A Travellerspoint blog

The Summer Doldrums & life update

Chautauqua, NY

sunny 75 °F

Between the part of early June where interesting breeding birds are most active and territorial & the real start of southbound shorebird migration in late July lies an awkward period for most American birders known as the “summer doldrums.” This period, for many birders, can be considered a time of recuperation from the madness of observing spring migration in May. For me, though, this time is anything but relaxing as it coincides with the preparation of multiple opera performances at the Chautauqua Institution, including my first operatic role as the humorous character “Snug” in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, composed by Benjamin Britten.

The best birding I can get here comes in the form of walking around campus; two purple birds, PURPLE MARTIN & PURPLE FINCH, have been my best sightings here, but have all been sighted sans-camera. A faithful male SONG SPARROW always sings from the exact same tree I pass by every morning too! Additionally, I believe I caught a glimpse of an EASTERN SCREECH-OWL the other evening before it disappeared into the woods, but I wasn’t 100% sure — too fast & too dark to tell.

Today, while waiting outside of the theater during a quiet part of Midsummer Night’s Dream, this CHIPPING SPARROW graced us singers with its presence just about a foot away, allowing for one crappy iPad shot before it spooked and flew off:
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Sometimes, we just gotta make lemonade out of lemons! I will give Chipping Sparrows full credit as they are a native species and in my opinion much preferable any day to the aggressive, invasive House Sparrows that take over everywhere.

Although I don’t think I will get around to much birding here at Chautauqua, I fly out to Idaho for my family’s annual trip there on August 10. I am hoping to do some hiking, bird with my wonderful friends Kathleen C & Poo WP, and hopefully “clean up” a few lifers I still need out there such as Spruce Grouse & Virginia's Warbler! That segment of the summer (Aug 10-23) will be packed full with birding so expect to hear much more from me then. After that, it is back to NYC for the school year August 28! Fun times ahead.

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 971 Species

Posted by skwclar 19:47 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Independence Day Birding

Chautauqua County, NY

semi-overcast 83 °F

Today, I didn’t have any camp events until afternoon so my mom and dad took me birding at two nearby natural areas that are known to have a wonderful diversity of breeding bird species: Hill Higher State Forest & Watts Wildlife Management Area.

When we arrived at the State Forest around 7am, I immediately noticed a proliferation of OVENBIRDS, including this individual, singing throughout the vast woodland areas. I probably heard upwards of three dozen of these guys piping away this morning.
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Then, I heard a thicker “churry churry churry” song and I knew the only thing it could be was MOURING WARBLER! This was my first warbler species of the day that doesn’t typically breed in the Chicago area; the nearest places to Chicago where this species breeds are western Michigan & central Wisconsin. It was great to see a difference in the breeding bird species here at a higher elevation in western New York.
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Then, the sore-throated robin song alerted me to the presence of this male SCARLET TANAGER, an appropriately crimson nod to Independence Day.
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The female MOURNING WARBLER also gave a brief appearance! Very nice to see this which means they must be breeding in this preserve.
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BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, male. Again, the closest typical breeding locations for this bird to Chicago are in central Wisconsin, so it was wonderful to see this bird on its breeding ground instead of just passing through.
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One of the most stunning birds of the day made itself evident through its wheezy, high-pitched song from a large stand of conifer trees: male BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER! A bird strongly tied to northern conifer forests, I was really hoping to find this species today so it was a great relief to see this tangerine-throated beauty pose for photos.
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And a typical winter bird in Chicago, the DARK-EYED JUNCO, also appeared to be on summer territory in this patch of conifer forest. Very cool!
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VEERY thrushes such as this one were numerous throughout the day:
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I believe this to be an ACADIAN FLYCATCHER, though I was only allowed a quick glance before it flew away. I did hear others calling throughout the morning and they are known to breed in the area.
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Male COMMON YELLOWTHROAT:
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A family favorite was CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER, which allowed for great looks multiple times this morning. Although it is a scarce breeder in northern Illinois, these guys are also much more common further north in the summertime.
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At Watts Wildlife Management Area, there were more openlands so a slightly different mix of bird species. EASTERN KINGBIRD:
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American Bullfrog, one of many:
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My favorite sighting there was a family of CANADA WARBLERS. Here is the brilliantly-colored male posing oh so nicely:
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A recently-fledged bird was also present, and would occasionally be fed by the male. Too cool! Another migrant through Chicago that was wonderful to see on its breeding ground.
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Male YELLOW WARBLER:
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On the way out, I spotted this SAVANNAH SPARROW along the road:
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And finally right before we got back to my parent’s cabin they’re renting for the week, I had my dad stop the car when I heard a HOODED WARBLER! Hooded Warbler, indeed — score! One of my favorite birds.
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When we got back to the house, my dad spotted a big American Groundhog and I was able to snap a picture before it scurried underneath the neighbor’s house.
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An immature BALD EAGLE also flew over:
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What a great morning of birding! Songbirds have to be my favorite group of birds and warblers are especially eye-candy. Bird-of-the-day to the Blackburnian & Canada Warblers with runners-up to the Mourning & Hooded Warblers! Great species to choose from.

