Showing posts with label Spring Migration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spring Migration. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Yellow-rumped Warbler in the rain...

I photographed this Yellow-rumped Warbler in May of 2012 at Magee Marsh during the Biggest Week in American Birding. It was spitting rain that day, but the overcast skies and raindrops made the woods look greener and more lush, and the diffused light cast a beautiful softness over the marsh I'm glad I didn't miss. This little Yellow-rumped Warbler was not close, but he was busy and fun to watch as he looked for insects among the raindrops. He wasn't attracting much attention from admirers along the boardwalk. In the birding world, he's not one of the "heavy hitters," but I liked him just fine. His colors were gorgeous in the soft light, and his song was cheerful. I watched him as he worked his way methodically through a tree looking for food and brightening my day.  (I can't wait to head up to Magee this year for a whole week of warblers!!)

Yellow-rumped Warbler along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh.

See you at the Biggest Week!

The Biggest Week in American Birding warbler festival is May 6 - 15. 
Click here for information and registration.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Magnolia Warblers at Magee...

This evening I was working at my desk when Rick came in and said we might have snow on Tuesday. Really? More snow? After a sigh, my mind decided to ignore the snow announcement and went instead to Magee Marsh in May. It will be green there, and sunny, and small twittering birds will fly from tree to tree before landing right in front of me while I walk the boardwalk. ...yes, yes, Magee in March...that's good! Much better than snow now...

A brightly colored Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia) sang in the tree above me. I was walking the boardwalk at Magee Marsh during the Biggest Week in American Birding 2012 warbler festival when I saw him. So beautiful...and close! 

Magnolia Warblers are just passing through Ohio when we see them in the spring. They are headed much farther north to their nesting grounds in Canada. A few might nest in the hemlock gorges in eastern Ohio, though, because the microclimates in the deep ravines mimic the cooler climates of the north, but most are headed north and rest up along the boardwalk at Magee before they make the big trip over Lake Erie.

Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia) on the boardwalk at Magee Marsh near Toledo, Ohio.
With a beautiful black necklace and striking black stripes on a yellow chest and belly, this neotropical migrant is a standout. I see Magnolia Warblers along the Little Miami River during spring migration as well, but they usually don't come as close as they do along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh! 

Yes, my little colorful friend, you are much better than snow.

...the flurry and hurry of spring migration. I like this photo because it captures that constant movement and excitement of the season. Birding at the Biggest Week is always an adventure. You never know what kind of neotropical migrant will show up. The birds are exhausted from the first leg of their trip, so they stop off along Lake Erie and Magee Marsh to fuel up and rest a bit before they depart for the last leg of their journey north.

If you'd like to see a video of a Magnolia Warbler singing, click here for a video on YouTube.

I can't wait for the Biggest Week in American Birding. This year it runs from May 6-15. I'll be there birding and blogging, and I'm going to teach a class on field sketching for beginners on May 12 and May 15. If you want to learn how to sketch in the field and create a nature journal, click here for info on the class--you do not have to be an artist to learn to create field sketches!

Hope to see you at 
The Biggest Week!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

"Two-second" bird sketches...

Nothing says spring like the love song of the Mourning Dove, so I was very happy to hear a male singing on our deck today. I had my sketchbook nearby, so I grabbed it and did a few "two-second" bird sketches to record the spring-is-finally-here event.  These little scribble sketches are fun to do, and as the name implies, take only seconds to complete. Tiny, non-detailed field sketches help you get the "feel" of a bird and capture behavior and movement. When you're out in the field, two-second sketches are a great way to record what you're seeing.

tiny thumbnail sketches that take only seconds to draw help capture a bird's personality.
Small "two-second" bird sketches of the mourning doves on our deck. Each little sketch takes between 2 and 10 seconds. I call them "two second" sketches so I keep moving fast and am not tempted to stop and throw in detail.

This May I'm going to teach a class on basic field sketching techniques for beginners at the Biggest Week in American Birding warbler festival. Fun!!! We'll learn several ways to draw and write about birds (including the two-second bird sketches, as well as ways to draw detailed bird renderings with accurate field marks). We'll also work on techniques for drawing  flowers, leaves, and even landscapes. If you're not an artist, don't worry. The goal of field sketching is not to create finished pieces of art, it's to learn how to get better at observing nature...and develop a deeper appreciation of nature. 

