Broadwing Hawks are on the move this week through Mid-Atlantic region

One of my favorite raptor sites, Hawk Mountain in Kempton PA, is seeing a steady stream of migrating Broadwing Hawks, so I thought I’d share this gorgeous plate from The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors. Hoping to make it there soon. Do you have a local hawk watch? Give them a shout out in the comments below and I’ll add them to the “places” list below.


Broad-wing Hawk - Adult

Places to go see raptors this fall:

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

1700 Hawk Mountain Rd.
Kempton, PA 19529



Using radar and weather to predict bird fall out during migration season, a quick case study from Derek Lovitch

I am crossposting this from Derek Lovitch’s blog. He has had two amazing days watching migrating birds (a complete list of his sightings is available on his blog, so if you want to be struck with true envy over an amazing tally, head there), but what really interests me and is useful to our migration feature this month, is how he uses radar and maps to predict what birds he’ll see and where to find them. So, I have left the bird list alone and present here the meat and potatoes of his post. I hope it helps everyone understand the power of using weather/radar/maps during migration time:


Simply put: wow!  That was one heck of a flight on Day 1.  In fact, it was downright overwhelming at times – flocks of flickers, waves of warblers, packs of waxwings.  It was almost too much to count, and thankfully, Jenny Howard agreed (OK, so maybe I didn’t exactly ask, but beg) to tally flickers for the busiest part of the morning for me. That helped a whole lot.

After a flood like the morning of Day 1, I am not disappointed by the slow, but steady trickle through the point this morning on Day 2.  It was a more manageable number to count, with quite a few birds lower than yesterday, and often only a few at a time; it was easier to sort through.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting Day 2 to be quite this good.  And despite really only a “good” flight, parulas had their second highest tally – I didn’t think there would be any left after yesterday’s flight!  And yes, this more manageable flight was more “enjoyable,” if considerably less awe-inspiring.

So, what made me have lower expectations for today?  Let’s go to the radar!

First, the massive flight overnight Monday into Tuesday that led to all of the records yesterday.  I have included the 10pm, 12am, 2am, and 4am radar and velocity images:




Combined, these images show a very strong flight all night long, with a lot of birds offshore come twilight, and likely a lot of birds arriving at the coast come dawn.  Looking at that image when I went to bed, and when I awoke, coupled with the light northwesterly winds all night left no doubt that things would be hopping at Sandy Point.  And, as we now know, there most certainly was. If you see a radar image that looks like this – go birding in the morning!

In fact, it was a good day all-around for migrants, and everywhere we looked up yesterday, raptors were on the move.

winds, 110am,9-17-13

Now, let’s take a look a the radar and velocity images from 10pm, 12am, 2am, and 4am last night:




As night fell Tuesday night (Day 1, ed note), clear and mostly calm conditions let birds take to the air once again – but not nearly as many as the night before (pre-Day 1). Notice how much smaller the area of return is, and how much less dense? Meanwhile, the velocity image was much less distinctly fast-moving, north-to-south as the previous night (of course, with little to no wind, the ground speed of the birds would be less anyway) – a little more ambiguous than the night before.  Furthermore, with a forecast for westerly winds (not as good as northwesterly), and the chance that they would become southwesterly by dawn, I did consider skipping Sandy Point this morning, but with the rest of the week looking even less productive, I knew I had to give it a go.

And, obviously, I am glad that I did.  But upon returning to the store, and checking those above radar images once again, I find it a bit odd that the radar image (small in diameter, but very dense) did not translate to a more distinct velocity image.  Perhaps there was a lot of slow-moving stuff up there (insects, pollen, dust, etc) that clouded the motion of the birds.  Either way, it was a good night for flying, and if it’s a good night for flying, it’s a good morning to be at Sandy Point!


j9671[1]Derek Lovitch has worked on avian research and education projects throughout the United States, has written numerous articles for birding publications, and was a columnist for Birding magazine. He now owns and runs Freeport Wild Bird Supply in Maine. He is also author of How to Be a Better Birder which you can check out here.

Migration Sweepstakes — enter to win everything you need to make the most of Fall birdwatching!

