Monday, June 22, 2009

Blog move ...Joe Root.... Twitter

Hey all you peeps we are moving this blog. We were invited by the Erie Times and Go Erie to move our blog on over to them. We accepted and it is now up and running. So hop or fly on over to check it out and sign up for our RSS feed there or sign up to receive email updates there.
Hope this will not inconvenience you to much.

Our latest post there is a quest to find where Joe Root is buried. If you have any knowledge of his final resting place we would love to know. You can email us at or

And finally Michele and I have brought Presque Isle Naturally to Twitter. So come and join in and follow us as we trek Presque Isle State Park.

We will be leaving this blog in tack for future reference.

One more thing we are acquiring a new contributor. His name is Brian and we will be introducing him on the new blog.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The black-billed cuckoo is probably most renowned for, well, being heard and not seen. I can’t imagine why this handsome bird would want to hide from the rest of the world! Despite it’s secretive reputation, Toni and I found this bird along Dead Pond Trail at Presque Isle on Saturday the 13th. At first I thought I was hearing a turkey in the brush but then this guy popped up much to our surprise (and delight!). It is quite probable that this is one of a pair of cuckoos that may be nesting on the park. Cuckoos, black-billed and their yellow-billed cousins, aren’t often seen on the park but are believed to nest there in some years. Cuckoos eat primarily caterpillars and the presence of the cuckoos is said to coincide with the availability of their favorite meal.
Toni and I have also been having fun following an active Baltimore Orioles nest and will be sending that your way soon, so....stay tuned for some super cuteness!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


On a recent trip to Presque Isle to photograph the least bitterns, this eastern kingbird landed on the wire above and feasted on his fresh catch of the day--dragonfly. There were three of us there taking photos and I was lucky enough to be the one just under the kingbird. It took him awhile but he finally got the whole thing down his gullet.Presque Isle, Naturally, has been picked up by our local newspaper, Erie Times News, for their on-line news. They have offered to host us and hopefully do some promotion. We are currently in the process of migrating Presque Isle, Naturally to their server. We'll keep you posted on the progress and let us know when you can visit us at our new home.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Brown Thrasher

The Brown Thrasher: How cool looking is this bird!?!? Those eyes! I shot this stunner along Dead Pond Trail on Saturday, June 6th. S/He was pretty cooperative, allowing me to take several (100) shots from different angles:) I've always liked the brown thrasher but they tend to be pretty inconspicuous, hanging out in the underbrush scratching up leaves and debris in search of lunch. I was happy for the opportunity to get great looks at this beauty and share some of my luck with you! Thanks, T, for helping me with the luck!
Least Bittern Update: Nothing new to report. No one has seen the bitterns for several days now and it appears the nest has been abandoned:(

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Huh, I knew I'd get your attention! I think the birders out there know what bird makes the "free beer" call. Yes, that's right, the alder flycatcher! I heard this guy in the woods off Duck Pond Trail and grabbed a few shots before he flew off behind the bar...without giving me my beer:(Oh, well maybe next time!


I did get a few more shots of the bitterns before the eggs hatched. Word is the eggs hatched on Monday, the 1st of June. As of Thursday there had been little activity observed at the nest per several reports I had heard. The parents were not around much of the time and no chicks were observed. I visited the nest about 5 p.m. on Thursday and was unable to see the adults or the chicks on the nest. My friend, Julie, had been at the nest site on Wednesday late afternoon and saw three chicks. That is the last siting of which I've heard. I am heading down to PISP this afternoon and will keep you posted.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Not the Least Bit Least

