Sunday, July 24, 2016

Avian All-Stars of Port Huron: Mourning Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Blue-winged Warbler and Rose-breasted Grosbeak

[Port Huron SGA. June 2016]

Who shall know the true splendor of our forests? Only those that lose themselves in the verdant depths of the woods will discover the true manifestation of nature's bounty in trilling warblers, the musical cascades of tanagers and grosbeaks and the haunting melodies of thrushes


And, this is precisely the promise that a visit to Port Huron State Game Area holds for the intrepid birder Every year, this area harbors a spectacular collection of species to be enjoyed at the peak of their breeding prime; species such as:
  • American Goldfinch
  • American Redstart
  • Blue-winged Warbler
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Hooded Warbler
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Louisiana Waterthrush
  • Mourning Warbler
  • Ovenbird
  • Pine Warbler 
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Veery
We begin with the Goldfinch:
American Goldfinch is a species that can be cruelly overlooked on account of its abundance:


The male Goldfinch is a truly spectacular specimen with its pink bill and strongly contrasting yellow and black plumage.

The main attraction at Port Huron SGA, are the warblers. American Redstart is a summer breeder here: 




Like the Redstart, Blue-winged Warbler is also a breeding species. Its buzzy song is instantly recognizable.












The male Chestnut-sided Warbler can sing two songs -- one for attracting prospective mates and the other for defending its territory against competing rivals.








Common Yellowthroat is usually found in weedy areas:




The "inverse" of the Common Yellowthroat is said to be the Hooded Warbler:








The Hooded shows yellow where the Common Yellowthroat shows black.

The loud "chinks" of an Indigo Bunting betray its presence:







All the above are regularly occurring -- however, the Louisiana Waterthrush is only an uncommon breeder here: 





The Mourning Warbler is seen with great difficulty in migration, but here, it is locally common on its breeding grounds:









The song of the Mourning Warbler is loud -- but it is nothing compared to the bold yelling of "teacher, teacher" of the Ovenbird:








The Pine Warbler, like its name implies, is never seen far from pines:








The sweet notes of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak fill the air before it is sighted:








No songster is as persistent, however, as the Red-eyed Vireo:




Compared the Vireo, the song of the Veery is soft and haunting:




The woods of Eastern North America are alive with brilliant songbirds that are ours to discover. And, Port Huron SGA in Summer is a treasure-trove of delightful species that will enthrall any one who seeks beauty in nature's abundance.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Birding the Tiger's Kingdom: Avian Treasures from the Indian Jungle

[RNP, June 2016]

On day 362 of his epic quest, when celebrity birder Noah Strycker had to pick one destination to complete his goal of 6,000 species in a year, he chose to make a repeat trip to India rather than visit a new country. 

Within a couple of months of Noah's visit to India (where he famously succeeded in sighting his 6000th species), the American Birding Association organized the ABA India Safari.  

Indeed, with a checklist of over 1,300 birds, it is small wonder that India is a preferred destination for many birders including this blogger. This is in part due to the many sanctuaries and nature reserves established across the vast country. One prime example of this is Ranthambore National Park (RNP); and, although RNP is is better known for its tigers, it also harbors some spectacular birdlife -- avian species that share the tiger's kingdom, such as:
  • Painted Spurfowl
  • Crested Serpent Eagle
  • Indian Pitta
  • Indian Peafowl
  • Indian Golden Oriole
  • Indian Paradise Flycatcher
  • Common Kingfisher
  • Tickel's Blue Flycatcher
  • Barred Buttonquail
  • Jungle Bush Quail
  • Striated Heron
  • White-bellied Drongo
  • Black-rumped Flameback
The above were observed during a quick summer vacation to India, and while the objective was primarily social, a couple of days were set aside by the blogger to take advantage of the birding opportunities in the region.

We start with the Painted Spurfowl:



The male Painted Spurfowl is a stunning species -- richly colored in rufous, brown, black and tan with bold white speckles.



This incomparable landfowl is endemic to the subcontinent and one of the best places to observe it is at RNP.

Crested Serpent Eagle, as its name implies, is a predator specializing in eating snakes and lizards.




Unlike the Spurfowl which is an endemic, the Crested Serpent Eagle ranges East through SE Asia (indeed, this blogger has observed it in the forests of Malaysia).

Indubitably, the most colorful bird seen on this trip was the Indian Pitta:




Teal, turquoise, blue, gold, buff, white, black, red and pink -- these nine colors are behind the Pitta's name in the local language "naurang". An endemic of the subcontinent, it is best observed in the mosoon season when it disperses across the country to breed.

Another endemic is the Indian Peafowl:
 


Although widely introduced as a garden bird in many parts of the world, its home is here in India. And, at this time, during the monsoons, it puts on the grandest spectacle of perhaps any bird: the male peafowl, or peacocks, gather in a lek and start to display with their enormous and incredibly lavish tail feathers.  


Another endemic is the Indian Golden Oriole:



Sweet sounding and brightly colored, the Old World Oriole serves in the same ecological niche as in the New World.


The Indian Paradise Flycatcher:


Looking at the male (below), it becomes obvious how this species earned its moniker -- an impressively long tail that dwarfs the female's (see above).



Also seen were:


Common Kingfisher:



Tickel's Blue Flycatcher:




Barred Buttonquail:
 


The female Barred Buttonquail is polyandrous and more richly colored than the male in a reversal of the usual gender roles.

Jungle Bush Quail:





Unlike the buttonquail, the male is more strongly patterned and colorful while the female is a warm pink-cinnamon.


Striated Heron:



White-bellied Drongo (another endemic of the subcontinent):




And, finally, a striking woodpecker, the Black-rumped Flameback:



The wildlife attractions of the subcontinent are many. The highlight for most visitors to India will surely be the Royal Bengal Tiger; however, for the intrepid birder, there are spectacular avian treasures waiting to be discovered in the Indian Jungle. A truth that Noah Strycker, this blogger, and many others have so delightfully experienced.