A sweet male mourning dove sang his love song on our deck. Spring is finally here!
...keep singing those spring love songs Mr. Mourning Dove.
I'll keep sketching you!

Spring Migration 
at the Biggest Week in American Birding!

While I'm at the festival, I'll be blogging too. Hope to see you there!
For more information on the field sketching 
and nature journaling class and bus tour, click here!

Check out the new BSBO Swamp Shop! 
All proceeds go to the Black Swamp Bird Observatory:

Pencil sketches by Kelly Riccetti
Spring Migration at Magee Marsh is so much fun. I'm looking forward to walking the boardwalk and seeing all the warblers!!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Indigo Bunting blue... you even remember what that color looks like?

A bird of summer, the beautiful blue of the Indigo Bunting is breathtaking sitting amid green maple leaves.
An Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) in a sea of summer lushness. 
Summer colors—jewel tones of emerald green and lapis lazuli are easily forgotten in the gray and white desert of winter. I'm not trying to hurry winter along. I love snow, and we've had a lot of it this winter, which has been exciting, but seeing the saturated greens of summer has me thinking of what's to come...

Indigo Buntings return to our area and start claiming territory in fields and woodland edges in April. Not too far off...

Matty and I saw this Indigo Bunting on an early evening walk at Shawnee State Park in southwestern Ohio last summer. It was warm and insects and birds were singing all around us. We had spent the day volunteering with Jenny Richards, the incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgable naturalist at the park. After dinner we walked down the long drive that leads from the main road up to the lodge. This Indigo Bunting was singing in the trees at the woodland edge just off the road. He was singing so sweetly we had to stay and watch and listen.

...for a preview of the sounds of spring and summer, click here for a video by Lang Elliott (Music of Nature videos) of an Indigo Bunting singing! I've listened to it 4 times. It sounds so good...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Yellow-throated Vireo at Spring Valley Wildlife Area...

Last Tuesday I spent the day at Spring Valley Wildlife Area. It was beautiful and warm, and newly arrived spring migrants were singing in the bright sunshine. We were looking for Spotted Turtles, hoping one would pop its head out of the water and swim around, but unfortunately, none obliged. This sunny yellow Yellow-throated Vireo, however, put on a nice show...

Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons)
Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons) singing along the Little Miami River at Spring Valley Wildlife Area.

Yellow-throated Vireo during Spring Migration along the Little Miami River river corridor
Yellow-spectacled Vireo would have been a good name for this guy too... 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Butter Butts...

This female Yellow-rumped Warbler was flitting through the branches at the edge of the woods. She was low in the trees and very busy looking for insects. Suddenly she stopped and stared up at something. She looked backed and forth, eyeing it from different directions, sitting still...and giving me a great shot of her namesake...

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata), aka Butter Butt...
It's easy to see how this warbler got its nickname! 

The yellow feathers on top of her head account for the scientific name of "coronata," which is from the Latin "corona," which means "crown."
Yellow-rumped Warblers have a beautiful broken white eye ring... 

...but it's that lovely little pat of butter that makes it easy to identify this beauty!

Yellow-rumps do not nest in our area, but they are plentiful and common during migration, and you can find them here in the winter. I've seen them every now and then along the Little Miami and at Winton Woods too.

...and their bellies are pretty too! 

These photos are all from the week I spent this May at Magee Marsh in Toledo, Ohio for the Biggest Week in American Birding festival.

Note: Magee Marsh is one of the sites on the Nature Conservancy's Natural Treasures of Ohio sweepstakes (May 22 - August 8). You can enter to win a Honda Insight Hybrid after visiting Magee Marsh! Click here for details on how to win the car.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The last bird of the evening...a spunky Yellow Warbler!

Photographing my last bird of the evening on the last evening of my trip made me feel a little sad. The phenomenon of spring migration along Lake Erie is addictive, and I knew tomorrow it would be very hard to walk away from the Magee Marsh boardwalk and the "easy pickin's" of its colorful neotropical songbirds. The only consolation was my farewell bird was a specific male Yellow Warbler that had been tugging at my heart all week. You may be wondering how it was possible to separate one male Yellow Warbler from the hundreds that sing and flit along on the boardwalk! Simple...he was the mate of a sweet little female who had been working nonstop to build her nest. This little male had to be the most dedicated Valentino on the boardwalk, serenading the industrious female with endless rounds of robust and lively song! I enjoyed watching the couple and learned a lot. Every now and then the female would abandon her work and the two would take off together, flying like mad through the branches of a huge old tree just across the boardwalk from her nest, but she'd never play around too long. Soon she was back to work, scouring the deep crevices in the craggy bark of that old tree looking for food, but mostly looking for spider silk that she would take back to her nest...

Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia) parting shot of the male Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia) I had grown fond of this week.  

The large black eyes on the plain yellow faces of the Yellow Warblers get me every time. I never grow tired of seeing one of our most common nesting warblers. Their song is loud and cheery too, and the chestnut streaking on their flanks and chest is striking...

...the hard-working female Yellow Warbler looks like she's resting here, but she's not. She had just deposited a small clump of spider web and was busy tamping it down with her body. Every time she would add something to the nest, she would sit in the nest and move around, molding the small cup to her body.

...again, she's working, not resting, as she molds the nest to fit her body. She was especially keen on gathering bits of spider's silk she found in the deep crevices of the bark on the nearby old gnarly tree.  

The shrubby tree she had chosen for her nest hung out over the water, and I had to shoot through about eight feet of leaves plus the distance on the boardwalk--in other words, these photos are cropped down to the hilt.

...till next year Mr. Yellow!

Learn more about migration at Magee Marsh...
If you want to learn more about Magee Marsh and spring migration along Lake Erie, click here for an article titled "Magee; Anatomy of a Migrant Hotspot," by Kenn Kaufman. I stumbled across the article earlier on the American Birding Association blog, and it explains everything that is going on at this birding hotspot!

...I will probably be blogging about The Biggest Week in American Birding and this trip for the next three weeks, but don't worry, it won't get boring. I have a lot of cool bird photos (and other critters) and learned a lot too...

p.s. Did you see the Kirtland's Warbler today?
If you want to see a fantastic photo of the beautiful and rare Kirtland's Warbler seen on the boardwalk today, click here to go to Bobby Harrison's blog. Bobby was in the right place at the right time, and the ever-drooled-after K-bird practically flew in front of his lens and posed!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Savannah Sparrows singing in the meadow...and the warbler countdown begins!

Last Saturday I met Paul and Joe at Armleder Park in Cincinnati to photograph Midland Smooth Softshell turtles at the Little Miami River (about 30 miles south of where I usually walk the Little Miami), but in the huge meadow between the parking lot and the river, two species of returning migrants had already taken up residence...Savannah Sparrows and Vesper Sparrows! This pair of Savannah Sparrows looked very sparrow-ish in the tall grasses and took turns diving down to the ground and flitting here and there among the dead stalks left over from winter...

Two Savannah Sparrows (Passerculus sandwichensis) perch in the large meadow at Armleder Park in Cincinnati. Vesper Sparrows were nearby, and Tree Swallows dipped and dived through the grasses before returning to the nest boxes set out along the trail.

A bubble of music floats
The slope of the hillside over;
A little wandering sparrow's notes;
And the bloom of yarrow and clover.
--Lucy Larcom
(as referenced in "Music of the Birds," by Lang Elliott)

I laughed when photographing these two. They were like little kids. "Could you both look at the camera at the same time, please?"


It's so fun to watch the summer birds arriving little by little. Soon the warblers start! This May I'm heading up to Magee Marsh and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory for the Biggest Week in American Birding! Finally...I'm going to see the spring warbler migration on Lake Erie. I'll be blogging there too (more posts about that soon). The warbler countdown begins!!

If you're headed to Lake Erie for spring migration let me know!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The seasonal changing of the guard...

Yesterday evening, a lovely Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) flew into view and perched in an outer branch of a tree at the edge of the woods. He was sweet and sat there looking at me with his rusty red cap at a jaunty angle--almost seeming to ask me if I was ready for the excitement of spring to begin. Around here, Chipping Sparrows signal the change of the season. Soon the little American Tree Sparrows (Spizella arborea) that flew in on a cold wind last autumn, will head north, and the other winter birds like the Dark-eyed Juncos will go with's the seasonal changing of the guard!

A Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) sits pretty at the edge of the woods and lets me know spring is about to be sprung!

Chipping Sparrows flit in and out of bushes around our house all summer long. I see them constantly nipping at grass seeds and hear their happy summer chatter. They are the perfect summer counterpart to the winter American Tree Sparrows!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tree Swallows in the early spring...