LEAST BITTERN- not a name I would've chosen for this, not the least bit least, bird. Sure, it's the smallest member of the heron family but how 'bout the Diminutive Bittern, not the Least Bittern?!
Oh, well, since I am (thankfully) not in charge of taxonomy: The least bittern that has nested about 40 feet off the road on Niagara Pond certainly has garnered the attention and admiration of birders, nature lovers, photographers and many curious passers-by in the area. It even made the Erie Times News, so it's ranking right up there with the bald eagles. Some have even commented, dare I say, that it is even better than the eagles. I'm sure much of that has due to the proximity and visibility of the nest which provides unheard of opportunities to see the mating and nesting behaviors of these notoriously shy birds. Cornell describes the Least Bittern as "A tiny heron, furtive and surpassingly well camouflaged, the Least Bittern is one of the most difficult North American marsh birds to spot. " Yet, we've been able to watch the bittern couple for nearly 3 weeks now, as they take turns tending to their 5-6 eggs. This is truly a gift to behold. The attentive parents roll the eggs gingerly around the nest and take turns gently incubating the precious pale orbs that house their progeny.
Most sources I have referenced describe the eggs as a very pale blue or green, the eggs in this nest appear to be very pale green. Despite their gentle appearance we have witnessed these protective parents defend their nest vigorously. In the photo above, the male bittern is bothered by a noisy red-winged blackbird gathering material for her own nest which is less than 10 feet from the bitterns' nest.As you can see in this last shot, the cattails are really starting to fill in. I haven't been able to get to the nest for several days and I suspect the nest is almost totally hidden now. The eggs are probably going to hatch very soon if they haven't already. Incubation is 17-21 days and that definitely puts us in the ball park.
I hope to get down to the nest tomorrow and check it out. If I can see anything I'll let you know!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Still More Festival of the Bird Highlights

Janet Price, President of the Presque Isle Audubon Society (PIAS) addresses the attendees at the wrap up luncheon.
There were, indeed, so many highlights that we could've made a blog just about the festival ;) On Sunday, May 1oth, the 2nd annual Festival of the Birds at Presque Isle drew to an end with some fun family activities including, more birding field trips, lunch with a wrap up of the sightings for the festival, a fledgling artists' workshop, children' activities and a presentation by the Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center (see previous post). My esteemed co-blogger, Toni Kelly, was one of the three featured artists along with Kel McDonald and Jan Lutz. All three generously shared their time and expertise helping some enthusiastic artists-to-be create a work of their own.
The final count of different species for this years festival was approximately 120. Many participants reported Life birds and one gentleman reported 5 Lifers!

Fledgling artists work on a Nature Book designed by Toni Kelly.
Marion Gallivan, PIAS Trustee and Chairperson for Grants, already pondering her strategy for next year's festival.Pat Howell, Chair of PIAS Education Committee, addresses the youngsters who attended the Fledgling Artists' Workshop.Our able captain of the pontoon boat, The Swamp Crawler, Julie Leonard!

The Last Birding Class :(

Well, the 2009 spring birding classes have some to an end. A great big thanks to our mentor and friend, Jerry McWilliams, for his generosity, patience and for being an all around good sport. No questions were too trivial and no ridiculous comments ridiculed. Unfortunately, after class Jerry was caught by the DCNR speeding off the park & creating a disturbance by yelling "Hallelujah, it's over!" repeatedly. He was brought to central booking--a.k.a. the Ranger Station. We all chipped in 5 bucks and posted his bail. A bake sale will be held next week at the Stull Center to retain an attorney for Jerry. There are rumors that Jerry may jump bail and leave the country this week, maybe heading to South America! We're confident he'll stick around so we don't all lose all the money we chipped in for his bail.
The following is an excerpt from Jerry's first correspondence post-incarceration.

We sure lucked out on the weather again. Forecasts were for rain, strong wind, and thunderstorms. It never materialized, at least the rain never came until we were in our cars and leaving the park. The skies remained mostly cloudy with humid temperatures in the low 70's throughout the morning. Joining me for class today was Bernhard & Janet, Toni, Julie Leonard, Michele, Joao, Jean, and Kate.
We had a super day of birding with lots of bird activity. We stopped at the Great horned Owls nest. From there we were able to see the top of the owlets head. The adults weren't around.