To kick off our Migration blog coverage, we’re taking to the skies with a Rafflecopter giveaway event!

Our prize package includes a copy of The Warbler Guide, The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors, and How to Be a Better Birder, a pair of Zeiss TERRA binoculars, and the audio companion for The Warbler Guide.

How to win? There are numerous ways to win, including liking any of the three books Facebook pages, emailing us at, signing up for our email alerts for Bird and Natural History Titles at,or tweeting at @PrincetonNature or at any of the author’s Twitter pages (@IDCrossleyGuide or @The WarblerGuide). Just follow the steps in the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at the beginning of October.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Two for Tuesday – Britain’s Freshwater Fishes & England’s Rare Mosses

From our WildGuides selection, we are introducing two new beautifully illustrated books for your personal library.

j9973Britain’s Freshwater Fishes
by Mark Everard

Britain hosts a diversity of freshwater environments, from torrential hill streams and lowland rivers to lakes, reservoirs, ponds, canals, ditches, and upper reaches of estuaries. Britain’s Freshwater Fishes covers the 53 species of freshwater and brackish water fishes that are native or have been introduced and become naturalized. This beautifully illustrated guide features high-quality in-the-water or on-the-bank photographs throughout. Detailed species accounts describe the key identification features and provide information on status, size and weight, habitat, ecology, and conservation. Written in an accessible style, the book also contains introductory sections on fish biology, fish habitats, how to identify fishes, and conservation and legislation.




j9975England’s Rare Mosses and Liverworts:
Their History, Ecology, and Conservation
by Ron D. Porley

This is the first book to cover England’s rare and threatened mosses and liverworts, collectively known as bryophytes. As a group, they are the most ancient land plants and occupy a unique position in the colonization of the Earth by plant life. However, many are at risk from habitat loss, pollution, climate change, and other factors. Britain is one of the world’s best bryologically recorded areas, yet its mosses and liverworts are not well known outside a small band of experts. This has meant that conservation action has tended to lag behind that of more charismatic groups such as birds and mammals. Of the 918 different types of bryophyte in England, 87 are on the British Red List and are regarded as threatened under the strict criteria of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

This book aims to raise awareness by providing stunning photographs–many never before published–of each threatened species, as well as up-to-date profiles of 84 of them, including status, distribution, history, and conservation measures. The book looks at what bryophytes are, why they are important and useful, and what makes them rare; it also examines threats, extinctions, ex situ conservation techniques, legislation, and the impact of the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity.

For more selections from WildGuides, please visit:

The Warbler Guide receives high praise from The Exponent Telegram

The Warbler Guide, written by Tom Stephenson & Scott Whittle, received high marks from The Exponent Telegram in a review published on Saturday, July 6th, 2013:

It’s not often I devote an entire column to a single new book, but The Warbler Guide by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle (2013, Princeton University Press, $29.95, to be published on July 24) deserves such attention. At 560 pages, The Warbler Guide thoroughly covers all 56 species of North American warblers.

The first 137 pages cover introductory material that would make a valuable stand-alone book. It’s birding 101 focused solely on warblers. It begins with a legend for icons and silhouettes used in every species account. Two pages explain how to use and interpret range maps. Then comes a topographic tour of the basic warbler body. Here you learn to distinguish among primaries, secondaries, tertials and coverts. 
37 pages [are] devoted to vocalizations with emphasis on using and understanding sonograms (graphical representations of bird sounds). This discussion includes songs, calls, chirps and flight calls. 
Though I’ve been birding for more than 40 years, I felt like a beginner on some pages, and I know I’ll be a better birder next spring.
 It’s as if the publisher told the authors to produce a book on warbler identification that includes everything a birder might ever need.

Scott Shalaway, The Exponent Telegram

Read the entire Exponent Telegram review here:

The Warbler Guide
Tom Stephenson & Scott Whittle

The Warbler Guide by Tom Stephenson & Scott WhittleWarblers are among the most challenging birds to identify. They exhibit an array of seasonal plumages and have distinctive yet oft-confused calls and songs. The Warbler Guide enables you to quickly identify any of the 56 species of warblers in the United States and Canada. This groundbreaking guide features more than 1,000 stunning color photos, extensive species accounts with multiple viewing angles, and an entirely new system of vocalization analysis that helps you effectively learn songs and calls.

