Wow. September brings migrating birds, exciting cold front fallouts, and exceedingly productive birding blogs. The results from the summer are in, flooding the pages with posts about fun summer camps, projects, and birding excursions, followed closely by fall, with new birds and weekend trips. It was quite difficult for me to narrow down all of the exceptional posts to this handful. I’d highly recommend checking out the young birder blog list on the right to see the highlights of all of their wonderful summer and fall adventures.
For young birders, summer is a time to go to camps and get out birding every single day before school returns, robbing us of our free time. Bill at Bill’s Birding participated in the Northern Fulmar productivity study, which is apparently code for watching adorable baby fulmars, and posted incredible photos of the chicks growing up:
Back at the start of July I took up the reins in the island’s Fulmar breeding productivity project, a study which involved walking the North coast cliffs daily and noting the stage of progress of a pre-selected bunch of Fulmar nests.
Fast forward a month, and it’s now become more of a daily emotional challenge than a productivity study, as scruffy balls of fluff gain feathers and begin to turn into pristine, ocean-bound flying machines. It’s been nothing less than magical watching the adult-chick interactions of a bird I only ever previously shrugged off as an overgrown Herring Gull lookalike.
As the cold fronts of September lead to frosty mornings, Lucas Bobay, from Birding with Bobay, shares his experiences looking for some specialty birds in the desert heat of West Texas. Nothing like Pyrruloxia, Lesser Nighthawk, and other lifers to make you forget the heat:
ABA-area listers know Big Bend National Park for the Colima Warbler. A handful of these drab Mexican warblers breed in the park’s Chisos Mountains, the only place in the entire country where they can be found. Colima Warblers aren’t the only reason to visit this remote park, however. The birding there is nothing short of excellent, especially for an Easterner like me. Hummingbirds abound, Scaled Quail can be found running every which way, and passerines and hawks flock to the cottonwood oases. In fact, Big Bend has had more species of bird than any other US National Park!
Subsequently, on the first morning, it didn’t take long for me to spot my first lifer. Two Lesser Nighthawks were flying along the gravel road I was on. They perched in the tree, and I nabbed a few photos – the first nightjar species I’ve photographed!
September marks the start of rarity season. One of the most sought-after highlights is the Arctic Tern, the globe-trotting bird which can show up practically anywhere in the US. Two Birders and Binoculars has a helpful ID post for anyone searching through Sterna flocks to find their own vagrant:
Shape and Structure:
Common Tern: Larger, broader, and more powerful than Arctic yet has a light and buoyant flight style. Shorter tail projection that does not extend beyond the darker gray primaries.
Arctic Tern: Smaller with short legs lowering the bird closer to the ground than Common. In flight has front-loaded appearance.
Wing Pattern: (Best field marks)
Common Tern: In flight has darker upper parts, short space of thick dark edging on primaries, overall darker flight feathers than Arctic.
Arctic Tern: Narrow long dark edging on primaries, pale flight feathers, longer tail projection, narrower black trailing edge to underwing but other wise underwing is completely white.
Fall is a great time to go backpacking–the bugs are dying down, the days and nights are cool and comfortable, and the birds and scenery are gorgeous. Over on Not Just Birds, Neil Gilbert’s fall backpacking trip used bird-inspired principles to cover the 40 miles of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore with cool birds, but not a certain Berylline Hummingbird… (Sorry, Neil. I was smarting because I had walked by the house two months before, not three days before!):
No stove, no pasta, no tent. In accordance with the featherweight principle, I packed only tortillas, granola, and peanut butter for fuel. In contradiction to this rule, I bore the extra weight of my binoculars. I punctuated my rapid pace with frequent birding stops. I did adhere to the chickadee principle: every time I heard a chickadee, I would stop and pish.
Think of chickadees as lighter fluid; without them, it is difficult to create an avian conflagration. But, a squirt of chickadee will ignite a blaze of mobbing warblers. Rewarded by my observance of this rule, I leafed through flitting legions of Black-throated Greens, Magnolias, Redstarts, and Blackpolls.
Day trips are a great way to see lots of cool birds. Liam Wolff at The Colorblind Birder has quite a comprehensive day trip to coastal Georgia with lots of cool residents and migrants:
Just short of an hour later, I entered a dirt path off the main road in the western half of Brunswick. Apparently, this dirt road, Andrew’s Island Causeway, is a good spot for fishing as well as birding as a number of folks were here for Saturday morning fishing. There was not a whole lot of bird action on the Causeway, but one of the first birds I spotted was a gorgeous adult Black-crowned Night-Heron perched on a dead tree right by the Causeway.
If you liked BBC News on Facebook like I did, your news feed was probably inundated with posts about something called “indyref.” Something to do with a new Indiana Jones movie? Allusions to hipster music? No, Scotland was considering declaring independence from the United Kingdom, which would rock British birders’ lists to their core. Next Generation Birders has a post discussing what Scotland’s independence would mean for British listing and celebrating great birding moments in Scotland:
Should a ‘Yes’ vote come through, the UK would have ‘lost’ its breeding Crested Tits, Slavonian Grebes, Red and Black-throated Divers, Snow Buntings, Dotterel, Capercaillies and all its breeding eagle and skua species overnight come March 2016. The UK’s Osprey population would be down to under 10 pairs, its Hen Harrier to less than 70, with fewer than 5 of those pairs in England.
We asked NGB members what their best Scottish birding memories were. Their answers appear throughout this post in blue:
“Mine has to be seeing a Caper[caillie] drop out of a pine and land at my feet. It then decided to fly into my dad, knocking him to the floor then started jumping on his back, will never forget that moment.”
Scotland voted no, so both British birders’ lists and the official UK Osprey population remain high.
As we head into October, the leaves get prettier, the days get cooler, and the warblers transition to sparrows. Every day has the potential for a rarity, so go birding, find something cool, and blog about it!