Friday, May 23, 2014

Rare Bird - Kirtland's Warber

If you thought that the Nerds went to Ohio and stopped there, you are mistaken. We left Magee Marsh on Sunday and headed out to Michigan (another 4 hours in the car) to see a very rare bird - the Kirtland's Warbler. There are only about 2,000 of these birds in the world. The bird is rare due to it's limited geography for nesting and wintering sites. The warbler winters exclusively in the Bahamas and nests ONLY in certain pine forests in Michigan. Although it would probably be really cool to see one in Bahamas in January, Michigan is cheaper so we went to Michigan.

Nerds in Michigan
The best way to see the bird is to join an Audubon tour which takes you out to the nesting grounds. The tour starts at the Hartwick State Forest visitor center where we watched a short film about Kirtland's Warblers. It was eye opening. The film showed forest destruction by timber companies and fires devastating the landscape. All of which turned out to be GOOD for the warblers! Why? Because they only nest in areas where pine trees are between 5 and 20 feet tall. Once the trees get taller, the warblers won't breed there. They also rely on big territories of this habitat, which logging and fires provide. Here is a view of the nesting area. Not what you would expect for a warbler.

Jack Pine regrowth area
We went out to the field with the Audubon Naturalist and immediately heard a few Kirtland's singing. It was difficult to spot them but this guy popped into a bare tree for a bit. Can you see him? He is sitting on the left side.

Kirtland's Warbler

Here is a cropped shot. The photo is lousy, but you can see the bird singing. I would have liked a closer look but at least we saw one of the 2,000 remaining birds.
Kirtland's Warbler
The good news here is that the forest service is actively managing habitat for the warblers and the logging companies are making money too. A win-win situation. A few Kirtland's Warblers have even found nesting sites in Wisconsin and Ontario which is the first time ever recorded outside of Michigan. Both of those locations also have managed logging programs in place. Hopefully, this little warbler will continue to thrive.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Lori's Version of Heaven

Our whole trip to Magee Marsh was precipitated by Lori's obsession with warblers. She really can't get enough of the little buggers. She goes to local parks like Peace Valley. She goes to Cape May. Everywhere she goes, she hears the same thing - "if you want to see warblers up close, you gotta go to Magee". So, she planned the trip and off we went. You already saw some photos from our first day. Here are some more from the boardwalk.

Bay-breasted Warbler - Male
Bay-breasted Warbler - Female

Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler - Male

Magnolia Warbler

These birds were really close. I mean so close that Lori was running around taking photos of warblers with her iPhone. Check these out:

Here she is trying a "selfie" with a Prothonotary warbler. Barbara took this one. You can see the warbler in the background.

Lori and friend
Here is the photo that Lori took at the same time.  Look how happy she looks!

Lori and Prothonotary Warbler
Heaven, pure heaven. You can't do this at Higbee. You can't do this at Peace Valley.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Warbler Quest

The Nerds have been talking about going to Magee Marsh in Ohio for a few years but could never get the trip together. Thanks to Lori's persistence, we got the trip scheduled for this weekend. Only 3 of us could make it - me, Lori and Barbara - the nut jobs.

The three of us worked all day on Friday, met at my house at 8:30 and drove all night to the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio so that we could be there Saturday morning.  Let me tell you about our luck - we arrived at 4:30 AM  in the pouring rain! We can't catch a break.

Soggy Magee Marsh
We stood under a canopy looking at Thrushes with the Amish. Oh, you read that right - the place was crawling with Amish all decked out in their black oil cloth coats and pants and plastic rain guards on their straw hats. Don't be fooled - they all had really high end optics. Who knew the Amish were birders?

Amish mingling with the English (Barbara and Lori)
I was giving up hope of seeing anything but then, I remembered what Scott Whittle told me - Magee is great in the rain. The rain let up around 8:30 but the leaves were still dripping - warblers that is. The whole place was filled with birds. What a delight!

The birds were all over the place. They were really close. Here are just a few photos from the day.

Magnolia Warbler (aka Maggie)
 Prothonotary Warblers are named for some Olde English notary who wears a yellow hood.

