Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Summer" Bird Movements

We have recently had an interesting discussion of summer bird movements on our local birding list. People have noticed a number of birds showing up in their yards and birding patches. I thought this may have some interest to eBirders since eBird, and the eBird Site Survey in particular, provide a great way to gain insight into summer bird movements. Movements and discussion is focused on Tompkins County, New York, but are broadly applicable. Enjoy.

Many species move in significant numbers at this time of year -- far more than the modest level of birding activity suggests. While shorebirds are well known for July movements, many landbirds are also moving. By late July, many of these birds are southbound migrants (Least Flycatcher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow Warbler) and others are likely birds moving shorter distances to molt or gain mass prior to migration. Surprisingly little is known about these late summer movements. For me, they have become one of the most interesting aspects of bird distribution.

I've mentioned on cayugabirds and Chip Notes that I have been taking part in the eBird Site Survey where I try to do the same counts as often as I can. This means that I watch from my yard most mornings for thirty minutes and have spent most evenings on the deck. I also do a couple loops through Monkey Run at least once a week.

Here are some of the more interesting birds that Jessie and I have found at Monkey Run doing our eBird site surveys in the last couple of weeks. The list below includes species that we had not seen since the first week of June (along with the first date this "fall" that we detected them). This list does include a couple species that we had seen in another part of Monkey Run, but which we are sure these are "new" individuals (adults only).

Hooded Merganser (13 July)
Black-billed Cuckoo (14 July)
Solitary Sandpiper (15 July)
Chimney Swift (19 July)
Least Flycatcher (18 July)
Eastern Kingbird (18 July)
Blue-headed Vireo (18 July)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (27 July)
Yellow Warbler (15 July -- date first obvious new individual arrived)
Myrtle Warbler (24 July)
Louisiana Waterthrush (15 July)
Black-throated Green Warbler (27 July)
Blackburnian Warbler (28 July)
Canada Warbler (24 July)
Eastern Towhee (28 July)
Savannah Sparrow (27 July) -- probably detection issue at an area I don't check too often
Indigo Bunting (27 July)
Bobolink (15 July)

I also must mention the numbers of House Finches that have been flying over each morning since about five days ago--yesterday I had a flock of nine, but each morning there have been singles, and small flocks. Before that, we hadn't seen or heard one in the yard since early June.

The intent here is not to point out how great Monkey Run is, but to showcase how many interesting things we can find, literally in our own backyards by looking closely and taking note. There are some great natural areas that receive very little attention throughout the Americas. I'm certain that many of these would turn up equally interesting patterns (and rarities) with a similar level of effort.

It's amazing to think what we could learn if all every birder would pick a different spot and try to walk through there once a week (or more if you want). Then enter it in eBird, where everyone has access to the data and where there are a variety of tools to facilitate our ability to see these patterns, look at arrival dates and high counts--even at a very local level.

Find out more about the eBird Site Survey here:
http://ebird.org/content/ebird/about/eBird_Site_Survey

Chris Wood

eBird & Neotropical Birds Project Leader
Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York
http://ebird.org
http://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu

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