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 971 Species

Posted by skwclar 10:29 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Finally...some birding at camp!

Ashville, NY

semi-overcast 83 °F

Tuesday, I birded around the vicinity of the property on which my family is staying for the week in Ashville, NY which is close to my summer camp in Chautauqua, NY. I’m staying on campus in the dorms but it is nice to visit with my family this week.

Great looks at BALTIMORE ORIOLES prevailed this afternoon — all my family got to watch this beautiful creature. Here is the male:
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And here the female:
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PURPLE MARTIN flyover:
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BALTIMORE ORIOLE terrorizing an AMERICAN CROW which came too close to its nest:
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A singing male RED-EYED VIREO gave great looks right above the cabin:
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As did a CHIPPING SPARROW:
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And a GRAY CATBIRD:
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Male RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER:
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Then, my sister Pearl and I walked down the lane to look for birds and we found a pair of YELLOW-BREASTED SAPSUCKERS! So cool — I have never before observed these birds on their breeding grounds.
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An insquisitive male NORTHERN CARDINAL:
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CEDAR WAXWING:
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Bird-of-the-day to the Yellow-breasted Sapsuckers along the lane, with runner-up to the Purple Martin. So nice to see my family again!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 971 Species

Posted by skwclar 08:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Family Reunion!

Lake Geneva, WI

semi-overcast 70 °F

The Griffin family reunion brought us up to Lake Geneva, WI for a great day of hanging with family! I did, however, see some birds along the way so read on-
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The highlight of a day was taking a boat tour around Lake Geneva.
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Some of the houses were disgustingly huge (yes, single-family summer houses):
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The high point of the boat ride for me was at the end when I got great views of a BLACK TERN flying around, hunting the waters of Lake Geneva! Too cool! By far the best looks I have ever gotten of this species.
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Later, from my aunt’s deck I spotted a number of birds including this male BALTIMORE ORIOLE:
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Some BROAD-WINGED HAWKS, very nice to see:
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TURKEY VULTURE:
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AMERICAN GOLDFINCH:
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And a male RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD:
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It was a wonderful day with family, and birds! Bird-of-the-day to the Black Tern with runner-up to the Broad-winged Hawks.

Stay tuned, tomorrow I am flying out to Chautauqua, NY for seven weeks of music camp!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 971 Species

Posted by skwclar 19:20 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Rockford’s Mississippi Kites

Winnebago County, IL

rain 63 °F

Yesterday, I made the long pilgrimage of a drive up to Rockford, IL in order to search for a bird that has eluded me over the years: Mississippi Kite! This grayish hawk’s breeding range extends into the far southern tip of Illinois, but interestingly enough, one or two tend to spend their summers along the Rock River in Rockford — clear on the other, northern end of the state! This would be a life bird for me so I was really hoping to get this “species tick.”

I arrived around 1:30pm at the appointed place, Rock Terrace Drive, along which they have been spotted as recently as the day before I went. Birds were around, and I spotted a few WOOD DUCKS on the other side of the Rock River:
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A duckling was around as well:
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Quite a few GREAT BLUE HERONS made their presence known throughout my stay.
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CEDAR WAXWING:
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GRAY CATBIRD:
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With a tasty snack of berries!
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MOURNING DOVE:
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I found BARN, as well as these more uncommon CLIFF SWALLOWS nesting under the Auburn St Bridge:
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My heart started racing when a raptor flew overhead, but alas, it turned out to be a TURKEY VULTURE:
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And then again and again I got excited, and then immediately crestfallen as this & a few other RED-TAILED HAWKS soared over the area throughout the afternoon:
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After over three hours of hawkwatching the area, I gave up. These kites used to nest at a nearby elementary school in the area, but the last few summers they haven’t been documented nesting & have been much more elusive. Elusive; they proved to be for me once again! Well, there’s always next time I guess.

I will pick my bird-of-the-day to be the Cliff Swallows with runner-up to the cute Wood Duckling. Turned out to be a rather quiet day. Stay tuned — on saturday I am going up to Wisconsin for a family reunion where I will hope to squeeze in some birding, and then on sunday I am flying out to Chautauqua in western NY state for summer music camp! I will be there until August 10 and will be very busy but I do hope to fit in some birding. After that, Sun Valley, Idaho!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 971 Species

Posted by skwclar 21:19 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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