Saturday, September 22, 2012

Where should I go birding in October?

Birding in October is excellent in the Pacific Northwest. There may be a couple of storms, bringing the first heavy rains of the season, but the weather is generally moderate, now that the hot days of summer are over.

A few Neotropical migrants may remain into the first weeks of October. There may be a few juvenile Black-headed Grosbeaks still hanging out at your feeder. The last of the Violet-green and Barn Swallows are heading south. Flocks of chickadees may harbor some late warblers--even rarities.

This is the time of year to search among the Pectoral Sandpipers at the grassy edges of your local wetlands for a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper or other rare shorebird.

The last of the fall pelagic trips occur in October. This is the best time to head out on the ocean for South Polar Skuas and Flesh-footed Shearwaters.

October brings the arrival of numerous sparrows--Golden-crowned, Lincoln's, and Sooty Fox Sparrows, among others.

I've always wanted to visit some hawk watches in the mountains. This is the perfect time, at least, early in the month before the weather turns bad in the mountains. Certain days may have hundreds of hawks streaming by: Sharp-shinned and Cooper's, Merlins, perhaps a Goshawk, Golden Eagle, or a rare Broad-winged Hawk.One such location is Bonney Butte near Mt Hood, east of Portland. Hawk Watch International counts raptors there. The public is welcome. You know, this just might be my year to visit!

Bird Festivals:

Bridger Raptor Festival
October 5-7, 2012
Bozemen, Montana

Birdfest & Bluegrass
October 13-14, 2012
Ridgefield, Washington

Friday, September 21, 2012

Field-friendly bird sequence
Aerial Landbirds

Common Nighthawk. Malheur NWR, Oregon. May 30, 2010 by Greg Gillson.
The 13 categories of North American birds listed in the Field-friendly bird sequence: Part II are:

Swimming Waterbirds
Flying Waterbirds
Wading Waterbirds
Chicken-like Birds
Miscellaneous Landbirds
Aerial Landbirds
Flycatcher-like Birds
Thrush-like Songbirds
Chickadee and Wren-like Songbirds
Warbler-like Songbirds
Sparrow and Finch-like Songbirds
Blackbird-like Songbirds

A beginner should be able to quickly place a bird they see into one of these categories.

Aerial landbirds include nightjars, hummingbirds, swifts, swallows. These birds generally feed on the wing. In other words, while flying. All eat insects, though hummingbirds also feed on nectar.

Nightjars include mostly crepuscular birds such as nighthawks and whip-poor-wills. Hummingbirds and swallows are well-known. Swifts are so adapted to flight and their feet so weak that they are unable to perch on wires, branches, or the ground. Thus they only rest by clinging to crevices in cliffs, the inside of hollow trees, or chimneys.

Vaux's Swift. Forest Grove, Oregon. July 6, 2007 by Greg Gillson.

Rufous Hummingbird. Forest Grove, Oregon. April 21,2010 by Greg Gillson.

Barn Swallow. Hillsboro, Oregon. September 8, 2007 by Greg Gillson.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ring-necked Duck showing the neck ring!

Ring-necked Duck showing neck ring
Ring-necked Duck.
The ringed neck on Ring-necked Duck is hard to see in the field. Instead, the ring on the bill, peaked crown, pale gray sides and black back, and the vertical white stripe on the side of the breast are more obvious marks.

This duck was named for the chestnut ring between the black chest and purple-sheened head. This photo I took last May shows it quite well.

Late winter is a good time to see these birds in fresh plumage. Then you may look for the neck ring, especially on sunny days.

A few years ago the BirdFellow blog tackled this question.

We have also discussed this bird in more detail in At the pond... Ring-necked Duck.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

eBird best practices
Keep track of breeding birds

Yellow Warbler on nest. Malheur NWR, Oregon. May 25, 2009 by Greg Gillson.
One of the features of the "comments" section you can use when recording birds in eBird is tracking breeding evidence.

A bird on a nest, a bird carrying food to feed to nestlings, very recently fledged young that can't fly far, a bird feigning injury as a distraction display, a blackbird dive-bombing your head. All these are evidence of breeding birds.

As yet eBird doesn't have an output for showing breeding evidence. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't enter such notations. Breeding status may be shown in future update to eBird. However, you can request a download of your data that will show breeding, if you want to investigate your sightings in the future.

Why should you record breeding codes if eBird doesn't output that data yet? Well, for one, observing breeding behavior and searching for nesting evidence is fun! It makes you more aware of what the birds are doing.

For a list of breeding codes and meaning, and for more details, see the eBird page on breeding birds.

Other posts discussing nesting birds.