Thursday, May 28, 2015

Acadian Flycatchers along the Little Miami River...

Tuesday afternoon before the rains settled in I headed over to the Little Miami River to listen to the birds...and see what I could see. The deep greens of late spring surrounded me, and the peace that comes from heavy woods slowly seeped into my brain and heart. I had been away from the river for too long, and it felt good to be back on its banks. Within minutes of stepping on the trail, I could hear Northern Parulas, Red-eyed Vireos, Blue Gray Gnatcatchers, a Pileated Woodpecker, a Prothonotary Warbler or two, and of course, chickadees, tufted titmice, robins and cardinals, but the birds that won out in their exuberance to announce the green season were the Acadian Flycatchers...  

Acadian Flycatcher perched in a fully leafed-out tree. Green surrounds this cute bird.
An Acadian Flycatcher perches in a sea of green ever watchful for insects to nab from the air.

The loud call of the acadian flycatcher announces its present. He usually is harder to spot than he is to see.
...all the flycatchers look so much alike. The only way I can identify this bird is by its explosive and exuberant call.  Its mnemonic likeness is "Peet-sah," and every few feet along the trail I would hear its loud exclamation.
 Click here for an example of its call.

...look at that droopy little wing. I don't know why, but Acadian Flycatchers often look like their wing muscles are exhausted because of the way they seemingly let their wings hang limp from their bodies. 

The Acadian Flycatcher as a riparian corridor indicator species
A riparian corridor is a mature woodland growing along a river or stream, and an indicator species "indicates" whether an environment is healthy. So if the Acadian Flycatcher is living along the Little Miami river, we know the corridor is doing well and the river is free of pollution. Because the Little Miami River has been conserved over the years, it offers an oasis of continuous, mature woodland. Its forested corridor of large trees offers respite and food for the woodland warblers migrating north from their wintering grounds in South America. Some of the migrants use the corridor to wing their way north, eating the flying insects and catepillars in the trees to fuel their journey, while other species make the corridor their summer home and nesting ground. The Acadian Flycatcher is one of the spring migrants that sticks around. Acadian Flycatchers require large stretches of dense-canopied and wet deciduous forests like those found in the floodplains and river lowlands of the Little Miami River corridor. Since the Acadian Flycatcher is one of the best indicator species of riparian quality, I'm always happy to hear its loud, explosive call when I'm on the trail! 

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.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Our field sketching class at the Biggest Week...

...was awesome! We had so much fun, and one of the participants, Pam DiFazio, photographed the workshop and sent me photos to share. Usually the class is outside since it's a field sketching class, but with a cold front moving through, 20-mile an hour winds and temps in the high 40s drove us indoors. We were at Pearson Metropark, so it was easy to find shelter in the Window on Wildlife (WOW) bird blind. What a perfect location! It was warm and toasty, but with all the windows, it was like being outside. For all the "non-artists" that walked in to the class, everyone walked out artists with the skills needed to observe nature and sketch what they see...

Looking through the "Window on Wildlife" at Pearson Metropark. The bird blind offered us a comfortable place to learn field sketching skills.

If you can draw a can draw a bird. We practice seeing geometric shapes in flowers and break away from what we think is there (symbols) and what we actually see.

...signing my field sketching book for Kim. 
(Thank you, Pam, for taking such wonderful photos! I love the unique angles you use, which add interest to all of your photos.)

John sketching birds using the "two circles and a triangle" method! :-)

Pam used time-lapse photography to record John drawing a cardinal.  COOL and fun!!

Thank you to all of the participants. I had fun, fun, fun, and it was amazing to see everyone drawing flowers and birds with ease by the end of the workshop. I have lots of memories tucked away from the class, including the "wiener bird," the "field sketching nomads," and "Aunt Mary Clare!"

I will be blogging about the Biggest Week over the next few weeks. The birds, the people, the events...everything about the Biggest Week is amazing!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Blackpoll Warbler at Magee Marsh...

