Saturday, April 25, 2009

Birding Class #5: Can it Get Any Better Than This?

What a wonderful day of birding today at Presque Isle! The weather was warm with an occasional light breeze blowing from the northwest and just a few episodes of cloud cover that were actually a welcome relief. Yes, I'll say it, it was almost too warm:) Migration seems to be getting well underway as we saw a few new species for the year. Our class also had a few newcomers as well. Enjoying today's class were Nancy, Diane, Philip, Kate, Judy, Pat, Janet, Bernhard, Julie Dell, Toni, Julie Leonard, Michele, Joao, Linda, and Jean.

There's me, always looking the other direction.Here's Janet and company scoping out some warbler activity on Pine Tree Trail.
Pat Howell was lucky to see a Northern Mockingbird fly across the road in front of her as she entered Vista 2. More kudos for Pat--One of our first of year birds was a white-eyed vireo that Pat was able to identify by it's call. Excellent ears Pat! After a few moments of searching we were able to spot a pair.
Still no young Great Horned Owls in view, but one of the parents was dutifully stting in the nest.
We found bird activity almost everywhere we stopped. We had some very nice views of a pine warbler that are sometimes difficult to see in the dense pine trees they frequent.

We also had a pretty cooperative blue-headed vireo. Notice the conspicuous white ring around the eye that really stands out against the blue-grey head.
In all we recorded 60 species of birds today:
Canada Goose--several at many sites
Wood Duck--several pairs, with some in trees, especially visible near the owl's nest
Mallard--a few around at various sites
Northern Shoveler--at least a pair at Niagara Pond
Ring-necked Duck--a few in Niagara Pond
Greater Scaup--a pair flying over Niagara Pond
Lesser Scaup-- a few in Niagara Pond
Bufflehead--four in Niagara Pond
Red-breasted Merganser--six flying over Niagara Pond
Wild Turkey--birds near beach 10 parking lot including one strutting male
Double-crested Cormorant--a string of birds high over Niagara Pond
Great Blue Heron--one over Thompson Bay and a couple over Niagara Pond
Great Egret--two over Fry's landing
Turkey Vulture--several flying over and around Niagara Pond
Sharp-shinned Hawk--two or three along Pine Tree Trail
Red-tailed Hawk--one immature over Niagara Pond
American Coot--a few in Niagara Pond
Killdeer--a couple calling overhead
Bonaparte's Gull--a few flying around the park, but especially over Presque Isle Bay
Ring-billed Gull--singles overhead
Herring Gull--single immatures overhead
Caspian Tern--a few, with at least a couple showing well over Niagara Pond
Mourning Dove--three or four flybys at Pine Tree Trail
Great Horned Owl--one adult on the nest
Belted Kingfisher--one or two at Fry's landing and over Niagara Pond
Downy Woodpecker--at least a couple
White-eyed Vireo--two at Niagara boat launch and one at one on Pine Tree Trail
Blue-headed Vireo--two at Thompson Circle
Warbling Vireo--one at Thompson Circle
Blue Jay--at least a couple at Niagara Pond
American Crow--a few flying overhead
Tree Swallow--several, especially visible on the wires at Niagara Pond

