Monday, August 31, 2015

Warbler Guy, how do I volunteer to learn more about birds? -- and, for example, better know how to ID warblers? (i.e., I find warbler ID a major challenge in my life. Please help me!)

Thanks, Ally...(in Tacoma, WA):

An option you might wish to consider (?):

Find a breeding bird survey to do with a friend that's involved with the development a new or updated breeding bird atlas for a region or state where you live.

For example, there's hundreds of volunteers currently conducting a five-year breeding bird survey in Wisconsin. They just finished the first year of a five-year nesting season monitoring effort.


Now imagine next spring, 2016.

You've signed on as a co-helper with a birding friend for new atlas or new atlas edition in your area.

Then, imagine, how your warbler sightings and monitoring efforts could result in new confirmation of nest sites, for example.

This kind of scenario is happening in northern Wisconsin. There, the Tennessee Warbler (TNWA), was merely suggested as a "probable" nester in some counties where suitable habitat for this northerly-breeding warbler occurs.

Now, there's a chance for one or more monitors to confirm TNWA as a state breeder.

Cool, no? (More to read below the following graphic.)

So, feel free to scour the web for your own area's atlas effort....or, if you're really savvy, begin your own atlas with the help of several other volunteers*.

{* = It's obviously a major, Herculean effort to coordinate an atlas along with the dozens of volunteers in the field, in addition to the writers and editors of accounts for each species (as well as the ecology of an area that often serves as introductory chapters in an atlas (e.g., The Santa Clara County "Breeding Bird Atlas of Santa Clara County" is amazing with its natural history information for that Bay Area county, and, in many cases, information that is applicable throughout the seven-county SF Bay Area.).

Another notable aspect of the new Wisconsin atlas effort: A state-of-the-art ebird system is excellent for volunteers to record their sightings online.

Here's a summary for a volunteer recruitment flyer related to the WI breeding bird atlas II (that, I surmise, will be published in or around 2020:

Over the course of the next five years, volunteers will observe bird behavior and report data online. Volunteering is easy! Participants sign up to observe birds near their homes, favorite birding spots and atlas priority blocks and report their observations online using a state-of-the-art system developed by eBird.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Warbler Guy, which warbler do you think is the most common one to see during fall warbler migration on the West Coast? On the East Coast during migration of warblers, which one is common to see?

Interesting question, Josie (in Cincinnati).

Yes, my answer that follows suggests one likely warbler species you'll see on both the Left & Right Coast, (but read farther down the page after the "XX" symbol to learn more qualified details):

1. On the West Coast in n. California where I live in the SF Bay Area, it's typical to see a heavy influx of transient Yellow Warbler individuals from mid-August through as late as mid-October.

An excellent spot to see them near where I live in Novato (Marin Co.) is the San Rafael-based Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds. (To find this birding venue, see:

2. As for the East Coast (and the Midwest), Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle subspecies) is an easy answer to your question because it's the most common warbler in the fall to see AFTER the initial wave of earlier migrating warblers passes through much of the lower and upper Midwest and New England, mid-Atlantic, and southeast USA.

Moreover, by September in most of these aforementioned places, this amazingly prolific warbler species is ubiquitous.

Able to feed within every portion of a tree's profile (and, thus, in technical terms, able to exploit many micro-habitats via "resource partitioning), this warbler in the fall may challenge the patience of querying birders as every new viewing opportunity results in one Yellow-rumped Warbler after the next.

Frustrated birders want to see more than Yellow-rumps, of course, so as one more Yellow-rump after the next fills their bincocular views, you might hear them vent: "Another Yellow-rump? Another Butter Butt! " (its well known nickname).

But fear not, my warbler friends. Consider my fond memories of seeing a forest dominated by Yellow-rumps when I lived and birded in the Midwest and on the East Coast. Often, the influx of Yellow-rumps was accompanied by the first snap of cold on an autumn morning, with a backdrop of   colorful autumn trees framing the appearance of other birds joining the Yellow-rumps.

Related, and in addition, note some populations of the neotropical-migrating Yellow-rumped Warbler persist into November (and beyond) throughout the Midwest, including the Upper Midwest and New England. During some years, this species may remain and survive the entire winter in the cold northern latitude of, say, southern Wisconsin...and, for this reason, it is occasionally reported by birders during Christmas Bird Counts in the Midwest and on the East Coast.

In recent years, this species has even been known to "over winter" throughout the non-breeding season in the the Midwest and East, especially if its favorite winter food sources are available (e.g., wax myrtle berries in the East, for example).


As for other common species you might see on the West Coast in fall in lieu of Yellow Warbler,
in my area of n. CA 20 miles north of San Francisco, Orange-crowned Warbler is often seen as dispersers and/or migrants.

Vagrant warbler sightings of so-called East Coast warbler species primarily happens from August through October on the Outer Point lighthouse area within Point Reyes National Seashore, a one-hour drive from my house and a spot, by the way, that I often bring birders who employ me as a Marin County birding guide.

East Coast warblers that are common in fall besides Yellow-rumped Warbler?

Palm Warbler is the next most common one and often associates with Yellow-rumps, especially in from mid- to late-fall.

Regards, Daniel Edelstein
(where my "Birding Tours" area provides details related to my all-day guided birding tours)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Warbler Guy, how many warblers nest where you live in the Marin County, California area?

Thanks, Jeb....I am always flattered (and LUCKY) to see a vagrant Blue-winged Warbler as a rare, cameo-appearing vagrant on the West Coast (and rare to absent many years, though a visit to the Outer Point, lighthouse area within Point Reyes National Park would be your best bet to see this common Midwestern and Eastern USA nester (see figure, below).

As for northern California nesting warblers in the county where I live in Novato, Marin County (25 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge), seven species of warblers typically nest annually
in my area — a venue that is, incidentally, the area from where the majority of my guided bird tours begin (Feel free to see the "Birding Tours" area of my web site:

Which seven nesting warblers usually occur annually during most breeding seasons in Marin County?:

1) Common Yellowthroat (a subspecies of which is a year-round resident);
2) Orange-crowned (with the bulk of this species a neotropical migrant that arrives back as early as February, though the largest pulse arrives annually in March);
3) Yellow-rumped (auduboni subspecies, with higher altitudes in the county hosting nesters);
4) Black-throated Gray (typically restricted to drier open woodlands and forests;
5) Hermit Warbler (probably our county's second most rare nesting warbler next to MacGillivray's Warbler that is rare to sporadic as a #6 nester; and, finally, and last BUT not least:
7) Wilson's Warbler (that is rare to absent during the non-breeding season, but common in moist, bottomlands and riparian areas by April throughout the county, with a early return in March within the Bay Area and Marin County this past 2015 breeding season.

For more information, feel free to consult two field guides that are the best, most comprehensive, current warbler field guides:
- Warblers, Jon Dunn & Kimball Garrett, Houghton Mifflin Press, 1997
- The Warbler Guide, Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle, Princeton Univ. Press, 2013

Regards, and happy birding...Daniel