I made it to Maumee Bay this afternoon, and it's lovely. Right now I'm sitting on the couch in my little cottage listening to warblers...warblers…and warblers, although, as each minute passes, the bird song diminishes. It's almost 9:00 p.m., and the birds are all starting to tuck themselves in for the night. A cool breeze is blowing through the cottage thanks to a cold front that moved through earlier, and tomorrow is going to be a wonderful day. This evening I stopped in the lodge and met up with a lot of my birdy friends…and made a few new friends. BIRDY people are the best! I also won a "Squirrel Buster" bird feeder! Me…won!  All courtesy of The Biggest Week in American Birding!

A Blackpoll Warbler looks for insects along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh. 
Warblermania and Spring Migration
When you visit the boardwalk at Magee Marsh (near Toledo, OH) in May, you get up close and personal with the amazing phenomena of spring migration. The trees along the boardwalk literally drip with neotropical migrants as they rest and fuel up for the last leg of their journey across Lake Erie to their nesting grounds up north.

In addition to seeing all the amazing birds--often at eye level--you get to meet other enthusiasts who love birds as much as you do. The atmosphere along the boardwalk is that of a festival where birders of all levels help each other spot and identify these amazing birds. If you're a beginner, don't worry, there are lots of experienced birders there happy to help you learn about the birds.

He with the yellow feet and legs!
Blackpoll Warblers resemble Black and White Warblers, but when you look closely, you can see their markings are different. One difference is they have a black cap like a chickadee, while a Black and White Warbler has a stripe, but the easiest way to tell them apart is look at their legs and feet. A Blackpoll Warbler's extremities are noticeably yellow!

I will be blogging about the Biggest Week over the next few weeks. The birds, the people, the events...everything about the Biggest Week is amazing!

I'm looking forward to teaching the field sketching class tomorrow. It starts bright and early. I'll let you know how it goes! 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

All packed up and ready to go...

I leave tomorrow morning for Toledo and the Great Black Swamp! On Tuesday morning, I'm teaching a class on field sketching for beginners. This will be the third time I've taught this class, and it will be fun. This class is part of the "Biggest Week in American Birding" sponsored by the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, and if you love birds (especially warblers), it's the place to be in May...

The workbook I wrote for the class and other field sketching supplies are ready to be packed up. 
Why do migrating warblers love the Great Black Swamp and Magee Marsh? 
...because they are exhausted from their long flights from their wintering grounds in South America, and they need to rest up before crossing Lake Erie on the final leg of their journey northward to their summer breeding grounds. The trees literally drip with warblers, and they are often at eye level instead of high in the treetop canopies.  Click here for a must-read article titled "Magee; Anatomy of a Migrant Hotspot," by Kenn Kaufman. It's on the American Birding Association blog, and it explains everything going on at this birding hotspot.

A female Canada Warbler is giving some unsuspecting insect the eye.
Female Canada Warbler
The large, bight eye ring stands out so well on Canada Warblers and adds to their charm. 
...the yellow lines above the nose on a Canada Warbler create a nice pattern., to get busy packing! to pack the car!
Click here for another article you might want to read called "I've got Swamp Fever," by Kim Smith who writes the blog, Nature is my Therapy. She explains a little more about the Great Black Swamp in her post.

I will be blogging about the Biggest Week over the next few weeks. The birds, the people, the events...everything about the Biggest Week is amazing!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Can you say...anticipation?

Getting ready for the Biggest Week in American Birding!
In only a few days I'll head up to Toledo for the Biggest Week in American Birding where slews of migrating warblers will be flitting, darting, singing, foraging, perching, and dripping from the branches along the Magee Marsh boardwalk...

American Redstart at Magee Marsh 

American Redstart from behind!

...fiery orange among the branches.
American Redstarts stand out because of the strong contrast of black and orange in their feathers.

An American Redstart almost matches the orange fungi growing on the branch. 

I will be blogging about the Biggest Week over the next few weeks. The birds, the people, the events...everything about the Biggest Week is amazing!