Monday, September 21, 2020

Warbler Guy: What happens to vagrant warblers at Point Reyes and other migrant traps that jut southward into the open Pacific? Do most of them manage to redirect themselves back to the coast and make their way south in the morning? Or does their misorientation lead many of them to a watery death far out at sea, unless they should choose to winter on the mainland?

 Good question, Joshua, as now is the prime time to see vagrant (accidental arrival) warblers at the Outer Point within Pt. Reyes National Seashore, Marin Co., CA.


Given this is a venue to which I often guide birders that enjoy a foray with me, the best time to see vagrants is now and through October. (The typical range of seeing so-called East Coast & Midwestern warblers out of range and as vagrants on the West Coast at the Outer Point is, generally, August - October (though the peak weeks tend to be mid-September through mid-October, varying by year).

In any event, to answer the gentleman's question from above....

I bow to several resources as evidence for the answer:

The majority of warblers meet a sad fate after you see them at the Outer Point area:
Neverland is their destiny, given they often keep flying over the ocean.
Their R.I.P. epitaph is simply a tuckered and tired path to oblivion. 

Sad, as I wrote.

Rich Stallcup, bless our passed ornithological mentor and bellwether pioneer in myriad ways,
often posited the above note about the sad death of warblers after they hang out temporarily at the Outer Point (most noticeably amid Monterey Cypress trees that offer shelter and food resources amid the dairy/ag farms dominating the Outer Point landscape).

Another excellent nearby option for seeing songbird vagrants is among trees at the Kehoe Beach trail area via Pierce Pt. Rd. (Tomales Bay State Park turnoff). Here, Noah Arthur spotted Blackpoll Warbler on 9/20/20.

I myself observed the same species among Monterey Cypress near Muir Beach last week with a couple of other birders. Several other trails in this area are worth checking out for "autumn" vagrants, with several recent observations qualifying as notable, including Yellow-breasted Chat and Connecticut Warbler.

Regards, Daniel

warblerwatch.com

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Warbler Guy, does Northern Parula nest in California? -- given the abundant recent sightings during this 2020 summer.

Good question, Peter (in Sebastopol, CA).

Given I have detected this species several times in the last few months — and based on several eBird records this year and previous years in the SF Bay Area and the North Coast — I'm inclined to believe sporadic nesting sites are present.




(Above: male, Northern Parula) 

From June through the present, more than one Northern Parula male has repeatedly sang in the same general area, suggesting potential breeding presence for the region.

A more true measure of validity for the above theory would be if multiple, annual presence is detected in the same spot for this species. That's because a male Northern Parula often returns to the same vicinity — sometimes the same nesting tree (!) — each breeding season.

Successive detection of this species in the same spot has occurred in Marin County where I live, so I suspect this phenomenon may be occurring elsewhere in Sonoma and Mendocino County (north of Marin County) this year.

Meanwhile, I'll be out listening among willow groves and other typical spots on the North Coast.

Regards, Daniel

WarblerWatch.com

Friday, July 31, 2020

Which bird field guides feature range maps that show non- and breeding territory for species?

Not many. Perhaps none, if you're considering only the most common ones among birders. 


So, if not none, then which one? 


Here's the only title that (I know) features range maps depicting non-breeding and breeding range areas for many orders of birds:


Neotropical Migratory Birds: Natural History, Distribution, and Population Change.  1995. Richard M. DeGraaf and John H. Rappole. Comstock Publishing.


Why do I cherish the above title? Because, for example, if you wish to know the destination of "our" nesting wood-warbler family members that perform neotropical migration (i.e., obligate
long-distance migration), then this resource helps. 


I can look at p. 431 to see where in S. America BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER migrate to after the breeding season.


Other best-selling bird field guides typically merely feature a map that denotes no more than Mexico and northward within N. America (i.e., Central America and S. America are absent).


Ergo, true obligate, long-distance migrants such as the 
BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER are not accounted for year-round in most field guides' maps.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020


New World wood-warblers (that are not closely related to the various Old World warblers in the Eastern Hemisphere (e.g., Europe, Asia) are often identified to number as 112-115 species, occurring among 24-26 genera. The centers (or “epicenters”) of their breeding areas occur in eastern North America, the West Indies, Mexico and Central America, and Andean South America. The majority of northern-latitude breeding species migrate, but many island and tropical species are sedentary. Many of these latter species remain close to their birthing areas or perform short-distance, post-breeding altitudinal/elevation migrations.

As for myself, I often see 20-30 wood-warbler species during early May when I return to homecoming birding forays in the Midwest (and, concurrently, attend the annual Wisconsin Society For Ornithology conference). This year I did not return in spring (due to the virus), but in 2019 I was lucky to visit Wisconsin for a week-long June jaunt that yielded merely a single digit wood-warbler species total.

Likewise, my birding efforts in southern Wisconsin in 2019 provided challenging warbler conditions, with Milwaukee County nearly devoid of warbler detections, except for probable nesting species such as American Redstart, Mourning Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, and Yellow Warbler. In contrast, my n. CA residency, yields more warbler species during the breeding season — a result that surprises many people because the West is thought to host far fewer warbler species. Last month during a two-day to the Sierra, I was pleased to detect eight warbler species.

Then there's Marin County (Bay Area) where I live. Here, I am also able to typically detect at least eight warbler species annually.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Warbler Guy, where are the most different kinds of warblers found? How many types or species of warblers exist? Are all warblers migratory or do some stay “close to home”...?

New World wood-warblers (that are not closely related to the various Old World warblers in the Eastern Hemisphere (e.g., Europe, Asia) are often identified to number as 112-115 species, occurring among 24-26 genera. The centers (or “epicenters”) of their breeding areas occur in eastern North America, the West Indies, Mexico and Central America, and Andean South America.

The majority of northern-latitude breeding species migrate, but many island and tropical species are sedentary. Many of these latter species remain close to their birthing areas or perform short-distance, post-breeding altitudinal/elevation migrations. As for myself, I often see 20-30 wood-warbler species during early May when I return to homecoming birding forays in the Midwest (and, concurrently, attend the annual Wisconsin Society For Ornithology conference).

Last year, for example, I was lucky to visit Wisconsin to attend the conference during the peak of neotropical songbird migration, so I tallied more than 25 wood-warbler species. Then, when I returned in August, I began seeing southbound migrants in the northern portion of the state. Milwaukee County (in s. WI) was nearly devoid of warbler detections, except for probable nesting species such as American Redstart and Yellow Warbler.

In contrast, my n. CA residency, yields more warbler species during the breeding season — a result that surprises many people because the West is thought to host far fewer warbler species. For example, in Marin County (Bay Area) where I live, I often detect at least eight warbler species annually and, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains (near Yuba Pass and/or amid the Gold Lakes country off of Highway 49 near Bassetts), I sometimes successfully sleuth out nine warbler species.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Does Connecticut Warbler return by late May? Is Connecticut Warbler rare?




Although Connecticut Warbler is not rare, its habit of being a stealthy, skulking, "shy" species results it in being heard more often than seen. In addition, it breeds in habitats that are often inaccessible to birders, including spruce-tamarack bogs and muskeg (as well as poplar woodlands and moist deciduous forests) in northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and central Canada. Individuals return as early as early May to, for example, southern Wisconsin, but it's been known to arrive as late as early June in irregular years. 


In general, as returning migrant, this species is considered a "late" arriving member of the wood-warbler family. Did you know this warbler was not described until Alexander Wilson did so in 1812? A nest for this species was not discovered until 1883, more than 70 years after Wilson's description. Even today, there are few to no rigorous, experimental studies of its general biology from the breeding or wintering ranges.


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Warbler Guy, I saw your San Francisco birding tours note you have seen nesting warblers in the San Francisco Bay Area. The San Francisco Bay Area has warblers nesting here?

Horatio (in Sunnyvale, CA):

Yes, depending on your perch in the SF Bay Area, there's both resident, year-round wood-warbler species as well as neotropical migrants that return annually to nest here.

The following list, below, is a simplified, non-detailed overview of the nesters in Marin County without providing details:

(Note the * = nester as a spring/summer resident and # = a year-round nester that is resident year-round. In addition, it's important to realize that a few individuals of all wood-warblers in the Bay Area may persist throughout the non-breeding season (though the vast bulk of the * species vacate the Bay Area during the non-breeding season. + = non-breeding season resident only).

* and # Common Yellowthroat (with much of the area hosting two subspecies, including the CA Species of Special concern sinuosa subspecies)

Yellow Warbler (extirpated from the majority of previous breeding areas and/or only periodically nesting in previously occupied nesting habitat)

Orange-crowned Warbler (Note this species persists in small numbers throughout the "winter," but the large pulse of returning nesters begins in February and peaks in March.)

Wilson's Warbler

* Yellow-rumped Warbler (ALSO note: LARGE numbers present during the non-breeding season at low elevations, but most of the nesters occur at higher altitudes in select Bay Area locations only.)

* Hermit Warbler

* Black-throated Gray Warbler

* Yellow-breasted Chat (extirpated from portions of its previous breeding range; largely absent throughout most of the SF Bay Area)

MacGillivray's Warbler

Townsend's Warbler (non-breeding season resident only)

Regards to you Horatio and all warbler seekers of this special family....Daniel

warblerwatch.com (hosts my bird guiding and birding tour information via the "Birding Tours" section)

415-382-1827, Novato, CA