Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Warbler Guy, can you give me a quick way to tell Myrtle from Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warbler during the winter (non-breeding season)? I see both subspecies of Yellow-rumps where I live in the winter (SF Bay Area), so knowing how to tell Yellow-rumped Warbler subspecies apart would probably be a good idea.


Jay, in San Francisco, there’s two field marks that are excellent, diagnostic clues to help you identify both of these subspecies apart from one another (see drawings, below).

Let's sort out the "winter" plumages here only, given the obvious differences in appearance for breeding season individuals of both subspecies. 

Most (but NOT all) Audubon’s adults during the "winter" wear a faint to solid yellow throat and the Myrtle always possesses a white throat. In all age classes — from hatch year to definitive adults — a Myrtle never shows a white throat. That’s the easy, brief answer.



(Above drawing courtesy of National Geographic.)

But it’s not the full one. That’s because rare to occasional individuals of Audubon's ALSO may express a white throat. Which means it's possible to view a white-throated Yellow-rumped Warbler that could be EITHER the Myrtle or Audubon's subspecies.

So now what do you do for ID?

Use the absence of a faint supercilum (i.e., eyebrow) to identify Audubon’s (see drawing here) during the non-breeding "winter" season. Noticing the lack of this feature on a Yellow-rumped Warbler with a white throat should move you to say: “Bingo, it’s an Audubon’s" (i.e., Audubon's are said to wear a "plain face.)

However, if you see during the non-breeding season both a faint white supercilum mark and a white throat that reaches around toward the middle and mid-back region of the neck area on both sides of the head, then it’s a Myrtle.

In sum, Myrtle Yellow-rumped Warbler shows a faint white supercilum and a greater amount of white throat surface area than the Audubon’s subspecies that has a more plain face (lacking the white supercilium mark) and a smaller white to, more typically, faint to dark yellow throat.

The definitive source for my judgment in this matter consistently remains the Identification Guide to North American Bird, Part 1, by Peter Pyle (Slate Creek Press), which is the bird bander's guide to identification of birds "in the hand," and features field mark information corresponding to all age classes of songbirds.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Warbler Quiz #16...Can You Name These Warblers, Below?

Can you name each of the five warblers? (A helpful hint: not all the warblers in these photos are males.)


Check back by 1/19/19 for the answers....or email me at danieledelstein@att.net
warblerwatch.com


(See "Birding Links" pulldown menu for birding information)
warblerwatch.blogspot.com


Regards, Daniel


Freelance Avian Biologist



Birding Guide

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Warbler Guy, thanks for your 12/8 post about Kirtland's Warbler nesting success in Wisconsin. BUT do you have more details to share?

Anita...thanks for the note....and, indeed, here's a pasted summary from the Wisconsin DNR that features breeding success highlights of the federally endangered Kirtland Warbler in Wisconsin (in 2017, the most updated WI breeding information for this species, I was told via email on 12/11/18): 
(Source: https://www.fws.gov/midwest/GreenBay/endangered/kiwa/2017/2017SeasonReport.html)

Kirtland’s Warbler Season Summary

Anna Jocham and Lake White, site monitors during the 2017 season, release Kirtland’s warblers after the banding crew color-banded two adults, Adams and Marinette counties. Photo courtesy of Joel Trick, 2017.

• 20 males and 16 females were confirmed in Adams County, 7 males and 4 females in Marinette County, 3 males in Bayfield County, 3 males in Vilas County. 

• 20 total nests: 16 nests by 15 pairs in Adams County, 4 nests by 4 pairs in Marinette County, 0 nests in Bayfield and in Vilas counties. 

• 15 successful nests: 12 in Adams County, 3 in Marinette County. 

• 5 nests failed: 4 in Adams County (2 cowbird parasitism, 2 unknown) 1 in Marinette County (depredation). 

• A minimum of 49-63 young fledged: 38-48 in Adams County, 11-15 in Marinette County. 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Warbler Guy, did Kirtland's Warbler again nest in Wisconsin this past breeding season? — as I know it previously was a Michigan breeding endemic only in the USA. Is Kirtland's Warbler still federally endangered? Kirtland's Warbler breeding range is expanding?

Donnie (in N. Dakota):
Beyond staying warm, I hope to heat up your interest in the ongoing fascinating Kirtland's Warbler (KIWA) progress as it rebounds from near extinction to more robust total population numbers — given, "yes" this federal endangered species (via the US Fish & Wildlife Service) (USFWS) was again detected to nest in not only Michigan and Wisconsin in 2018, but also in one spot within Ontario, Canada.