The Warbler Guide revolutionizes birdwatching, making warbler identification easier than ever before. For more information, please see the author videos on the Princeton University Press website.

  • Covers all 56 species of warblers in the United States and Canada
  • Visual quick finders help you identify warblers from any angle
  • Song and call finders make identification easy using a few simple questions
  • Uses sonograms to teach a new system of song identification that makes it easier to understand and hear differences between similar species
  • Detailed species accounts show multiple views with diagnostic points, direct comparisons of plumage and vocalizations with similar species, and complete aging and sexing descriptions
  • New aids to identification include song mnemonics and icons for undertail pattern, color impression, habitat, and behavior
  • Includes field exercises, flight shots, general identification strategies, and quizzes

Tom Stephenson’s articles and photos have appeared in Birding and Bird Watcher’s Digest, at, and in the Handbook of the Birds of the World. He has guided groups across the United States and Asia. A musician, he has had several Grammy and Academy Award winners as clients, and was director of technology at Roland Corporation. Scott Whittle lives in Cape May, New Jersey, and has twenty years of experience as a professional photographer and educator. He holds an MFA in photography from the School of Visual Arts in New York, is a fellow of the MacDowell Colony, and is a onetime New York State Big Year record holder.


The Warbler Guide is a fine book crammed with photographs, tips, expert advice, innovation and information designed to help identify a unique and beautiful set of birds.”–Phil Slade, Another Bird Blog

“Fantastic and, yes, ground-breaking. . . . There will be no birder north of the Rio Grande who would turn down this book. There will be few who intend to visit North America that would not want to spend time familiarising themselves with the Wood Warblers, and there is no better way for them than to open these pages and get lost in their cornucopia of detail. . . . Everything from sonograms to seasonal variations, confusion species to aging and sexing and with pretty detailed distribution maps as well. The term ‘tour de force’ sits well upon its wide shoulders.”–Fatbirder

“The Warbler Bible has come forth! This is easily the most comprehensive and fantastic warbler specific guide covering North American Warblers. I am amazed and impressed with each of its features. . . . [A] must-have book.”–Robert Mortensen, Birding is Fun

“A warbler feast for the eyes, the answer to the prayers of every birder who has seen a glimpse of yellow, black, and white and said, ‘If only that leaf wasn’t in the way, I’d know that warbler’s name.’. . . The Warbler Guide, by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle, is not just another bird identification book. . . . The authors have thought long and hard about what makes an identification guide work and then approached it their own way. The auditory descriptions of bird song and chips, based on scientific analysis rather than a subjective translation of sound, present a very different approach to identifying birds by ear. The abundance of photographs, the plethora of charts and finding guides, all printed in brilliant color on lovely paper, the clarity of design, make this book a joy to look at and to use.”–Donna Schulman, 10,000 Birds

Parrots of the World Debuts in House of Cards

Forshaw_Parrots of the World_F10Even House Majority Whips need some ornithology schooling. Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey in the Netflix series House of Cards, demonstrates in episode 12 of season one that birds–specifically parrots–maintain exquisite complexities in both behavior and appearance that differentiate one species from another. Such intricacies are not easily detectable to the untrained eye. Fortunately, Underwood finds the publisher and field guide to solve his parrot identification dilemma: Princeton University Press’s Parrots of the World, written by Joseph. M. Forshaw and illustrated by Frank Knight.

When asked to identify the caged bird in the kitchen of Raymond Tusk, played by Gerald McRaney, Underwood, who hails from South Carolina’s 5th congressional district, dismissively offers, “Carolina Parakeet,” a “midsize green parrot with yellow head” with orange upper cheeks. “You’re wrong, but you’re close,” rebuts Tusk. He expounds, as noted in Parrots of the World, the Carolina Parakeet is extinct; the winged beauty in the room is a Sun Conure, a “black-billed yellow conure with green primaries and secondary-converts.”

