Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Warbler Guy, where's some of the most ideal migrant trap, migrant hot spots in the USA?

 Good questions, Benjamin (in Seattle).


Dozens of excellent "migrant traps" for watching warblers and other songbirds exist in the lower 48 states in the USA.

I'll mention a few here: (courtesy of http://www.birding.com/top200hotspots.asp)

There's many other excellent options beyond the ones I note below. Which ones would you add to my list?

*

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, Georgia
33.91 N 84.61 W
The mile-long road to the top of the "mountain" should yield about 20 warbler species in late April. On weekends, you can ride a shuttle bus to the top. Good trails cover most of this park located about 20 miles northwest of Atlanta.

Cape May, NJ
38.56 N 74.57 W
Hawks "funnel" into Cape May each fall, making this the best spot on the East Coast for raptors. Fantastic for warblers and other migrating birds in spring and fall. One of the top 10 spots in North America.

Central Park, New York City
40.47 N 73.58 W
Birds? In New York City? During spring migration, Central Park is a welcomed island of green trees in the middle of a concrete desert. Warblers, Tanagers, Grosbeaks (and maybe a Rock Dove).

Crane Creek/Magee Marsh/Ottawa NWR
41.37 N 83.09 W
Spring migration here may be even better than Point Pelee -- and two hours closer if you live in Ohio! Go visit the Oak Openings and Irwin Prairie on the west side of Toledo as well.

Point Pelee
41.56 N 82.31 W
This tip of Ontario extends into Lake Erie, forming a welcome site for migrating birds in May and a natural "funnel" in the fall. Warblers in the spring are everywhere. Watch the flight of Monarch butterflies and huge flocks of Blue Jays in the fall. Considered by most as one of the Top 10 birding spots in North America.

Devil's Lake State Park, Wisconsin
43.42 N 89.73 W
Great scenery and a mix of northern and southern birds can be found here. For worm-eating Warbler, try nearby Baxter's Hollow Preserve. The International Crane Foundation is located just north of here in Baraboo.

*

As for when warbler migration begins during the spring, the range of dates vary by latitude and, often, annually, based on weather patterns.

In general (and to oversimplify), warbler migration begins in Florida in March (and becomes obvious by April) while southern Wisconsin, for example, attracts warblers in abundance by the last week of April (though it more typically peaks in the first or second week of May). Point Pelee (noted above) is often best visited during the initial days of May while upper Michigan usually peaks with warbler activity during the third and fourth weeks of May.

That's not to say warbler migration is absent prior to March in Florida or prior to May in Wisconsin. Early warbler visitors are present in both areas (e.g., LA Waterthrush in FL; Yellow-rumped and Palm Warbler in WI, among other species).

But, again, in general, warbler migration is best considered an April and May phenomenon in most lower 48 USA states.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Warbler Guy, what are some techniques I can use to increase my ability to remember warbler songs and commit them to my long-term memory? Birding by ear tips you recommend?

 Excellent question, Bernice (in Chicago).


Here's some solution options to consider:

1. First, based on teaching "bird by ear" classes for more than 25 years, I believe every birder progresses different to identify birds by ear. 

That’s why I offer 10 diverse hints in my Top Ten Tips To Improving Your Birding By Ear handout that’s free at my web site: warblerwatch.com

There, first click on “Birding Links,” and when the next screen shows a menu of files, click on Top Ten Tips To Improving Your Birding By Ear to access it and/or print it.

As a prequel to what you’ll read, here’s one tip among the 10:

#5. “Draw” bird vocalizations using your own “short-hand” notation marks, ala the chapter in Sibley’s Birding Basics (i.e., a quasi-sonogram shorthand method that he introduces). After your birding foray and when you’re out of the field, use these written notation marks while listening to songs/calls on media (e.g., CDs) to ID the species you heard and/or better learn their song/call patterns.
2. I suggest you consider perusing the web site:
earbirding.org
It's excellent and Nathan Pieplow's two ear birding guides are fine resources:
The Field Guide to Eastern Bird Songs of North America....and The Field Guide to Western Bird Songs of North America.
The introduction to both of these field guides hosts valuable information from which the vigilant reader will immediately benefit.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Warbler Guy, what are some techniques I can use to increase my ability to remember warbler songs and commit them to my long-term memory? Birding by ear tips you recommend?

 Excellent question, Bernice (in Chicago).


Everyone’s different, I have discovered, in terms of learning style in the field and progressing toward a Master’s of Science in IDing Birds By Ear.

That’s why I offer 10 diverse hints in my Top Ten Tips To Improving Your Birding By Ear handout that’s free at my web site: warblerwatch.com

There, first click on “Birding Links,” and when the next screen shows a menu of files, click on Top Ten Tips To Improving Your Birding By Ear to access it and/or print it.