Pine Tree trail was kind of quiet, except for a fleeting glimpse of a Bald Eagle through the trees. The entrance of Thompson Circle was pretty good with many species of birds to look at, but the prize find was a Black-billed Cuckoo that gave us prolonged views.
Fry's landing was the hopping place to be with many warblers to sift through. Our most interesting finds there were Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Orange-crowned Warbler. We spent most of the morning at Fry's then we stopped to have a look at the Least Bitterns nest. We watched the male rolling the eggs and repairing the nest.
When we went out to the channel to use the restroom with had a Swainson's Thrush out in plain view as well as a Gray-cheeked Thrush, though the latter didn't stick around long. Sidewalk Trail was a little slower than Fry's, but we did manage to turn up another Orange-crowned Warbler and Gray-cheeked Thrush.

We recorded the following 71 species of birds:

Canada Goose--several everywhere

Gadwall--one in Horseshoe Pond
Mallard--a couple in Horseshoe Pond and a pair along Thompson Bay
Common Goldeneye--one male in Horseshoe Pond

Least Bittern--one male incubating on a nest
Turkey Vulture--11 over Niagara Pond

Bald Eagle--one over Pine Tree Trail

Cooper's Hawk--one over Fry's landing Killdeer--a couple in beach 11 parking lot
Spotted Sandpiper--one along Beach 11

Ring-billed Gull--a few at Gull Point
Herring Gull--at least a couple at Gull Point
Caspian Tern--a couple overhead

Black-billed Cuckoo--one at Dead Pond Trail
Common Nighthawk--one above the owls nest

Ruby-throated Hummingbird--one flying over Sidewalk Trail
Downy Woodpecker-- a couple over Sidewalk Trail

Eastern Wood-Pewee
--a couple at Thompson Circle, one or two at Fry's landing, and one on Sidewalk trail
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher--two at Fry's landing
Least Flycatcher--singles at various sites

Great Crested Flycatcher--singles at most sites

Eastern Kingbird--a couple heard
Blue-headed Vireo--one or two at Fry's and one on Sidewalk Trail

Warbling Vireo--one heard singing at the meeting place, The Feather
Red-eyed Vireo--fairly common throughout
Blue Jay-several throughout
American Crow--one at Thompson Bay
Purple Martin--four over beach 11
Tree Swallow-several throughout

Northern Rough-winged Swallow--two along Beach 11

Barn Swallow--several throughout

Red-breasted Nuthatch--two at Fry's landing

House Wren--several throughout

Ruby-crowned Kinglet--one along Pine Tree trail

Veery--singles at various sites with one singing at Fry's landing

Gray-cheeked Thrush--one at the channel and one on Ridge Trail

Swainson's Thrush--singles at several sites including one singing along Pine Tree Trail

Wood Thrush--a couple singing at Fry's landing

American Robin--several throughout
Gray Catbird--many throughout

European Starling-little groups at a few sites

Cedar Waxwing--about 20 flying past the owl site
Orange-crowned Warbler--one at Fry's landing and one on Sidewalk Trail

Nashville Warbler--one at the channel

Northern Parula--one heard singing at Fry's landing

Yellow Warbler--several everywhere

Chestnut-sided Warbler--more than 40 throughout
Magnolia Warbler--more than 40 throughout
Black-throated Blue Warbler--more than 30 throughout

Palm Warbler--at least a few at several sites
Bay-breasted warbler--at least a dozen at Fry's landing and two or three on Sidewalk Trail
Blackpoll Warbler--one heard out the window while driving along the road Black-and-white-Warbler--at least a dozen altogether
American Redstart--more than 50 all total
Ovenbird--at least four heard and one seen briefly at Fry's landing

Northern Waterthrush--a couple at Fry's landing and one on Sidewalk Trail

Common Yellowthroat--several at most sites, mostly heard only

Hooded Warbler--one female seen briefly and another bird heard at Fry's landing

Wilson's Warbler--One at Thompson Circle, one or two at Fry's landing, and one or two on Sidewalk Trail