(Photo courtesy of Dennis Maleug)

Read on, as this avian tale gets more interesting (sorry for the pun....):

1. First, did you know that before starting its Phoenix-like comeback from the brink of extinction, KIWA's entire worldwide population dropped to 167 breeding pairs in Michigan in 1974 (PLEASE feel free to see the below graphic)?

2. Then this 4.5" wood-warbler (that spends the non-breeding season ONLY among Bahama islands), began its upturn in population after conservation group and government agency partnered, thereby implementing long-term management actions to conserve young jack pine habitat that KIWA favors for breeding grounds. In addition, management actions reduced Brown-head Cowbird numbers, a brood parasite known to reduce several North American songbird order species population numbers, including KIWA. (i.e, Brown-headed Cowbirds lay their eggs in warbler nests; larger cowbird chicks outcompete their warbler nest mates, causing the warbler chicks to die while the unwitting warbler parents raise the cowbird imposters.)

3. In turn, responding to managment actions, KIWA's population rose dramatically (again, see the graphic, below), helped by a tragic fire that killed people, but also resulted in ideal suitable breeding habitat for KIWA. The result: KIWA numbers reached more than 1,000 pairs by 2001, expanding beyond the northern Lower Peninsula to areas in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Wisconsin and Ontario. 


4. Currently, the Kirtland’s warbler population is estimated to be over 2,000 pairs, more than double the recovery goal identified in the Kirtland’s warbler recovery plan established by the USFWS. The population has exceeded recovery goals for the past 20 years and continues to increase and expand its range.


5. More information will soon follow to answer:


How did breeding KIWA do in Wisconsin in 2018? Answer: OK, with the WI DNR noting in a news release that KIWA nests were found in at least two counties throughout the state. 


Note the final 2018 KIWA results were not available from the WI DNR when I wrote and updated this article on 12/19/18. Therefore, I share in the next paragraph the 2017 breeding results for KIWA in Wisconsin (See: https://www.fws.gov/midwest/GreenBay/endangered/kiwa/2017/2017SeasonReport.html): Please check back soon for the 2018 KIWA breeding success update in Wisconsin.


In 2017, the Kirtland’s warbler nesting season marked the 10th year of Kirtland’s documentation and subsequent monitoring in Wisconsin. From only 11 Kirtland’s and three nests found in Adams County in 2007 to 53 individuals and 20 total nests among Adams, Marinette and Bayfield counties in 2017, the population has grown and geographically expanded in our decade of conservation work. 

Regards, Daniel 


Certified Wildlife Biologist Asc. and Avian Biologist


warblerwatch.com 

(hosts my resume and Birding Guide and Birding Tour services......... given I have led tours since 1985).




Sunday, November 25, 2018

Warbler Guy, which warblers are most likely to be seen on Christmas Bird Count surveys in the Midwest? Likely Christmas Bird Count warblers in the East? Likely Christmas Bird Count warblers in New England?



Stacey (in Boston), you may be asking this question because some Yellow-rumped Warbler(s) were seen on recent Christmas Bird Count(s) (CBC)?
If so, you are spot-on in thinking this species is the most likely Parulidae (wood-warbler) Family member to show up during the non-breeding season in northern latitudes.
Here's one posting of a Rare Bird Alert from New Hampshire where people witnessed three
Yellow-rumped Warbler (YRWA):
3 YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS were seen at Odiorne Point 
State Park in Rye on December 29, 2014.



For the full account of the "rare" bird species detected during this 1/1/14 CBC survey, please see:
http://birdingonthe.net/hotmail/EAST.001114302.html
Which other warbler species are the most likely to appear in the dead of winter in NH or other upper Midwest and East Coast areas?
Beyond the YRWA, look for the following as the "usual suspects":
(and NOT typically annual every "winter" in northern USA latitudes):
- Common Yellowthroat
- Palm
- Yellow-breasted Chat (more typically Mid-Atlantic and south from there)
- Pine (sometimes eats seeds at winter feeders)
Long shots, and rarely present (and NOT typically annual every "winter"):
- Bay-breasted
- Black-and-white
- American Redstart
- Cape May
Feel free to write me with more questions, Stacey....and other readers:
danieledelstein@att.net
warblerwatch.com
(hosts "Birding Links" for free birding info. & also hosts my resume)
warblerwatch.blogspot.com
(my warbler-centric blog since 2007)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Warbler Guy, is it unusual to see wood-warblers at backyard seed feeders? Wood-warblers at feeders I can expect to see?


Jerry (in southern Michigan).....Great question, as in your area this time of year (November and, indeed, through ~February or so) I'd expect potential seed feeder sightings from a lonely, uncommon Pine Warbler or Yellow-rumped Warbler.


