Birding has been good

With spring migration in full swing now, and no nasty weather to stop it sightings have really picked up. I was lucky enough to go home to Pennsylvania for a day and was able to find 7 species of warbler close to Lake Ontelaunee, one of my favorite places to bird in my county. My highlight was getting very close views at 2 different Northern Waterthrushes and realizing how different they look than the Louisiana Waterthrush. Another highlight was the Marsh Wren, a very good bird for the county.

At the hawkwatch, new birds have been arriving every day. Recently a Field Sparrow has been hanging out with the flock of Chippies behind the lookout, giving everyone great looks.

Yellow-rumped Warblers have been quite common the last few weeks but they are now in their beautiful breeding plumage and are really showing it off. There seem to be good movements in the mornings and evenings so I think I am seeing different birds each time I come up to the hawk watch.

Another new arrival that has really made his presence known is the Brown Thrasher. He just showed up a few days ago and was singing all by himself, desperately hoping for a female thrasher to come along and sing back. He was lucky and was accompanied the following day by someone who could apparently put up with his raucous cries, and possibly even thought they were beautiful.

Other birds recently heard and seen at the hawkwatch were Blue-headed Vireo (if it weren’t for dogs running loose in the park I would have an excellent shot), Warbling Vireo, Prairie Warbler and House Wren.


Great Turtle Race

So I found this great website where you can follow The Great Turtle Race. It’s a little more fun than Rat Race but maybe not quite as exciting. Eleven Leatherback Sea Turtles are being tracked from the coast of Costa Rica on their journey to the Galapagos Islands. You are encouraged to cheer for one of the turtles and watch as they complete their journey via a snazzy interface that updates every 10 minutes. Widgets, like the one above, have also been created to show your support for the various turtles. Although I do like that fact that one individual has been named Stephanie Colburtle in honor of Stephen Colbert, I am really pulling for a win by Billie who is now 86 miles from the finish zone.

Big Migration

Looks like the birds are really on the move tonight. It’s quite exciting to be able to see the movements on radar. For more information on this technique as well as commentary and predictions on the flight in New Jersey, check out

Warblers are a’coming!

Just to whet your appetite on what’s to come, here is my somewhat poor digishot of a Louisiana Waterthrush. I thought that putting everything in b&w except for the warbler itself would jazz it up a bit. I know that there have been recent controversies about doctoring photos but you have to remember that this is not photojournalism, its closer to art.

Anyway, this bird was neat, entertaining me on a less than exciting morning at the hawkwatch. He/she spent at least an hour, foraging in a flooded yard below the hawkwatch, pulling worms and other exciting food items out of the lawn. Unfortunately he did not sing, but that is something I will be able to hear most mornings this summer as I do my point counts for the PA Breeding Bird Atlas.

Montclair Hawkwatch update

Broad-winged Hawk juvenile

It appears that Broad-winged Hawks are finally starting to arrive. We had our first double-digit day yesterday and hopefully as this weather clears we will get an excellent flight. Here are the numbers so far for the season.

Daily Raptor Counts: as of Apr 11, 2007
Species Day’s Count Month Total Season Total
Black Vulture 0 1 15
Turkey Vulture 10 55 258
Osprey 5 40 66
Bald Eagle 0 0 1
Northern Harrier 2 6 15
Sharp-shinned Hawk 9 43 120
Cooper’s Hawk 2 18 60
Northern Goshawk 0 0 1
Red-shouldered Hawk 0 6 52
Broad-winged Hawk 11 14 14
Red-tailed Hawk 2 15 60
Rough-legged Hawk 0 0 0
Golden Eagle 0 0 0
American Kestrel 2 55 107
Merlin 2 4 4
Peregrine Falcon 0 0 0
Unknown 1 4 11
Total: 46 261 784

Rainy day birding

Tree Swallow
There are some things that can be said for rainy day birding. There are also somethings that could be seen as a major drawback. From my experience this morning at Garret Mountain, I would suggest not going out in driving rain in early April. It’s just setting you up for a really damp bit of disappointment. On the other hand, I did get to see my first Blue-gray Gnatcatcher this year, trying to sing away the rain with his raspy little voice. Unfortunately I think the rain got a lot harder as soon as he tried.

One observation I made was that Tree Swallows can endure a lot harder rain than then N. Rough-winged Swallows. As soon as the precipitation changed from a heavy drizzle to a light downpour, the NRW Swallows all took refuge along the shore, leaving Barbour’s pond to the exclusive hunting of the Tree Swallows. Maybe the Tree’s with their narrower wings are better able to fly in the rain. Any ideas?

The Onion features birding

I guess birding has finally made it. Our sport has been featured in the great satirical newspaper, The Onion. Focusing mainly on apparent errors in the Sibley Guide to Birds it is humorous at times although not really that great. Hopefully someday birding will actually get featured in a clever satirical article, but we will have to wait.

Check out the full article here.