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October’s Autumn Sparrows (and other birds).

November 5, 2016

September is often seen as autumn migration month, and it is, at least for neotropical insect-eating birds such as Warblers.  But autumn migration continues throughout the season, and October is Sparrow migration month.

Sparrows are with us year-round, of course.  But some species migrate, and October is the best month to look for them in Ohio.

Last month I was out looking for sparrows, and I spotted a few- here they are.

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Song Sparrow

One of the most common sparrows in Ohio year-round.  I always enjoy seeing them, or hearing them call at me when I walk by.

They are at home most anywhere outside of forests.

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Field Sparrow

A common ‘country’ bird in warm weather who nest in meadows and fields.

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White-Throated Sparrow

The classic Ohio sparrow migrant, seen in good numbers.  You can hear them singing their high thin whistle-song, ‘Pure Sweet Canada Canada Canada’.

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White-Crowned Sparrow

This migrant often associates with White-Throats.  The first image is of an immature, the second of an adult.

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Swamp Sparrow

Seen in large numbers in wet swampy areas during the migration season.

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Nelson’s Sparrow

An irregular rare Ohio migrant, seen in swampy areas.  The yellowish bib and face are fairly diagnostic.

I was happy to get a good picture of this species!

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American Tree Sparrow

Normally seen in November, I saw this early winter resident at the end of last month.

Wintering over in Ohio sounds sort of crazy, but compared to northern Canada it makes sense weather-wise!

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Dark-Eyed Junco

Another sparrow that breeds in Canada and winters over in Ohio.

Pleasant birds that make a chipping sound, this one will be followed by many more soon.

In addition to sparrows, one can still see late Warblers in October, such as Yellow-Rumped Warblers and Palm Warblers.  In addition, there are other birds commonly seen this month, such as the following-

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Yellow-Rumped Warbler

A late migrant who sometimes winters over if the poison ivy berry crop is big.

They are one of the only Warblers who can eat something beside insects.

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Red-Winged Blackbirds

This species is very numerous out in the country, and in the autumn and winter gathers in large flocks.

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Eastern Bluebird

These birds are often seen in small groups, probably families.  They eat berries when the insects are gone.

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American Goldfinch

These year-round birds are flocking in their dull winter feather costumes now.

They nest late in the summer because of their fondness for making nests out of Thistle.

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Cedar Waxwing

These birds love to eat berries.  You can hear their soft whistles near berry bushes and berry trees in the autumn.

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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

These tiny restless birds migrate through Ohio.  You can call them in close to you by ‘pishing’ (I’ll have to do a post on that one day).

Golden-Crowned Kinglets can also be seen, but I didn’t get a good picture of one last month.

That about covers October’s birding action.  Believe it or not, autumn migration continues on into November with waterfowl- if I get enough decent pictures, I’ll do a post about that🙂

September’s Autumn Warblers.

October 1, 2016

Warblers

September is autumn migration month for Wood Warblers.  Those brightly-colored insect-eaters of the forests are heading back to Central and South America to escape the cold season, to return to raise new families next spring.  Here are some photographs I took of these birds this past month.  Most are far less colorful than they were in the spring, when they were in their showiest feathers.  Many of these birds are immatures that were born here over the summer, making their first long migration south.

Compare these birds to last May’s Warbler crop.  They look quite different, don’t they?  Autumn is not the best season to start being a birder, things can be hard to figure out then🙂

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Yellow-Throated Warbler

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Wilson’s Warbler

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Black-Throated Green Warbler

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Bay-Breasted Warbler

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Common Yellowthroat (male)

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Common Yellowthroat (female)

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American Redstart (female)

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Black & White Warbler

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Northern Parula Warbler (immature)

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Northern Parula Warbler (adult)

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Magnolia Warbler

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Northern Waterthrush

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Palm Warbler

Autumn Wildflowers of August and September.

September 3, 2016

Late summer brings about another change in the wildflowers to be seen here in Ohio.  Early autumn is the last hurrah of plants before the cold season sets in.

August ushers in a variety of colorful plants.

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Various sunflowers (generally lumped under their genus name Helianthus) grace wood edges

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Coneflowers, such as this Green-Headed Coneflower, are also notable

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Wingstem is prominent along paths in woods and in shaded clearings

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Evening Primrose makes its seasonal appearance in waste spaces

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Great Lobelia can be seen in shaded areas

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Thistles stand out with their colorful flower heads surrounded by spines

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Ironweed, tall and purple, is a stand-out plant

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Lady’s Thumb, also known as Knotweed, is a prominent ‘weed’

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Ragweed- the source of many allergies

As the year advances into early autumn, September brings with it other bursts of color to add to the mix.

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Snakeroot can be found along paths in the woods and wood edges

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Thoroughwort looks somewhat like a white version of Ironweed

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Jerusalem Artichoke is a late sunflower, very tall and noticeable in prairie areas and brushy wood borders

 

Meanwhile, in the woods, some hidden wildflowers bloom- many understated, although not all are that way.

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Wood Nettle has barely-noticeable green blooms along its stems

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Jumpseed has curious small white blooms along its stems- other types of plants like this are Lopseed and Enchanter’s Nightshade

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Jewelweed, with its orange and yellow exotic blooms, bring the most color to woodlands this season

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Leafcup has very understated pale yellow blossoms nearly hidden by large ragged leaves

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Joepyeweed can be found both in the woods and near its edges, attracting many birds

Finally, September sees the massive presence of two widespread types of wildflowers that almost define autumn.