(Above: male Yellow-rumped Warbler, 
Setophaga coronata audboni, 2007, Cupertino, CA (male breeding plumage). Photo courtesy of creativecommons.org....Note: Obviously, winter-time sightings of this species do not typically "wear" breeding plumage like the individual shown above.)

On the West along coastal California (where I live in the SF Bay area), it's not common, but Townsend's Warbler could show up along with Yellow-rumped. 

Yellow-rumped subspecies in the lower 48 states —both Myrtle and Audubon's — are able to digest waxy coatings on seeds (such as privet and wax myrtle berries), unlike most other wood-warbler species....That's because they have hearty digestive juices to process seeds (as does Pine Warbler).

Otherwise, I have to admit in my 40 years of birding, I've never seen any other wood-warbler species at seed feeders.....though backyard nectar feeders sometimes coax Cape May Warbler, among other songbird species.

OK, I'm out to watch raptors today, later, then soon conducting a birding tour soon to Bodega Bay (in Sonoma County, 60 miles northwest of San Francisco) so wishing you the best.....Please feel free to see my "Birding Tours" area at my web site: warblerwatch.com

Regards, Daniel Edelstein

Friday, November 2, 2018

Early Holiday Gift Idea: The "Warbler Guide" App. . . Here's An Interview With The Authors

Looking for an excellent birding app for your smart phone?



Consider as a complement to The Warbler Guide paperback (an excellent guide), the following smart phone app that is called The Warbler Guide App.

It is available at the iTunes Store and Google Play.

In the following interview, authors of the book and app — Tom Whittle and Scott Stephenson — answered some of my questions about their new app:

Why do an app when you have a book?



The Warbler Guide was an exciting project for us, and it incorporates a number of new features and tools such as Quick Finders, Comparison Species, and (for the first time) a complete system for analyzing and learning bird sounds.  But there are a few things an App can do that a book can’t. 

First, it can go in your pocket!  Our app works on iPhone and iPad, and that means you can bring it out into the field.  With that in mind, the app is also more focused on helping actively identify a bird you are seeing. 

Secondly, an app can respond to the user and sort information in ways a book can’t.  By using dynamic, real time filters, the Warbler Guide App let’s you quickly narrow down your selection by location, visual characteristics and sound.  So if you’re seeing a bird in the Northeast with a yellow head that’s singing a buzzy song, you can quickly enter that in the app and see what choices that leaves.  It’s a very rapid mode of identification.

Third, you can play sounds!  A book falls short there, and being able to just tap and compare songs in the app will prove to be not only a useful study guide, but and effective way to quickly compare and narrow down bird sounds in the real world. 

Finally, our app includes 3D models that let the user position and compare the bird exactly as they see it in the field.  This is a new and powerful tool that is only possible with computers. 

Are there parts of the book you left out?

The app is not the book, and visa versa.  We didn’t want to just create an electronic version of the Warbler Guide – instead we built the app from the ground up as a working tool for field identification.  As such, some of the information in the warbler guide isn’t in the app, although the entire species accounts and comparisons are included.  We basically streamlined the app to be what we felt was the best possible tool for birding. 

What's different from the book?

As we mentioned, there isn’t as much secondary information, such as taxonomy, measurements, etc.  We also don’t include the six very rare vagrant warblers that are in the guide, and of course we don’t have all the sections explaining what to look for and how to learn songs.  The app is more of a field tool, and the book is more of a study guide, and in that way they complement each other well.



Which process did you enjoy more or was more difficult? Writing the book or developing the app?

Those are two very different things!  The book was exciting to develop, and it was gratifying to be able to create new systems and tools that we feel makes learning warblers much easier. 
The app, on the other hand, was more about creating an elegant, useful field tool that took all the information in the guide and made it quickly accessible and fast-to-use in the field.  That was an exciting process, too, and challenging in an aesthetic, workflow and design sense.

Do you need to have the book in order to “get” the app or find it useful?

Not at all – the app stands alone, and is a great tool for the field.  But if you want to sit down and do a little more studying, then the book is great to have, too.  There’s nothing to replace the experience of reading a real book, and we didn’t try to do that with the app.  So we recommend having both!

The app incorporates 3D models, sounds, and search functions in new ways. Let’s start with the 3D models – why was it so important to you to include 3D images? What was the process involved in making them? 

The 3D models are something we’ve been thinking about for several years now, and we’re so excited to be able to present them in the app.  Traditionally, an illustrator has to decide which viewing angles of a bird to include in book, since space is limited.  But with 3D models, we can literally show every possible angle of a bird. 
We created the models using professional modeling software, and overlaid photographs and applied various graphic design techniques to create a realistic “skin”.  That along with a little extra magic from the very talented artists we worked with for these images, and we were able to put together what we think is a lifelike and very functional model. 
It’s been amazing to see these things in action in the app, and we feel it’s a step forward to give the user the ability to exactly match their view of a bird in the field. 