Underwood comes to realize he has been too quick to assume and should have first honed his identification skills, both in birding and the context of his political conquest. Don’t follow in his footsteps–take a closer look at some Parrots of the World two-page spreads here:

whiteFrom the macaws of South America to the cockatoos of Australia, parrots are among the most beautiful and exotic birds in the world–and also among the most endangered. This stunningly illustrated, easy-to-use field guide covers all 356 species and well-differentiated subspecies of parrots, and is the only guide organized by geographical distribution–Australasian, Afro-Asian, and neotropical. It features 146 superb color plates depicting every kind of parrot, as well as detailed, facing-page species accounts that describe key identification features, distribution, subspeciation, habitat, and status. Color distribution maps show ranges of all subspecies, and field identification is further aided by relevant upperside and underside flight images. This premier field guide also shows where to observe each species in the wild, helping make this the most comprehensive and user-friendly guide to the parrots of the world.

To stay current with Princeton University Press’s natural history endeavors, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

New Biology Catalog

We invite you to download and browse our 2012-2013 Biology catalog:

Be on the lookout for these new and forthcoming titles (just to name a few):

Nature’s Compass: The Mystery of Animal Navigation
by James L. Gould & Carol Grant Gould

Cells to Civilizations: The Principles of Change That Shape Life
by Enrico Coen

Darwinian Agriculture: How Understanding Evolution Can Improve Agriculture
by R. Ford Denison

Solid Biomechanics
by Roland Ennos

How and Why Species Multiply: The Radiation of Darwin’s Finches
by Peter R. Grant & B. Rosemary Grant

Atmosphere, Clouds, and Climate
by David Randall

The World’s Rarest Birds
by Erik Hirschfeld, Andy Swash & Robert Still

and more. There are too many great titles to list here. You’re just going to have to check it out online:

If you are attending the First Joint Congress on Evolutionary Biology in Ottawa, stop by and visit us at booth #105!

Mammals Monday

This week’s “featured creature” is the California Chipmunk, a member of the squirrel family. This particular species is normally found — you guessed it! — in California and and some Mexican states. Some chipmunks in captivity have lived up to nine years, but their life expectancy is around 3 years in the wild.

Chipmunks are known for their cuteness, and have played some starring roles in animated films — does anyone remember the original “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movie?

For more information, check out our nifty Mammals of North America App, now available for iPhone and Android!

Previous Mammals Monday posts:

the American badger

the harp seal

the black bear

the chipmunk

the blue whale

the reindeer


Richard Crossley on the Christmas Bird Count

Think Christmas, Hannukah, and New Year’s Eve are enough to celebrate in December? Here’s one more family and friends get-together to add to the list — the Christmas Bird Count. I am a new birder and this is the first year I have been aware of the CBC so I asked Richard Crossley if he would answer a few questions. Read on to learn more about the CBC and how Richard’s count went this year.


Richard will be on Science Friday this week to discuss the CBC with host Ira Flatow and a nation-wide NPR audience. Check local your local NPR affiliate for the air time and tune in.


Richard, at this time of year we start hearing about the Christmas Bird Count. What is it?
The National Audubon started the CBC in 1900 in New York (Central Park I believe). The first one for my backyard, Cape May, was only 3 years later in 1903. It sounds amazingly simple, but the goal of the program is to have tens of thousands of volunteers literally count birds around Christmas time. For many this has now become an annual family tradition spanning many generations.

Do you have a sense of how many people participate in the CBC?
Well last year there were over 2200 groups reporting in and they saw over 60 million birds according to National Audubon. This year, the counts will take place until Jan 5th. Our patch, Cape May County, did ours on Sunday. There were 62 participants and we counted 152 species. The best birds I had were Rufous Hummingbird and Bells Vireo – both lingering rarities.

Is the CBC purely a collaborative venture or do teams compete with each other to find the most species?
It is a collaborative venture. Having said that there is clearly a little friendly rivalry within and between counts. There is often a meeting in the evening where most of the records are compiled and ‘war stories’ are swapped. Often people will try to find the rarest bird and announce it at the get together – all in good spirit of course. Neighboring districts will often try to have the higher counts. The most frequently heard comparisons are with the previous year and the previous high count for that territory. Friends on the west coast will send their results over to us, especially if there’s a goodie or a high count, they like to have bragging rights.