Friday it was 62 degrees F in Cincy...and sunny! It's often below zero this time of the year, and thick grey clouds so low in the sky you can almost reach up and touch them can lock us in for months on end, so sunny and blue and warm is a gift I'm glad Mama Nature is handing out. The daffodils have pushed through the earth in our front yard, and it feels like spring, which made me think of one of our earliest spring migrants, the Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor). Every March I anticipate their return, watching and waiting for them to swoop down and into the nest boxes at VOA Park and Pine Hills Lakes. With the spring-like weather and blue, sunny skies, I couldn't help but have these sweet birds on my mind, so I went through old photos for inspiration for this painting...

Painting 204. Tree Swallow in Early Spring on Rusted Steel Post

...another painting for Laure Ferlita's 100 Paintings Challenge. If you're an artist looking for a challenge, join up!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Louisiana Waterthrush beside a rocky stream...

…Rick and I had just crossed over one of the many rocky streams that tumble down steep hillsides and into the Little Miami River when I caught sight of a bird bobbing up and down on a tree limb in the distance. I knew what it was without having to use my binocs—a Louisiana Waterthrush (Seiurus motacilla), but a quick look through the camera lens while snapping a photo confirmed its identify. What a find! We don’t get to see Louisiana Waterthrushes very often, so we were happy and surprised…

We caught sight of this Louisiana Waterthrush just after crossing the stream that leads to the heavily wooded, deep and dark lowland flats ("Middle Earth"). The sun had actually come out that day, and the whole woods had morphed into a steamy hot sauna. It felt good...

Painting 152. Louisiana Waterthrush along the Little Miami
(Oil Pastel, Sennelier Oil Pastel paper)

When we saw this bird, the heat of afternoon was building. It was the first day of sunshine in weeks, and when I got home and started to paint him, my mind was still filled with the heat of the sun. I guess that's why the painting quickly went to reds, oranges and yellows. I never know what will happen when I pick up an oil pastel and start to paint, because for some reason the results are representational and emotion-driven. Using the creamy colors is fun, and no sketching is required. I just start putting down color and let the bird emerge. The finished piece is always impressionistic with a grungy feel. Detail and accuracy are abandoned for color.

Painting 153. Louisiana Waterthrush in the Deep Woods
(Watercolor and scribbled color pencil)

I painted this guy several days later. By then the rains and grey cloud cover had returned (so no reds, yellows and oranges!). Seems my watercolor paintings are always a little more realistic and detailed, but this one is still very loose. It was fun to scribble over the top of the painting with colored pencil. I just recently started picking the colored pencils up again. I haven't used them for so long.

...a pencil sketch of a Louisiana Waterthrush as a study for painting 153.

I wish I had had a video camera with me to capture the way the warbler was bobbing up and down. He really made me think of a Spotted Sandpiper bobbing and dancing to some unheard forest rhythm.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Acadian Flycatcher along the Little Miami River

…along with Angry Birds and Disappearing Cardinals, Friday’s walk along the Little Miami brought in close-up views of an Acadian Flycatcher (Empidonax virescens). He’s not the flashiest of all the spring migrants along the river, but he is fun to watch as he flies out to hawk insects…and he is noisy too. He didn’t shout out his “peet-sa” call at all while I photographed him, but he had been singing shortly before I found him sitting on a branch overhanging the trail...looking for something to eat...

I always hear these little birds before I see them.
The standard mnemonics for his call is a quick "Peet-sa" (click here for a link to the call).

...his pinkish, yellowish lower mandible is so cute...

...upper mandible is dark...

...I'm not sure, but this might be a Stink Eye.

The Acadian Flycatcher is a riparian corridor bird of Ohio (click here for details),
and one of the best indicator species of riparian quality.

...a glimpse of his broad, flat bill. For the size of his little head, he really does have a big mouth!
It must make catching insects mid-air easier...

For an earlier post with a little more info on the Acadian Flycatcher, click here.

Beak Bit
A riparian corridor is a mature woodland growing along a river or stream. With the Little Miami, this forested river corridor offers an unbroken stretch of woodland (which gets harder and harder to find) offering ideal habitat for the woodland warblers and spring migrants. Since the Acadian Flycatcher is one of the best "indicator species" of riparian quality, I'm always happy to hear his happy call. If the Acadian Flycatcher is living along its banks, the Little Miami river corridor is doing well and is free of pollution!

For more information on indicator species, click here.
For more information on riparian corridor birds of Ohio rivers, click here.
For more information on riparian corridors or a riparian zone, click here.