As a prequel to what you’ll read, here’s one tip among the 10:

#5. “Draw” bird vocalizations using your own “short-hand” notation marks, ala the chapter in Sibley’s Birding Basics (i.e., a quasi-sonogram shorthand method that he introduces). After your birding foray and when you’re out of the field, use these written notation marks while listening to songs/calls on media (e.g., CDs) to ID the species you heard and/or better learn their song/call patterns.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Warbler Guy, what’s an example of a “superspecies” in the wood-warbler family?

 

What’s an example of a “superspecies” in the wood-warbler family?



(The Black-Throated Gray Warbler in the above photo is one of five species within the Black-Throated Green superspecies group.)

Thanks for the query, Ms. Jones (in Santa Barbara, CA).

Think of a superspecies as a group of related species that evolved from a common ancestor, but live in distinct ranges apart from each other. A good example of a superspecies is the Black-Throated Green Warbler group that includes this species as well as Townsend’s, Hermit, Golden-Cheeked, and Black-Throated Gray Warblers.

Each of the latter four species in the above group is thought to have evolved from its Black-Throated Green ancestor. As this species expanded from its southeastern USA deciduous forest territory into coniferous forest created by the most recent glacial advances, isolation occurred among populations. As generations of separated populations slowly spread west and north throughout lower North America, each population became a divergent “island.” Gene flow ceased as reproductive isolation caused speciation to occur over eons. The resulting five species share various field marks, but also express their own unique characteristics.

Nonetheless, despite their status as species, hybridization sometimes occurs among species within a superspecies, including the Black-Throated Green superspecies wherein populations of Townsend’s and Hermit hybridize in Oregon and Washington. To simplify, where both species occur, over time Townsend’s appear to usually dominate and increase in number.

More technical, the five species within the Black-Throated Green superspecies have parapatric distributions. That is to say, each of the five species has ranges that do not significantly overlap but are immediately adjacent to each other (and/or occur together in a narrow contact zone, with the aforementioned reference to Townsend’s and Hermit Warbler hybridization a scenario where overlapping occurs).

To learn more about this subject, read a classic article by R.M. Mengel titled “The probable history of species formation in some northern wood warblers.” One source where this article appears is in a 1964 edition of “Living Bird” (page 943).

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Warbler Guy, I typically seek rare bird species when I go afield, but it's SO cold now I am doing Project Feederwatch (from my breakfast room). What's its format/method?

Sherry (in New York), feel free to see (from your sunrise perch that looks like this one? (!):



https://feederwatch.org/about/detailed-instructions/#choose-count-days

Feel free to note:

The FeederWatch season always begins the second Saturday in November and runs through the end of April. The 2021–22 FeederWatch season begins on November 13. The last day to start a two-day count at the end of each season is April 29.

We here in Novato (Marin Co., CA....20 miles north of the Golden Gate bridge) have sunflower chips, thistle, and suet that coaxes birds into our view for counting.....Usually, no rare species visit, but we have an occasional Pine Siskin that is NOT rare, but is uncommon except for local abundance (especially among Alder tree groves).....and a Townsend's Warbler has been visiting our suet (NOT a typical behavior....for this non-breeding season visitor).

Meanwhile, enjoy and please feel free to visit my web site to learn about my birding tours that I have hosted for 25+ years: WarblerWatch.com

Regards, Daniel Edelstein

Novato, CA 

Friday, December 17, 2021

Warbler Guy, do you think the Myrtle and Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler subspecies will be designated new species (i.e., the YRWA species will be split?)?

Mari (in Phoenix), it's an interesting question that continues to be debated as researchers and American Ornithological Society (AOS) committee members continue to debate whether the Yellow-rumped Warbler species should potentially be split into two new species (Audubon's and Myrtle)....or, perhaps, even three or four (based on how two other subspecies — Black-fronted and Goldman's — within this species occur outside the USA's 48 lower states.

Currently, the defining organization for this question — the AOS — does not have a new proposal to entertain a split that would result in species status for Myrtle and Audubon's. In fact, in recent years, an AOS committee turned down a proposal to create species status for more than Myrtle and Audubon's, but also, perhaps, Black-fronted and Goldman's subspecies within the Yellow-rumped complex.

For more current information, the following link is worth reading:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/goodbye-yellow-rump-will-we-see-a-return-to-myrtle-and-audubons-warblers/

I'll provide more updates on this question as I learn of new information.

Regards to all, Daniel

WarblerWatch

Birding Guide (since the 1980s)


Consulting Avian Biologist (with five survey permits from the US Fish & Wildlife Service
(permit # TE 107043 valid through March, 2024) and CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife

415-246-5404

Saturday, November 27, 2021

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)