Who collects all this data and what do they do with it?
The Audubon takes all those reports from around the country and posts the data on their site (ed. note you can actually look up the figures by year or by bird here: The beauty of the CBC is that it creates an annual snapshot of bird populations. Comparing this data year to year reveals trends in bird populations which is absolutely invaluable information for scientists and conservationists working on conservation issues. The earliest CBC counts are some of the best data we have on bird populations in the early twentieth century.

How can someone participate in the CBC? Do they have to be in an Audubon club?
Anyone can join, the count gets published with your name if you give a $5 donation, all in a great cause. Each area has its own coordinator who collects all the records.

You are originally from the UK. Is there a CBC there, too?
In Britain, there is a bird count for one day each year in winter, conducted by the RSPB and asks folks to look in their gardens for one hour. This has been ongoing for 25 years. Back in my day, when I lived in the UK the breeding bird census was the big census event. I remember spending days trying to find and count all the breeding birds in a relatively large area – I suppose I was a bit younger back then! Bird Population trends in Britain have changed even more dramatically in recent decades than here and so reinforces the importance of all of these counts, whatever the time of year. Certainly, an annual breeding survey on the same scale as the annual Christmas count would have a huge conservation impact.

Do you have a final word for people who are considering being part of the CBC?
Yes—do it. It’s a great way to get outdoors with your family and friends and inspire them to look for and count birds. Plus, you’re making an important contribution to bird conservation efforts so you can feel good about it too. Doing the CBC helps keep you young, as evidenced especially by Alan Brady. who has done it since he was 12 years old and is now 92. He has been doing the count for 80 years and still drives down for the event from Pennsylvania. If that isn’t what legends are made of, I don’t know what is!


Colombia Tanagers courtesy of Richard Crossley

Richard is still hard at work on the upcoming Western version of The Crossley ID Guide. In the meantime, enjoy his video of Colombia Tanagers and other Western species coming in to feed on bananas. Listen carefully as he IDs a young male that his companions previously thought was a female. This type of ID — using transitional plumage — is where The Crossley ID Guide is absolutely invaluable. Richard’s photo spreads include more plumages, more specimens, more of everything to make difficult IDs easier.

Also, if you are a fan of NPR’s Science Friday, tune in this week to hear Richard discuss the Christmas Bird Count.


Mammals Monday!

This week’s “featured creature” from the Mammals of North America App is the Ursus americanus — also known as the American black bear. These bears can be seen throughout the U.S., and are commonly found in forested areas away from human settlements.

Fun fact: A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh was named after a black bear named Winnipeg, who lived at the London Zoo from 1915 to 1934. This image shows Winnie with her owner, Lt. Harry Colebourne.

Check out our other Mammals Monday posts:
the chipmunk

the blue whale

the reindeer

So, what carnivore does Panthera president Luke Hunter think most “needs the spotlight for conservation efforts”?

Hint — it is one of the Wizard of Oz trifecta…

Click through for the answer and to access a wonderful interview with one of the leading Big Cats conservation voices in the world (and coincidentally PUP author), Luke Hunter.

In a revealing interview with The Wildlife Conservation Examiner Cathy Taibbi, Hunter reveals that the African lion is in what he calls a “conservation blind-spot”. Because tours run through heavily populated areas, it gives the impression that lions are thriving and populous in the wild, but Hunter notes that these tours run through protected areas and that the story is quite different in unprotected regions. Lions compete for resources just like any other animal and unfortunately in farming areas, people and their livestock are easy pickings which creates dangerous conditions and threatens the economic viability of the farms themselves.

There are lots of other great tidbits in the interview which is available on the Examiner web site:

Read along to discover how Luke Hunter was bitten by the big-cats bug when he was a toddler, whether there really is a difference between the puma and the cougar, and whether re-introduced wolf populations really are different from the wolves of an earlier period.

Click on the cat to the right to view a sample page from Carnivores of the World.