Canada Warbler--one or two at each site

Eastern Towhee--several at most sites

Chipping Sparrow--two in beach 11 parking lot
Swamp Sparrow--a few heard singing
White-throated Sparrow--one or two at each site
White-crowned Sparrow--some along the road, at beach 11 parking lot, and three on Sidewalk Trail
Northern Cardinal--one male at Thompson Circle
Rose-breasted Grosbeak--one heard at Fry's landing, and one seen on Ridge Trail
Red-winged Blackbird
--a few at most sites
Brown-headed Cowbird--a few at most sites
Baltimore Oriole--several throughout
American Goldfinch--two at Beach 11 parking lot

~Jerry McWilliams (Instructor)

Thanks and Good Luck to you Jerry and if you do go on the lam--YOU OWE ME 5 BUCKS!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

More Bird Festival highlights: Live Raptors from Tamarack

Sunday afternoon of the bird festival we had Sue DeArment of Tamarack Rehabilitation and Education Center present two shows on live raptors. The Sunday afternoon programs were free to children and families who filled the classrooms with standing room only. The kids were anxiously awaiting as Sue DeArment talked a little bit about Tamarack and what to expect as she brought out each raptor for viewing. She said the birds were used to being photographed and that flash from cameras was allowed so many viewers brought out cameras and cell phones for the photo opportunities. The four raptors sue brought are permanent residents of Tamarack because of injuries that prevent them from being released back into the wild.

The first bird Sue brought out was a Cooper Hawk named 'Spaz'. Sue walked up and down the aisle talking about hawks and their characteristics stopping every so often to allow listeners to photograph the birds.

Here Sue was talking about the claws and padding of the feet.

Next Sue brought out a Peregrine Falcon named 'Pierre'. The injured falcon was taken to a vetrinarian who set his wing which was broken but did not realize falcons will bite their limbs to free themselves. Pierre had bit through tendons in his wing thinking he was trapped and now he cannot fly and his injured wing droops. He was brought to Tamarack after his self inflicked injury.

I love how the birds look and respond to Sue as she talks to them.

Next up was the Barred Owl 'Sophia'. There were lots of questions about Owls as Sue explained their habits and characteristics.

As you can see by Sue's shirt Barred Owls are one of her favorites.

The last raptor to be shown was a Great Horned Owl named 'Ick-A-Bobette'. This owl was not to happy when Sue first brought him out. The tufts of feathers on his head laid back as he tried to search his surroundings, but as Sue talked to him, he calmed down and raised the feather tufts to a normal position.

Sue explained what happens to birds if they should get a head injury and their eye sight is disrupted. This owl had fallen from the nest when it was young and the head injury affected his sight. He now has cataracts in his one eye.

If you are interested in learning more about Tamarack or would like Sue do a presentation for your school or club check out the details here on Tamaracks web site.

Up next Michele will be writing about our last class we had on Saturday and also about the Least Bittern. Her photos are awesome and we just might coax Michele into posting the baby great Horned Owl photos.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Festival of the Birds 2009-Keynote Dinner

Saturday evening was spent tallying birds, recounting almost unbelievable bird sightings (see photo above), and enjoying the company of friends, old and new. Dinner was a delicious success as festival participants enjoyed great food and a wonderful keynote address given by Dr. Gene Wilhelm. His topic was Birding: Past, Present and Future and served not only to entertain but to inform and educate the audience about the roots of birding and where he expects it may go in years to come. Some of the highlights for Saturday, as mentioned in the program evaluations, included the pontoon boat rides which were added this year (Many thanks to our captain, Julie, and to the DCNR for allowing us to use the pontoon boat!); naturally, the 120 birds sighted (especially Sam Stull's find-see photo above) and the wonderful camaraderie. Perhaps, the "star" birds were the pair of nesting Least Bitterns. They will get a post of their own in coming days:)
Mr. Bittern stands guard and incubates the 3-4 eggs.
Even the most experienced birders refer to their favorite field guide from time to time. Keynote Speaker, Dr. Gene Wilhelm, discusses the future of birding with festival participants.
Joao and company add to the bird tally as of Saturday.
As the Saturday festivities wound down, everyone looked forward to another wonderful day of birding on Sunday. Stay tuned for highlights of the final day of the 2009 Festival of the Birds.


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