Case in point!
Barn Swallow--at least a couple overhead
Black-capped Chickadee--one near the owls nest and a couple on Pine Tree Trail
Red-breasted Nuthatch--one on Pine tree Trail
White-breasted Nuthatch--one heard on Pine Tree Trail
Brown Creeper--one at Thompson Circle
Golden-crowned Kinglet--one heard on Pine Tree trail
Ruby-crowned Kinglet--at least a few along all of the trails
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher--several at each stop at the east end of the park
Hermit Thrush--one on Dead Pond Trail and one on Pine Tree Trail
American Robin--just a few at various sites
European Starling-- a few overhead
Black-throated Blue Warbler--one on Pine Tree Trail
Yellow-rumped Warbler--many at several sites
Black-throated Green Warbler--singles on Pine Tree Trail, Fry's landing, and Thompson Circle
Pine Warbler--several close looks at the above sites
Palm Warbler--several on the trails at the east end of the park
Black-and-White Warbler--one at Fry's landing and one at Thompson Circle
Eastern Towhee--several throughout, mostly heard
Chipping Sparrow--several heard singing at various sites
Song Sparrow--one or two heard singing
Swamp Sparrow--two or three singing in Niagara Pond
White-throated Sparrow--several throughout, but most evident alon Pine Tree Trail
Northern Cardinal--one or two heard singing
Red-winged Blackbird--several, especially territorial males, at a few locations
Now that's territorial!!
Common Grackle--dozens overhead
Hairy Woodpecker--near GHOW nest
Brown-headed Cowbird--several throughoutPurple Finch--one or two along Pine Tree Trail
Others stuff of note seen:
Common Green Darner (dragonfly), Mourning Cloak (butterfly), Spring Azure (butterfly)

Yes, spring has truly sprung!

Thanks for stopping by and a big THANK YOU to Jerry McWilliams for sharing his knowledge and allowing us to use his class synopsis for the blog each week.

Stay tuned for our next posts including interviews with Gene Ware about his new book, Whispers Across the Pond; Tom Wasilewski from the Presque Isle Audubon Societies Eagle Watch Program about the program's current local bald eagle monitoring activities.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bird Migration Week 4

Ann retrieving a Sparrow from the mist net
Saturday was absolutely glorious with perfect weather for our class and the Hawk Festival. We met at Vista 2 but didn't spend much time there because it was the first day of trout season so the bay had more fishermen and boats than waterfowl. So our first stop was at the Niagara Boat Launch to check out the banding station. Sarah and the girls started banding this week so I finally got to meet Ann and Andrea the new interns for the season. This was the first time for most of the students to see mist nets and how the birds are caught and retrieved from the nets. I was excited for them seeing this for the first time.

Our next stop was the Great Horned owl nest and we think we saw a little head popping up. I'm sure we will get a better look next week. While at the Owl nest a Pileated woodpecker flew by and landed briefly in a distant tree. Now it was my turn to jump for joy because I have never seen a Pileated woodpecker before. Check one more bird off my life list.

Phoebe at Pine Tree trail
Yellow-rumped Warbler at Pine Tree trail (wanted you to see the yellow patch on the head)
We then headed for Pine Tree Trail where we saw several Phoebes, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Gold Crown Kinglets and Ruby Crowned Kinglets.

Mourning Cloak at Fry's Landing
Next was beach 11 to check out some remaining waterfowl and we also spotted Savannah Sparrows. Jerry and the rest of the class headed for the TREC for the Hawk Festival while I and three others decided to check out fry's landing. I am so glad we did because I spotted my first butterfly of the season. I had read on some blogs that the Mourning Cloaks were out and I danced as I saw one flitter by and land on a White Birch Tree. I posted my sketch of the Mourning Cloak on a group blog Sketching in Nature and on my blog next.

Here is our bird list from Saturday minus the Hawk Watch which you can get here and I updated that list to show the actual counts.

