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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Two Extraordinary Blackbirds (Hooded Oriole and Scott's Oriole), Black-chinned Sparrow and Others

[Foothills of Mt. Ord and Mt. Lemmon. AZ. May 2013]

New World Orioles are the beauties of the Icterid family -- although completely unrelated to the Old World Orioles they are remarkably similar in looks, diet and voice; an excellent example of Convergent Evolution.

Scott's Oriole is a striking icterid of the Southwest. Brilliantly plumaged in lemon yellow with a black head and breast, this distinctive oriole was observed in the foothills of Mt. Ord.

[Scott's Oriole, male]

Named after Gen. Winfield Scott, a hero of the Mexican-American war of  1846, Scott's Oriole was named by the Soldier/Naturalist Darius Couch; although, by convention, the honor of naming the bird should have gone to Bonaparte who was the first to describe it. Hence, while the common name for this species was assigned by Couch, the scientific name comes from Bonaparte.

Further away at Molino Basin, in the foothills of Mt. Lemmon, another Oriole is observed -- this is the Hooded Oriole -- a yellowish-orange Oriole with a black bib that is found in the Southwest US.

Hooded Oriole seen at Molino Basin. Mt. Lemmon

At Molino Basin, this male was observed with a female -- constantly calling and courting. The Hooded Oriole is expanding its range in some areas and population trends are stable.

There are 3 "Hooded" species in the US -- Hooded Merganser, Hooded Warbler and Hooded Oriole -- all are distinctive representatives of their respective families.

On the Sparrow front, 2 range-restricted species were observed at the foothills of Mt. Ord -- Rufous-crowned and Black-chinned Sparrows.

Rufous-crowned Sparrow is a medium sparrow with a rufous crown and eye-line; a black mustache and rufous on the wings. It was first described by Cassin in 1852.

Black-chinned Sparrow is a grey sparrow with a striking black chin and pink bill

Localized to the Southwest, this grey sparrow has a declining population due to habitat loss. Although still classified as "Least Concern" due to its large range, population surveys show an almost 90% decline over the last four decades.

The Chipping Sparrow, unlike the former sparrows, has a distribution covering most of North America.

This attractive sparrow was observed on Mt. Lemmon. Elsewhere, Black-headed Grosbeak were observed on both Mt. Ord and Mt. Lemmon.

Black-headed Grosbeak, female.

Black-headed Grosbeak, male.

This a wide ranging Western grosbeak; it is known to hybridize with Rose-breasted where their ranges overlap.

High up in the canopy, Western Tanagers were calling loudly at Mt. Ord. While a Brown-crested Flycatcher pair were busy flirting at Molino Basin.

Brown-crested Flycatcher

Bewick's Wren, now largely a Western species, was observed at Mt. Ord as well:

This species is losing out to the House Wren on the East where it has been almost totally extirpated.

The Bewick Wren's long tail and prominent white eyebrow set it apart from other wrens. It was named by Audubon in honor of Thomas Bewick.

Violet-green Swallows were seen busy nesting (also at Mt. Ord).

Red-breasted Nuthatch were observed at Mt. Lemmon -- their noisy calls advertising their presence before becoming visible.

 Lastly, a couple of shorebirds:

American Avocet.

Black-necked Stilt.

Both of these were observed at the Gilbert Water Ranch.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Epitome of Spring Neotropical Migration: Warblers at Magee Marsh

[Magee Marsh. OH. Spring 2013]

-- Warbler Species Count: 30 (as photographed)

American birding without the annual arrival and departure of Neotropical migrants would be infinitely poorer. Between mid-April and mid-May a fantastic array of bird species can be observed at close quarters at Magee Marsh on the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio.

Presented here will be frequent updates on observations made at this acclaimed migration hotspot with a special focus on New World Wood Warblers (and a precedence of photographs over words).

Warbler List [as of 4/27]
  1. Pine
  2. Yellow-rumped
  3. Orange-crowned
  4. Hooded
  5. Worm-eating
  6. Blue-winged
  7. Black-throated Green
  8. Ovenbird
  9. Black-and-White
Update as of 5/2: Added:
  1. Blackburnian
  2. Black-throated Blue
  3. Magnolia
  4. Nashville
  5. Bay-Breasted
  6. Kentucky
  7. Cerulean
  8. Yellow
  9. Northern Parula
  10. Chestunut-sided
  11. Palm
Update as of 5/5: Added:

  1. Mourning
  2. Golden-winged
  3. Northern Waterthrush
Update as of 5/11: Added:
  1. Cape May
  2. Common Yellowthroat
  3. Wilson's
  4. American Redstart
Update as of 5/24; Added:
  1. Canada
  2. Blackpoll
  3. Prothonotary

[Photographic Updates]

[5/24 adds]

Prominent eye-rings, black "necklace" and a strongly contrasting color scheme make this warbler unmistakable.

A longer distance migrant than the others, this warbler has a very high-pitched, mousy song.


Always stunning in gold and grey.

And repeat warblers seen:

American Redstart

Black-throated Green

A beautiful female -- a watered-down version of the male.





[5/11 adds]
Cape May

Common Yellowthroat


American Redstart

Repeat Warblers seen:


Black-throated Blue




Black-throated Green

Northern Parula

[5/5 adds]
Northern Waterthrush

Golden-winged Warbler
A warbler whose populations have declined by over 60% over the last 4 decades.
Mourning Warbler

And other warblers revisited included dashing good views of Chestnut-sided, Hooded, Bay-breasted, and more:

An attractive warbler and quite common:


Black-throated Blue:
Black-throated Green:


Cerulean Warbler:
Two male Ceruleans -- classified as "Vulnerable" because populations have plummeted by over 80% over the last few decades, were observed at Magee on different days:

Hooded Warbler:
An irresistible warbler that showed particularly well:

Worm-eating Warbler
A warbler that breeds much further South dazzled onlookers at Magee by overshooting its route and flaunting its plain yet distinctive looks:

[5/2 adds]

The throat glows like the sun at dusk:

Black-throated Blue:
A welcome break from all those "yellow" warblers:

They don't get flashier than this:

A not-so-flashy warbler with a prominent eye-ring:



Uniquely colored in black, tan and brown.

An "overflight" warbler that is not normally observed here.

A surreal sight to behold; the Cerulean is the warbler of birding aesthetes:


Like the name says:

Northern Parula:
Small, energetic and a strong songster:

A nice addition to the list:

Palm Warbler:
A humble warbler with the bobbing tail:

[4/27 Adds]

Black-throated Green Warbler:
A distinctive warbler with olive markings, yellow face and black bib. Populations are stable.

Blue-winged Warbler
A common warbler with grey-blue wings and tail. White wing patches and a a short black eye-line. Its hybridization with the Golden-winged Warbler is having a negative effect on the latter's population.

Looking like a small olive backed thrush, the Ovenbird favors foraging on the ground.

A nuthatch in foraging habits, the black-and-white is a common warbler that winters in Florida and Central America.

[Update 4/20]

Hooded Warbler
A striking warbler, the Hooded's black hood, olive upper parts and bright yellow face make it unmistakeable. 

Worm-eating Warbler
Named for its affinity for eating caterpillars, the Worm-eating's buffy face and chest and black facial stripes make it distinctive. Its population trend is positive.

Orange-crowned Warbler
A common warbler of the West, it is not usually seen at Magee Marsh.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

[Update 4/17]

Pine Warbler

Another butter-butt: