Jeannette and I always do on our monthly south-coastal run.  The difference today was that with a group, and with so many birds at FortFoster, we never made it out of Kittery by lunchtime.  Too bad that meant we just HAD to have lunch at Loco Coco’s Taco (mmm, chili relleno burrito…)!

It was a very birdy day overall, even in the windy afternoon.  A preliminary total of 63 species of birds included 9 species of sparrows, 5 species of shorebirds, and 4 species of warblers.  Excellent-for-the-season bird diversity was augmented by 5 species of butterflies, 3 species of mammals, 2+ species of dragonfly, 1 reptile (Garter Snake), and 1 amphibian (Spring Peeper).

The bird of the day by far was “Audubon’s” Yellow-rumped Warbler that I found at FortFoster.  This western subspecies of Yellow-rump (it once was, and I believe will likely once again be considered a full species) has only occurred – or should I say, been detected – in Maine a few times.  I can only think of one recent record, an adult that nearly-overwintered at Dyer Point in Cape Elizabeth a few years ago.

If anyone wants to look for it, the bird was flycatching and occasionally eating Red Cedar berries along the west edge of the park. Follow the entrance road into the park, until the large gravel parking lot opens up on the left. The bird was loyal to the right (west) edge here, especially around the big cedars in the mowed lawn.

Noah Gibb and I photographed the bird extensively, and I was also able to borrow a phone to get a voice recording.  All aspects of the bird – from plumage to voice – fit perfectly with a pure “Audubon’s” Warbler.

I first glimpsed the bird sallying for insects in and out of shadows.  The overall extremely cool gray plumage tone – top to bottom – brought to mind a first fall female Pine Warbler. But something wasn’t right.  The bird began to call, and that was definitely not the call of a Pine Warbler…but what was it?  We saw the bird briefly a few times, the pieces began to come together, and then as it flew to another tree the bright yellow rump became evident.  “Audubon’s Warbler!!!!” I exclaimed.
DSC_0059_AUWA1,Fort Foster,10-27-13

DSC_0046_AUWA3,FortFoster,10-27-13

DSC_0044_AUWA,FortFoster,10-27-13

DSC_0057_AUWA5,FortFoster,10-27-13

We studied the bird extensively for at least a half hour, occasionally in perfect light for prolonged periods.  I scribbled notes, and encouraged others to do the same before we discussed the bird any further.  Plenty of “Myrtle” Warblers (the Eastern subspecies of Yellow-rumped) were nearby for convenient comparison.

- Obvious “Yellow-rumped” Warbler with bright yellow rump, overall size and shape, bill size and shape, etc.
- Exceptionally cool gray overall plumage tone, not suggesting the brownish tones of even the palest Myrtles.
- Very diffuse streaking below.
- Very restricted and pale yellow “blobs” on sides of chest.
- Very subtle and restricted yellow on throat, not visible in all light conditions, but quite obvious in good sunlight.
- Lacked the extension of pale on the throat that “points” up around the back of the auriculars as on Myrtle.  Therefore, throat patch appeared rounded, or encircled by the cool gray of head.
- Auriculars only marginally darker than rest of head, often looking concolorous.
- Call note very different from surrounding Myrtles, much sharper and not as “blunt.”
- Exceptionally dull plumage highly suggestive of a first fall female, but the lack of a definite molt limit within the greater coverts prevents us from clinching the age. (reference: The Warbler Guide, Stephenson and Whittle, 2013)

Good bird!  And yes, Rarity Season is most definitely in full swing!  Good thing it appears that, after a prolonged drought, I have finally refound my rarity-finding mojo.  Phew.