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Goldenrod is very abundant in fields- see more here

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Asters are also abundant- much more can be seen here

Early autumn’s wildflowers linger into October and then dwindle as winter’s shorter days and colder temperatures signal the end of another growing year.  We’ll be happy to see wildflowers return once more next spring.

A Once-Common Bird Returns From The Brink.

August 6, 2016

Northern Bobwhite

When I was growing up in a rural county here in Ohio, some mornings I would hear the loud whistling call from miles away- ‘bob-white!’  Walking in an abandoned farm field, I once flushed a covey of several birds who burst out of the tall grass at my feet.

This was a gamebird common in Ohio farmland back in the 70s.  But then a couple of very bad winters hit, virtually wiping out this bird.  Incidentally, it did the same thing to Carolina Wrens, who wintered over in moderate winters.

Four years ago, I was driving through the farming backroads of the county I grew up in, and heard one of these birds calling.  I don’t know if it was a wild bird or a pet gamebird.

I’m talking about the Northern Bobwhite, the most common quail in eastern North America.  Fortunately, there’s been efforts to reintroduce this species back into the state, similar to how Wild Turkeys- once nearly hunted to extinction in this area- are making a big comeback.

So when I heard that a couple of Bobwhites had been seen in Sharon Woods Metro Park in Columbus last month, I went looking for them.

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Sharon Woods has plenty of woods and fields with walking paths all over the park.  The birds had been seen and heard in a particular area along the connector trail.

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Several other birders were there to see them.  I spotted one of the birds on a grass path and called everyone over.

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Here is the bird, walking on the grass not very far away from us.

Northern Bobwhites are year-round residents in open habitats of southeastern North America. They live in agricultural fields, grasslands, open pine or pine-hardwood forests, and grass-brush rangelands as far north as Massachusetts and southern Ontario, and as far west as southeastern Wyoming and eastern New Mexico. They seem to avoid mature woodlands, inhabiting instead the early stages of regrowth after a fire, farming, logging, or other disturbance. They are most numerous in patchwork areas of fields, forests, and croplands; in coastal Texas rangelands; and in southern pine forests that are intensively managed for bobwhite hunting. During snowfalls in the northern part of their range, bobwhites depend on woody cover to prevent snow from reaching the ground and blocking their foraging habitat.

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Bobwhites eat mostly seeds and leaves, supplemented with varying amounts of insects during the breeding season. Chicks are fed mostly insects until they are 6–8 weeks old. Arthropods can make up 5 percent of the male’s diet and 20 percent of the female’s diet during the breeding season. Bobwhites forage as a group, scratching and pecking through leaf litter or foraging on low plants. When snow falls they seek out patches of bare ground under brushy areas. Their staple food of seeds comes from agricultural crops, weeds, forest plants, and rangeland vegetation. During fall and winter they eat many legume seeds, ragweed seeds, pine seeds, and acorns. In the spring they eat more leafy green parts of plants, and in the summer their diet includes grass seeds, some fruits, and arthropods—such as bugs, flies, bees, wasps, beetles, and spiders.

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Notice this bird’s crest half-raised.  It was fairly tame, which has led some birders to speculate if it was an escapee or a reintroduced bird.  No bird bands or other marks were noted, however.

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Suddenly, another Bobwhite called in the area.  Our bird looked quite agitated and flew up into a nearby tree to call back.

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Northern Bobwhites are highly social, usually found in groups, or coveys, of 3–20 individuals. They feed in early morning and late afternoon. At night, coveys usually roost on the ground (or occasionally in vegetation) in a close-packed, outward-facing circle with their tails pointing toward the center, probably to conserve heat and stay on the alert. They coexist peacefully for most of the year, but in the breeding season male bobwhites fight to attract mates. Both males and females perform courtship displays. Originally thought to be monogamous, they actually have several breeding strategies: males can raise broods with multiple females; and females can raise broods with multiple males (although males often abandon such broods). Bobwhites sometimes intermingle their eggs with those of Ring-necked Pheasants and free-range domestic chickens. Hawks, owls, raccoons, opossums, skunks, foxes, and snakes prey on adult bobwhites and their young. Adults flutter and drag their wings to distract predators from their chicks.

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…In economic terms, the Northern Bobwhite was one of the most important game birds in North America. Population declines from habitat loss now mean that in many places there are no longer enough to hunt. Bobwhite hunting can be sustainable if controlled properly, but currently management varies widely across the continent. The National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative is a consortium of state agencies, conservation organizations, and hunters working to improve the prospects of this species.

What a great thing to see this bird once again!  May their numbers increase once more!

Summer Wildflowers of June and July.

July 2, 2016

The summer season is here, and the wildflowers one sees out along the roads, in the fields, and in the woods show this.  By the end of May and the beginning of June, summer plants were taking over from the late spring blooms- one of the botanical inflection points of the year.

Here’s the prominent wildflowers one sees in June and July in Ohio.

 

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Chicory

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Queen Anne’s Lace (Wild Carrot)

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White Clover

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Red Clover

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Yellow Sweetclover

I usually see this starting to bloom 2 weeks before its sister plant…

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White Sweetclover

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Canada Thistle

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Wild Parsnip

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Crown Vetch

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Birds-Foot Trefoil

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Milkweed

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Common Teasel

Just saw this starting to bloom at the beginning of July

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Thistles

Also starting to bloom in early July

A few prairie flowers are blooming:

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Black-Eyed Susans

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Helianthus (Sunflowers)

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Purple Coneflower

And out in the woods:

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Orange Jewelweed

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White Avens

Also, you can still see a few plants that were going strong in the spring, like Oxeye Daisy, Yarrow and Fleabane.  The next important plant inflection point will happen in late July / Early August…that’s not as far away as you would think!