Canada Goose--several throughout
Wood Duck-- a pair in a tree next to the banding station
Gadwall--a few in Thompson Bay
American Wigeon--a few in Thompson Bay
Mallard--at least a couple off beach 11
Lesser Scaup--several off beach 11
Bufflehead--many off beach 11
Red-breasted Merganser--many off beach 11
Double-crested Cormorant--many at Gull Point
Great Blue Heron--four near the Great Horned Owls nest
American Coot--many in Thompson Bay
Ring-billed Gull--a few at various sites
Herring Gull--a few at various sites
Caspian Tern--at least a couple over Thompson Bay
Mourning Dove--a few at various sites
Great Horned Owl--one on the nest
Belted Kingfisher--one heard
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker--one at Fry's landing, seen by some of the class
Downy Woodpecker--a couple heard doing their territorial drumming
Northern Flicker--common everywhere
Pileated Woodpecker--one near the Great Horned Owls nest
Eastern Phoebe--three or four on Pine Tree trail
Blue Jay--a couple at beach 11 parking lot area
American Crow--several everywhere
Black-capped Chickadee--a couple on Pine Tree Trail
White-breasted Nuthatch--one near the Great Horned Owls nest
Brown Creeper--one on Pine Tree trail
Winter Wren--one heard singing along Pine Tree Trail
Golden-crowned Kinglet--a few on Pine Tree Trail
Ruby-crowned Kinglet--a few on Pine Tree Trail
American Robin--a few at various sites
European Starling--a few overhead at various sites
Yellow-rumped Warbler--a few along Pine Tree trail
Eastern Towhee--one heard along Pine Tree Trail and one at Fry's landing
Chipping Sparrow--five or six in beach 11 parking lot
Dark-eyed Junco--several at Beach 11 parking lot
Song Sparrow--several at various sites
Red-winged Blackbird--many around
Common Grackle--many around, especially overhead
Brown-headed Cowbird--a few mixed in blackbird flocks
Purple Finch--one on Pine tree Trail
Pine Siskin--8 or 10 on Pine Tree Trail

Jerry McWilliams (Instructor)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hawk Watch review

Hawk Watch Participants
Saturday had a few wisps of clouds fading into blue skies and glorious sunshine. I knew the minute I got up it was going to be an awesome day filled with activities from one end of the park to the other. The temperature reached the 60's and by late morning the main sidewalk path at PI was filled with walkers, runners and cyclists donning shades, shorts and short sleeve tops. It doesn't take much for sun worshipers to get out and enjoy all that PI has to offer. Midway into the park hundreds of parents and kids gathered at the waterworks ponds for the first day of Trout Fishing and the bay was also filled with fishermen and boats.

Jen Brumfield
Our birding class had our usual rounds with the last half of class heading off to the entrance to the park at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center (TREC) for the Hawk Watch Festival. Upon arrival Jen Brumfield, an artist working for Clevelands Metroparks as a naturalist and teacher, was on hand constantly pointing for us in the distant sky the birds of prey migrating overhead. She was amazing and dazzled us as she could spot, count and tell you exactly which birds they were. Several people gathered with binoculars and scopes trying to follow her giving off the directional path of the hawks. Several times you could hear "I don't see it!" then finally capturing it's view in our scopes you would hear "Wow".

And if seeing the distant birds was not enough Presque Isle Audubon had the Tamarack Wildlife and Rehabilitation Center on hand for a closer view of birds of prey. Tamarack specializes in the rescue, treatment and release of injured, orphaned and sick wildlife. Additionally, Tamarack provides public education programs and materials on the behavior, feeding habits, and natural habitats of many of Pennsylvania’s species of wildlife. For more information on Tamarack please visit their site. Below are some of Tamaracks educational birds of prey.

Red Tail Hawk
Cooper Hawk
Saw Whet Owl
Barred Owl

Here is the list of birds spotted over the TREC on Saturday. I'll post the rest of our bird list on my post about the class tomorrow.

Bird list update 4/20/09: I received the count for the Hawk Watch. The list now shows the numbers counted.

Migrant raptors:
Turkey Vulture--68

Northern Harrier--7
Sharp-shinned Hawk--94
Cooper's Hawk--6
Broad-winged hawk--14
Red-tailed Hawk--23
Rough-legged Hawk--1 (light morph)
American Kestrel--61
Unidentified accipiter--5
Unidentified buteo--1
Unidentified falcon--2

Migrant non-raptors:
Double-crested Cormorant--46

Great Blue Heron--4
Chimney Swift--2
Northern Flicker--95
American Crow--8
swallow (mostly Barn and Tree)--20+

Jerry McWilliams
Erie, Erie County, Pa.


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