Now, about that Saltmarsh Sparrow – which I admittedly called an “Interior” Nelson’s Sparrow in the field…  Expecting to see an “Interior” Nelson’s Sparrow based on the timing, micro-habitat, and behavior, I reached for my camera before I fully studied the bird. After firing off some photos, and making sure everyone got on the bird, it took off and we never saw it again. Although I mentioned that the malar looked “quite dark,” I didn’t second-guess the call until I looked at photos on the computer this afternoon.  Yeah, it’s a Saltie.  The malar is not only dark and distinct, but it frames a clear white throat.  The breast streaking is dark and extensive, the bill has a fleshy-pink cast, and it is simply too long-billed for an “Interior” (subspecies alterus or nelsoni; I don’t believe they are identifiable in the field).  As a final clincher, note the fine streaks towards the rear half of the supercilium.  Behavior and timing wise: odd for a Saltmarsh.  Plumage: essentially textbook for a Saltmarsh.  Therefore, “After further review, the call (in) the field is overturned.”
DSC_0061_SMSP1,SeapointBeach,10-27-13

DSC_0062_SMSP2,SeapointBeach,10-27-13

Solution for Week Two Migration Quiz Monday

Visual Quiz: Bird On The Ground Answered

Ready to find out the solution to this week’s Migration Quiz Monday from the authors who brought us The Warbler Guide? Then read on below!

bird1

OUR QUIZ BIRD

Let’s look at the Warbler Guide Finders to narrow this one down.  There are a number of birds with yellow in them…let’s see if there are any other features we can find that will help us narrow it down.

bir

THE FINDERS SHOW A NUMBER OF YELLOW BIRDS – WHAT ELSE CAN WE LOOK FOR?

Let’s work from head to tail … on the head we see a pronounced supercillium (eyebrow)…that should be helpful!  There’s a tinge of brown on the crown, too.  The upperparts of the back are brownish – and look at those wings…there are wingbars but they’re brown, which might be another useful point.  The underparts are patchy yellow, and the rump and undertail are yellow (brighter in the undertail).
bird

SOME USEFUL MARKS INCLUDE A WIDE SUPERCILLIUM, BROWN IN THE CROWN AND WINGS, BROWNISH WING BARS, PATCHY YELLOW IN THE BODY, AND A YELLOW RUMP AND UNDERTAIL.

So let’s look again at the finders…there really aren’t that many birds that are drabish yellow with a strong supercillium.  I see Palm, Prairie, Hooded, Tennessee, Orange-crowned, Blackburnian, Worm-eating, Swainsons, Blackpoll, and Yellow-rumped (Myrtle).  Out of those, which have yellow in the body or undertail?  Just Palm, Prairie, Hooded, Orange-crowned and maybe Blackpoll.  Great!  We’re really narrowing it down now.

biiii

ONLY A FEW SPECIES HAVE A SUPERCILLIUM AND ARE DRABISH-YELLOW LIKE OUR QUIZ BIRD.

Here’s something else, though…what about those brown wingbars?  And the yellow upper and undertail?  Really, that only looks like Palm as far as I can see.  If I go to the Palm Warbler account, I see that in fact those are a unique combo…and combined with tail-pumping, this looks like a really good match.

bbb

OUR PALM WARBLER COMPARISON PAGE CONFIRMS THE ID.
The only thing close is Prairie…but look how the wingabars are yellow, not brown, the streaking is black as opposed to reddish-brown, and the Prairie has a distinct facial pattern that is different from Palm.  It is, in fact, a fall Palm Warbler.  These birds are often seen feeding on the ground, and also in small flocks.  Their continuous tail-pumping is a great tip-off, too, and although there are some other tail-pumping warblers (the Waterthrushes, Magnolia, Prairie and Kirtland).  the flocking, yellow undertail and rump, brownish wingbars (and often crown) and sometimes brown breast streaks are all separators.


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.

Derek Lovitch’s Bell’s Vireo Sighting

bellsDerek Lovitch, author of How to Be a Better Birder and avid birdwatcher, had an exciting week  as he reported on his blog, Maine Birding Field Notes, to have seen a very rare bird in his recent birdwatching travels in Harpswell.

The Bell’s Vireo (pictured here) has only been seen a handful of times in Maine, so it appears to be a bit of a Maine-birder’s dream day. Congrats on the find Derek!


BELL’S VIREO in Harpswell!!!