Prothonotary Warbler

American Redstart
 This Scarlet Tanager sat and preened for over 10 minutes. The red was blinding in the overcast lighting.
Scartlet Tanager
 Tennessee Warblers are usually hard to photograph, but not at Magee Marsh boardwalk.

Tennessee Warbler
 Wilson's Warblers are easy to identify with their black yamakas.

Wilson's Warbler
 Yellow warblers were literally everywhere along the boardwalk.

Yellow Warbler
I am overwhelmed with photos and stories to share from our trip. More to come soon.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

World Series 2014 - A New High

Frankly, there were a few new things this year including a new team member.  Unfortunately, Barbara and Tara couldn't make it this year but Harvey stepped up in their place. Unbeknownst to Harvey, he was going to be on the team anyway we just had to find the right way to hook him. We used some good bait. No, not the kind of bait that women use on men. The kind that birders use on other birders. The kind that fun people use on other fun people. We used the oldest ploy - the "we're shorthanded and need help" ploy. He never saw it coming. He certainly didn't see it on Friday when I texted him about scouting shorebirds. He didn't see it at 3 AM on Saturday when he picked us up in HIS VAN!

WSB - Philly Bird Nerds 2014
He started to get wary when we gave him the camo bucket hat that Barbara and Di got him with the team logo on it. I think he started to so come to his senses around 3 PM. He was delirious by 7. We ended the day at 9 M with a new high total - 147. Di and Lori were both terrific all day. They had plenty of energy, kept Harvey laughing so he would keep driving, picked out a ton of birds AND didn't want to quit until we got an owl - which we finally did at 8:30 PM.

As usual, the day before and the day after the World Series was great. Great weather and great birds. The actual day was overcast with wind and periods of rain which made tallying the birds difficult.

We started slow in the wee hours and then picked up steam with a ton of warblers at Higbee. On any other day, we would have been tickled but on the Big Day the only thing we think about is what we missed. We didn't get Bald Eagle. We didn't get Killdeer. We didn't get Cedar Waxwing. We didn't get 2 ducks that we found easily the day before. But we did try new things (ask the others about 5 Hour Energy), we had a ton of laughs and got a new teammate ( oh yeah, we'll rope him in again next year).

You'll notice no photos from the day. The pace was too fast, we got alot of birds by hearing them rather than seeing them, and the weather was terrible. Here are some photos from Sunday morning which was an awesome migration day, awesome weather, and cooperative birds.

Indigo Bunting (with floss?)

Prairie Warbler

Scarlet Tanager
Feel free to sponsor the team with a donation. Send me a check. We will forward them on to a conservation fund later. We haven't picked one yet but we will soon.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cinco de Mayo - Only 5 Days to World Series

May is finally here and yet I'm wearing a jacket. We just opened the shore house this weekend. Normally, we would have been down there already but not in this cold. The birds are coming - slowly. The nerds were in Cape May this weekend and had some new arrivals. Yellow ones like Prairie Warbler.

Prairie Warbler
And this odd ball - singing female Oriole. I didn't think females sang but here she is.

Female Oriole - singing? 
And blue ones like this Indigo Bunting. I found this guy hanging on to some tall grass. He is so brilliant!

Indigo Bunting
This Blue Grosbeak is supposed to be just as blue as the bunting but - not so much. He must be a young male who hasn't gotten all of his blue feathers yet but he certainly had his song going. He sat there singing away. What lady would cozy up to this guy?

Blue Grosbeak
Another blue bird is this Bluebird - get it? Blue bird, Bluebird? Huh? Here is he singing away at Villas.

Along with the Bluebirds, we also saw an Osprey show. We watched a pair of Osprey "dance" around in the air above the lake. This one crossed paths with a Purple Martin. You can tell its an Osprey by the pattern under the wings.

Osprey and Purple Martin
He swung around and looked right into the lens! He looks pissed but Ospreys always look pissed. They never look happy even when they are dancing.

 As for early scouting for World Series of Birding - one Red-necked Grebe is still hanging around. I hope he stays put for another 5 days before flying north. He's a beaut!

Red-necked Grebe
Get those checkbooks out. We have an unusual team this year - me, Diane, Lori and a new addition - Harvey!  We expect to get alot of birds for the competition and hope that you can support us with a pledge for bird conservation!  More scouting reports to come.