Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Recent Farallon Finds

Magnolia Warbler, Southeast Farallon Island, CA
It's been busy as ever lately, with lots of new birds coming to the island.  Today is our first slow day in over a week, so allow me to fill you in on some of the goodies that have been turning up.

The migrant passerines continue to move through with Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Hermit, Magnolia, Blackpoll, Bay-breasted, Townsend's, Black-throated Gray, Yellow-throated, Black-and-white, Tennessee, Orange-crowned, MacGillivray's, and Wilson's Warblers, American Redstart (including one stunning adult male), Common Yellowthroat, Bobolink, Vesper Sparrow, Indigo Bunting, Dickcissel, Red Crossbill (there are very few records of this for the island, but this fall has been especially good since it is an irruption year for at least one type on the west coast), Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (less than 40 records for the island), Swainson's and Hermit Thrushes, Warbling Vireo, Baltimore Oriole, Western tanager, Lincoln's Sparrow, Pacific Wren, and Hammond's Flycatcher as some of the migrants we've seen since my last post.

We are banding dozens of Red-breasted Nuthatches as well, with more coming in each day.  When they come in off the ocean they land on the lighthouse, and begin to glean microscopic invertebrates off of the lichen that grows on it.  They allow very close approach, and one even let me feed it dead kelp flies (slapped from my arms), off of the tip of a pencil.

On the 17th Dan Maxwell and I were up on the lighthouse when we heard over the radio, "ducks flying by the terrace!"  We immediately got on the flock of six birds, and began calling things out.  I immediately said Blue-winged Teal, and over the radio Jim Tietz said, "I think we've got a mixed flock of teal."  Although at the time I thought they were all uniform in size, shape, and plumage, Jim was right, and thanks to some photos by Dan Maxwell (below), we confirmed that we had three Cinnamon Teal, and three Blue-winged Teal. Can you pick out which ones are which?  Here's a hint, look at bill size and shape, and face pattern.  I think you'll find that the wing pattern on these two species is nearly identical.  The Cinnamon Teal were the first for the island in more than 12 years, and the Blue-winged Teal represent the 11th (or 12th?) record for the island ever.
Mixed Teal Flock, Southeast Farallon Island, CA [Photo by Daniel Maxwell]
The Northern Gannet is still around.
One of the few Bobolinks we've had this year.

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