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


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


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.


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

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

Upcoming Warbler Events

Stephenson_WarblerGLooking for more opportunities to get a little bird-brained? So are Scott Whittle and Tom Stephenson, authors of The Warbler Guide! As November rapidly approaches, the two are gearing up for their next two appearances.

For their first event, this dynamic duo will be speaking at the NYSOA 66th Annual Meeting and New York Birders Conference, which will take place November 1-3. Hurry though! Online registration ends October 27th. You can register here.

The conference will feature:

  • Exciting speakers on birding and bird conservation, including Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle
  • Field trips with top birders to great local destinations
  • A banquet dinner featuring a program by James Currie of Birding Adventures TV
  • Photography and digiscoping field workshops
  • Posters and vendor tables including major optics manufacturers
  • Workshops and student papers
  • Great shopping nearby and an excursion to Manhattan for non-birding guests
  • NYSOA’s Annual Business Meeting and award presentations
  • Plenty of time for socializing

P1020402aThe second event, in which Scott Whittle will be flying solo, is the 20th Annual Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, which will take place from November 6-10. Online registration ends October 25th so to register now, click here. According to their website, Scott Whittle will be there to conduct a ‘warbler workshop’. It is described as such:

“[Scott will] go over their new system of identification that uses the views that you actually get, not the idealized views that happen so infrequently. Learn how just a little more attention to detail, coupled with knowledge of habitat, behavior and special points like color impressions can lead to greatly improved identification ability. Also covered will be their in-depth analysis of warbler vocalizations, an extremely effective tool for truly understanding and remembering birdsong. Join Scott and bring your warbler skills up to the next level!”

Fall Warblers

For guys like Scott Whittle and Tom Stephenson, authors of The Warbler Guide, spotting a warbler and snapping a picture is an exciting moment, and for those of us who stepped on a twig and scared that bird off long before we got out our iPhone, we’re just glad someone else is able to get the job done.

The photo below from The Warbler Guide is of a male Common Yellowthroat in the fall.

Common Yellowthroat

Have you spotted any interesting birds this migration season? Let us know in the comments below!

Hawk Mountain Raptors

Throughout migration season, bird sightings of all kinds have been popping up, but few are as exciting as spotting a raptor. In Kempton, Pennsylvania, one has been swarmed with these feathered beauties. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association is dedicated to conserving birds of prey, acting as an observation, research and education facility. They even have a Hawk Mountain Raptor Count, which documents sightings of  falcons, vultures, hawks, and even eagles.

What this essentially means is that if you’re looking to see some amazing raptors in action, you should go to Hawk Mountain. Want to see what we mean? Check out this picture of some Sharp-shinned Hawks from The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors, which shows some of these majestic creatures in action:

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Derek Lovitch Takes Flight

Derek Lovitch, author of How To Be a Better Birder and bird-blogger extraordinaire, recently posted on his blog Maine Birding Field Notes, that he was planning a flight of his own to visit some friends (feathered and otherwise) and make a few appearances to talk about his book. Live in the area? Maybe you’ll spot the birder while he birds!


How To Be A Better BirderEarly tomorrow morning I depart for Iowa, where I will be speaking at the Iowa Ornithologist Union’s Fall Meeting.  I’ll be giving the keynote presentation on “How to Be a Better Birder” using my SandyPoint case study program and I will also be showing my Russian Far East travelogue.  Finally, I will be joining the 2009 Bradbury Mountain Hawkcounter, Danny Akers, in leading a field trip.

After my weekend in the Hawkeye State, I head to Wisconsin to visit the Urban Ecology Center in Wisconsin.  In between and thereafter, I’ll be spending a couple of days birding and visiting with friends.   I’ll post the occasional update about migration in the Midwest, my birding, and other musings on my book’s Facebook page should you be interested in following my travels.

Now I am just left to wonder what state bird I will miss here in Maine while I am away (there’s always one!)


Don’t forget to check out the free downloads we’re currently offering. Click on 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.