Sunday, August 23, 2009


The morning started out warm and humid with a light rain falling. I couldn't resist going out and seeing what was going on. August can be a month full of interesting finds when it comes to birds, the past few trips out into the field certainly proved that. I stayed close to home today and birded the Partridge Run area of Berne.

White-throated Sparrows nest up here at the higher elevations and then head down into the valleys to spend the winter.

At one of my stops I spotted a Great-horned Owl keeping a close eye on me. Daytime sightings of owls are always are always a great opportunity to study these nocturnal birds a little closer.

So there I was, looking over a Least Flycatcher making sure it wasn't a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher when I saw another bird flitting around in one of the old apple trees that the state had planted years ago. I would have loved to have seen how wide my eyes got when I finally focused on it and realized what it was. It's a Cape May Warbler! What made this one especially nice was that it was an adult male in it's fall plumage.

It was lightly raining at this point and it would have been nice if the sun was out, but I sure wasn't about to complain.Cape May Warblers only pass through these parts during migration, they nest up north (mainly Canada). They nest in spruce bogs and their breeding success is directly tied to their favorite food source the spruce budworm.

The bird was very cooperative as it slowly and methodically searched the apple tree for food. Fruit trees such as this are usually loaded with insects and this year looks to be a banner year for apples as well. The deer must be licking their chops.

By mid-morning the rain had stopped and things started to brighten up a bit. This Scarlet Tanager probably felt right at home in the moist humid forest. It will soon be leaving for the tropical rain forests of central and south america to spend the winter.

I spotted this Nashville Warbler in an alder thicket. It was busily catching bugs and caterpillars to fatten up for the long journey ahead of it. Hard to say if this is a migrant or not as a few do nest here on the state land.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


It was forecast to be a warm and humid summer day so I decided to head out early and do some birding over at the Burnt-Rossman Hills State Forest. As usual, it was well worth getting up before dawn and making the trip.

I found this Mourning Warbler in an area that I wasn't really expecting. It was fairly deep in a mature forest. It was not singing and it was in an area that I had birded in the previous months and not noticed one. I had to wonder if it was a bird that was either unsuccessful at breeding or had finished it's breeding responsibilities and was already meandering south.

They have a very distinct chip call and this bird gave me an opportunity to study it some more.

A while later I heard the sounds of a fledgling begging for food. It turned out to be a young Blue-headed Vireo.

The parent birds were close by and once they started to scold me I knew it was time to leave.

And here was one of the reasons I decided to spend some time at Burnt-Rossman today. Having spotted Red Crossbills a couple of weeks ago near my home, I was curious if they had also found their way here. They sure had. I found this bird in a stand of larch. I had a tough time getting a decent view of it as it was about 60ft up in a dense stand. I was content with the few limited views that I got and moved on down the road.

I was attempting to get some pictures of a less than cooperative juvenile Yellow-rumped Warbler, when two birds flew out of a stand of White Pine and landed on some electrical wires.

I walked around them to get a little better lighting. They kept looking down to the ground and I knew what they were after. It seemed so surreal to be looking at two of them on a 80 degree day perched on an electrical wire. I guess anything is possible.

The crossbills eventually descended to the dirt road below and started to search for grit.
When you spend all day eating pine and spruce seeds, you need tiny pieces of stone and sand in your gut to help with the digestive process.

Not only do Red Crossbills have unique bills that allow them to pry open cones and extract seed, but they also have specially evolved tongues that help them with the process.

When you get an up close look at them you realize just how rugged a bird they are.
A plump, stout body combined with muscular legs and feet. And lets not forget that vice-like bill. Quite the coniferous cone wrecking machine.

They both are actually first year birds and you can see some small patches of red starting to show on the male in the background. The female has a lot more gray on the neck and back.

You have to wonder what these two birds will be up to in the coming months if they stick around.

A little while later I spotted this adult male Red Crossbill in a different location. This picture sums up one of the problems they are facing. Lots of cone on the pines and spruce, unfortunately none of it is ripe... yet.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I went out early this morning to see what was going on in the neighborhood. When you live in the middle of a 5000 acre state forest, there are plenty of birds around this time of year.

This Blue-winged Warbler was actively foraging at first light. They have stopped singing now and are some of the first to start heading south.

I couldn't quite figure out at first what this Ruby-throated Hummingbird was up to. It kept trying to fly while holding on to the stems of some of the leaves.

Then I realized that it was taking a bath by using its wings to splash some of the water droplets onto it's body.

This is a great time of year to get some nice looks at Nashville Warblers. They forage a lot closer to the ground now and can be very inquisitive.

They also have gone silent and are trying to fatten up for the long journey ahead.

If your an adult Chestnut-sided Warbler and it's August, it's time for your prebasic molt. This one had already lost it's tail feathers and was busy preening and trying to dry out a bit. The don't loose their flight feathers at this time, so they are still able to fly. Within a week or two this bird will look quite different. It will lose the yellow crown and black mask in exchange for a more drab appearance.

There are usually a few pair of Yellow-rumped Warblers that nest in the area. This year was no exception and this is one of the juveniles that were produced.

This first fall Magnolia Warbler was out and about looking for some tasty arthropod to munch on.

This is probably one of the locally hatched birds. An endless stream of these birds will pass through the area in September and October.

Ovenbirds are a lot of fun this time of year. They finally go silent, but they seem much more curious and don't spend as much time foraging on the ground.

During breeding season they rarely leave the dark shadows of the forest floor. That sun must feel great.

This adult female Black-throated Blue Warbler was busily looking for some food for it's nestlings. They are some of the last warblers in the area to actually finish nesting.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


I'm always amazed when some refer to July and August as the "doldrums" when it comes to birding. I've always found this time of year to be quite the opposite. Let's do some simple math. A couple of birds show up in appropriate habitat, set up a breeding territory and raise a brood of offspring. Their in no hurry to migrate yet, so it stands to reason that there are more birds in a given area in the months of July and August then May or June.
The main factor that has allowed this time of the year to be labeled as "slow" is that our own lives become more involved with things such as picnics, vacations and firewood (it's actually the time of year that I try and get my wood for the winter split and stacked). Hardly seems fair. The dog-days of summer are not as birder friendly as the spring months are.

This female Common Yellowthroat brings home some tasty morsels for some hungry nestlings nearby.

This young Golden-crowned Kinglet was curious as to what I was up to.

It was a nice opportunity to snap a few pictures. Not often that they sit still for long.

No golden crown yet. That will come as the bird matures this fall.

A young Ruby-throated Hummingbird warms itself in the morning sun.

This was probably the most interesting observation of the day. It's a Canada Warbler (on left) and Nashville Warbler (right) travelling together. The nashville was a juvenile bird and was following the adult canada around. The young bird was actually making begging calls as if it was trying to get the canada to find it some food.

Its not that unusual for adult birds of one species to feed a begging fledgling of another species. Instinct is a powerful thing. At least they have matching eyerings.

And here was the surprise of the day. After some morning birding, I went home and was doing some things around the house. I heard something coming from the spruces next to my house that really caught me off guard. Jip, Jip, Jip ...... Jip, Jip, Jip. I ran to a spot where I could scan the top of the spruces from and managed to see a couple of Red Crossbills noisily flying away. Wow! Wasn't expecting that. I headed back out into the field, checking some areas that I thought would be attractive to them. I found some more and was able to snap some pictures.

Red Crossbills are some of the great nomads of the birding world. They can literally show up and nest anytime and anyplace. It will be interesting to see if they stick around.

I had a tough time today considering them winter finches.

August birding is so boring... Yeah right!