Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Eleven reasons to keep our local farms!

Song Sparrow

Having an old farm right across the street was a major plus when we moved into our new neighborhood two years ago. My daily dog walks past the corn and hay fields in the morning yielded Blue Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, Orchard Orioles, American Pipits, Eastern Meadowlarks, flocks of Canada Geese, Killdeer, American Kestrels, Northern Harriers and other hawks hunting the fields. It was with great sorrow that we soon learned that the farm property has been sold and approved for light industrial development. A year and a half went by without anything happening, so we hoped that plans had been scrapped due to the poor economy. Alas, last winter bulldozers came and tore the farm house and the old barn down. However, nothing more has happened since. New crops were not sown last spring and the fields were left fallow all summer.

Ironically, the property is now in a more bird-friendly state than ever! Last Saturday I therefore decided to check it out, since the current owner probably doesn't care. The fields were overgrown with waist-deep weeds and grasses and hopping with sparrows! I zig-zagged across every field flushing birds in all directions and walked along all the hedgerows between the fields and along the forest edges. Best birds found were 1-2 Vesper Sparrow, 3 White-crowned Sparrow, 16 Savannah Sparrow, 2 Palm Warblers, and a beautiful Blue-headed Vireo.

Blue-headed Vireo

Eastern (yellow) Palm Warbler

 Immature White-crowned Sparrow

American Kestrel

The sparrows and grasshoppers had also attracted the attention of several Kestrels and a Merlin. Being a warm sunny day with a NW breeze also meant a strong hawk flight overhead, with numerous vultures, Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, Cooper's, and Sharp-shinned Hawks, a late Osprey and a Northern Harrier streaming south.

Turkey Vulture

Black Vulture

Adult Red-tailed Hawk

Adult Red-shouldered Hawk

Adult Cooper's Hawk

Immature Sharp-shinned Hawk

I will keep birding the area for all it's worth for as long as I can until they start digging and the inevitable fences and No Trespassing signs come up....... Sad!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cromwell Valley Park Saturday 10/16/10

I spent this gorgeous morning at Cromwell Valley Park, located just north of Towson in Baltimore County. The season has certainly changed since my last visit to the park. The trees had turning yellow, and the weedy fields were crawling with sparrows of all sorts, mostly Song and Swamp Sparrows but also Field, Chipping and a lone LINCOLN'S SPARROW. The hedgerows along the fields were plentiful of more sparrows such as White-throated Sparrows and Eastern Towhees, Palm Warblers (both eastern and western forms), hoards of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Common Yellowthroats, Eastern Phoebes, a lingering Black-throated Green Warbler, House Wrens and at least four WINTER WRENS. Above, hawk migration was going strong with lots of Turkey and Black Vultures, Red-tailed, Red-shouldered and Sharp-shinned Hawks heading south.

The bird of the day was without a doubt this brilliant adult male NASHVILLE WARBLER hanging out in a flock of Palm Warblers. After patiently stalking them for about an hour he finally allowed for some close-up views and shots:o)

Young female Common Yellowthroat:
Eastern Phoebe:
 Fly-by Great Blue Heron:
 Eastern (yellow) Palm Warbler:
 Ruby-crowned Kinglet:
 Swamp Sparrow:
 Winter Wren (now considered a separate species from both the European Wren and Pacific Wren):

Good birding All!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Warbler migration still going strong

While working from home today I could not help but pay some visits to the backyard and check for migrants along the forest edge. The cool fall weather and NW winds brought quite a few birds into our neighborhood and by the end of the day I had tallied 5 warbler species (12 Yellow-rumped, 4 Palm, 3 Magnolia, 2 Black-throated Green, and 1 Blackpoll Warbler), Red-eyed Vireo, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Red-breasted Nuthatch, several Blue Jays, 2 Downy Woodpeckers and a Northern Flicker.

First-year female Black-throated Green Warbler:
 Male Downy Woodpecker:
 First-year female Blackpoll Warbler:
 Eastern (yellow) Palm Warbler:
 First-year Male Magnolia Warbler:
 Red-eyed Vireo:
 Ruby-crowned Kinglet:
 One of a dozen Yellow-rumped Warblers (first-year male):
The arrival of the hoards of Yellow-rumped Warblers typically signals the end of warbler migration. They will be highly missed until their return in spring!