Also, we’re used to seeing bird songs in apps, but The Warbler Guide takes this to a new level, allowing users to play back at different speeds and to look at sonograms. Can you take us through this? 

Yes – the way we treat songs is another really critical innovation in the app.  Teaching songs through books has always  had limited effectiveness, but with an app we’re able to give the user songs they can play instantly, and compare side-by-side with other similar songs.  Just the speed and seamless experience of this process should make studying songs much less cumbersome than in the past.
The sonograms are visualizations of sound, and they give us a way to describe and share specific aspects of a song.  Having sound without sonograms would be like having a bird guide without illustrations!  This, combined with the new descriptive vocabulary of the Warbler Guide, give us a method of teaching that is truly effective. 
And the ½ speed playback is part of that, too…playing the song at half speed without the usual pitch distortion that accompanies it (think Alvin and the Chipmunks) lets a birder really hear all the parts of a song.  Later, when you hear the song at normal speed, those little details become more apparent, and make it easier to describe and identify a bird’s sound. By carefully studying the structure of a song, which can be greatly aided by listening to it at a slower speed, the user will become much better at hearing that song, or even a call’s, structure in the field.

The search and filter functions are really neat and highly visual. Why did you decide to go in such a different way when it comes to searches and filters?

Many bird apps have some sort of filtering, but none of them use our visually intuitive system.  When you’re looking at a bird and trying to quickly match it to an image, it doesn’t help to have a lot of verbal description to get between you and the bird.  Birding is, after all, a visual and auditory experience first and foremost – not a verbal one – so why introduce that layer of words that just slows down the connection?  By creating truly visual filters we think the user will have a faster and easier filtering experience.

One of the things that is really distinctive about The Warbler Guide is the species comparison photos and information. How do you cover this material in the app?

The comparisons are very important.  First of all, people generally learn birds by comparison: for example, this bird is larger than that one, or this one is more yellow.   Secondly, in a traditional guide the only way to be sure that the illustration you’re looking at is the right one is by knowing all the other birds in the book!  Otherwise how can you be sure that there’s nothing similar?   We call these guides “Bird Dictionaries”, and trying to teach someone birds with a traditional field guide is a lot like trying to teach someone English by handing them a dictionary. 
So we took a different approach with the Warbler Guide, and curated each species with all its look-alikes.  That way, you can easily see all the birds that might be mistaken for each other, and then quickly and confidently ID your bird.
The app continues this approach – if the user selects a bird, then all the similar birds are presented on the species account page.  Not only that, but if you then select one of those comparisons, it’s displayed side-by-side with your initial choice, and can be viewed from any angle and in 3D as well.  Tapping the birds also brings up a list of important difference between the two – again, creating a confident, rapid ID process without having to know all the birds of the US!
It’s important to note that the comparisons also apply to the warbler songs. You can listen to each species’ song types and immediately see and hear any possible confusion species, along with our notes on what to listen for to help tell them apart.

What’s next for you? A lot of people are hoping you’ll write a similar book for another family. Any plans to do this?

We will certainly be focusing on other types of birds, and are currently working with our publisher, Princeton University Press, to do that.  But the form of our next work may not be of one family, like sparrows. 
We have had lots of feedback on our approach to understanding and learning vocalizations and expanding this to other species groups is another direction we’re very interested in.
  
How will people in the field find app features helpful?

This app is built from the ground up specifically for use in the field.  We leveraged all the power of a portable device to create a new and effective tool for identifying a bird easily, quickly and with confidence as it’s being seen. 
The visual and audible filters are extremely effective at cutting down the number of species to just a few birds in moments.  The 3D view allows the user to position a model in the exact same viewing angle of a bird as they are seeing at the moment.  And the sound-playing aspects of the app help quickly play and compare songs to rapidly match songs heard while birding.  So we hope all those tools will help birders have a more rewarding and educational experience.

Will the app be applicable throughout the USA?

Yes – it covers all the warblers of the US, excluding a few rare vagrants like Slate-throated Redstart.  It is also filterable by region, so if you are in the Northwest US, you can select that area to show just the birds that are likely there.

Will a place for people to log their warbler sightings be present?

We defer to apps like BirdLog for that functionality.  The Warbler Guide App is really focused on its primary mission, which is to rapidly find and compare warbler species.

Will birders be able to track their sightings by date from one year to the next?

Again, we think apps like BirdLog and eBird already handle this brilliantly, so we avoided trying to repeat that functionality.

Does the app need to be connected to the internet to be effective? 

No.  One of the virtues of this app is that it’s stand-alone, so if you’re in some remote area without internet service, it still functions perfectly.