Yesterday, Jeannette and I discovered a Bell’s Vireo on Abner Point Road, Bailey Island in Harpswell.  There are only three previous records of Bell’s Vireo for the state of Maine. 

In other words: MEGA!  And needless to say – especially since I missed the two from last year, despite my best efforts – this was a thrilling find, capping a very productive morning of birding Bailey Island that included a Yellow-breasted Chat (my first of the year) at Land’s End, and a total of 5 species of warblers on Bailey Island this am:  Hundreds of Yellow-rumps, and one each of Black-throated Blue, Black-and-white, Common Yellowthroat, and Blackpoll.  Song Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, and other seasonal migrants made for a very birdy visit.

In what turned out to be our last stop of the morning, Jeannette and I walked Abner Point Road.  Upon reaching a promising thicket, I began to pish.  Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Winter Wren responded immediately, and as Jeannette attempted to photograph the wren, I sorted through the yellow-rumps, hoping to find one with a yellow throat.  A handful of minutes later (about 10:35am), we heard a harsh, scolding chatter emanating from the dense vegetation.  “Vireo?” Jeannette asked quizzically as we both looked at each other, unsure of the sound – it sounded like nothing we are used to hearing.  I wondered out loud about a Carolina Wren making some odd sound (they’re good at that, and there was one in that particular thicket), and the nasal quality led me to consider a funky Red-breasted Nuthatch.  We looked hard but could not turn up anything that fit the sound.

About 5 minutes later, a small vireo pops out of the brush in front of me.  At first I called “White-eyed Vireo” due to the bright yellow flanks and overall shape, but then I got a clear look at the head.  “BELL’S VIREO!” I exclaimed, as Jeannette, a few yards away still working on photographing the wren rushed over.

As is often the case for Bell’s Vireos, it quickly ducked back into the cover.  I continued to pish, and the bird popped back up.  I had a second brief, but unobstructed view of the whole bird.  Jeannette went for the camera, and prepared to fire away, only to see the bird dive back into the shadows once again.  One last brief glimpse of the bird was all we would have for the next hour.

We searched hard, but could not relocate it.  A Blue-headed Vireo was more cooperative, and permitted us some comparison.  We listened to a recording of the call of a Bell’s, and there was no question in either of our minds’ that is what we had heard earlier.

We thought we heard that call in the distance of the thicket one more time, and perhaps even a snippet of a song, but background noise and an increasing southerly wind made us unsure of that.  And that wind was clearly not making this skulker any more likely to show itself.  At 11:50, we heard the distinctive call once again, but from thick shrubs behind a house across the street.  We hustled over, but unfortunately only managed to pish in a cat (one of at least five in this immediate area; it was worse than Monhegan!), which was likely the object of the vireo’s recent ire.  We worked the area as best as we could, and eventually saw the homeowner in her yard and received permission to wander around.  No luck.  We had also received permission earlier from the homeowner adjacent to the first thicket to check her yard, so we did another circuit, but we came up empty, and it was getting breezier and cloudier.  Lunchtime was calling us, too.

While I left with almost three pages of field notes, it was rather frustrating to not get a photo, especially since Jeannette was so close to snapping it!  However, as a firm believer in the value of written field notes for documentation of rare birds, I scrawled away in my notebook.


To see Derek’s notes on the Bell’s Vireo and his full description of its location, click here.

Fall Warbler Sighting!

Scott Whittle and Tom Stephenson, authors of The Warbler Guide, are busy all month with events (see here), but that won’t stop us from keeping their awesome warbler images coming!

The photo below from The Warbler Guide is of a female Black-and-white Warbler in the fall, snapped by none other than Scott Whittle himself. And don’t worry, we promise the bird is upside down, not your computer!

Black-and-white warbler
Have you spotted any interesting birds this migration season? Let us know in the comments below!

The Crossley Halloween Guide

With Halloween fast approaching, everybody is getting into the spooky spirit. Even Richard Crossley, author of The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors, is contributing to the mood with this photo of some Black Vultures. Dark and searching for their next deceased meal, these beautiful creatures are equally foreboding and festive for October! Happy Halloween!

Black Vulture