Sunday, July 29, 2012

Book Note: The Young Birder's Guide to Birds of North America

Birder and writer Bill Thompson III has produced a new paperback edition of The Young Birder's Guide to Birds of North America. This book builds on his 2008 book, The Young Birder's Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, which I reviewed at the time. These guides are aimed to engage young birders and help them learn the most common bird species before using a standard guide that might overwhelm them with information. The species accounts are less condensed than a standard field guide and focus on how to find and identify each species, along with unusual facts about their natural history. The new edition follows the same format as the 2008 edition, but it adds 100 western species to broaden the book's appeal.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mothing for National Moth Week

On Wednesday I put out my black light in the backyard for a few hours to attract moths for National Moth Week. I am still in the process of identifying them, which is still a slow process even with the new Peterson guide. In the meantime, here are a few of the macromoths. The one above is one of two Yellow-striped Armyworms (Spodoptera ornithogalli) that came to the light. Instead of landing on the sheet, this one perched on a lattice fence nearby.

This is a Large Wainscot (Rhizedra lutosa), a member of the family Noctuidae. Large Wainscots were introduced to North America (first recorded in 1988) and feed on Phragmites australis.

This is another noctuid called The White-Speck or Armyworm (Mythimna unipuncta).

I believe this is a Linda Wainscot (Leucania linda), which is closely related to the previous species.

This is a Green Cloverworm Moth (Hypena scabra), an extremely common moth here.

This is a Black Fungus Moth (Metalectra tantillus).

This Celery Looper (Anagrapha falcifera) was reluctant to settle down on the sheet and kept fluttering and disturbing the other moths.

Finally, here is a Common Pug (Eupithecia miserulata). The Eupithecia moths all look very similar so that it can be hard to tell one from another, but the genus's shape is very distinctive.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Loose Feathers #353

White-crowned Sparrow / Photo by Roy Lowe (USFWS)
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Monday, July 23, 2012

National Moth Week Starting Today

This week, July 23-29, is the first ever National Moth Week in North America. Moths are widespread and diverse insects, capable of adapting to many niches and with significant ecological and economic effects. They range in size from micromoths barely bigger than a pin head to giant silkworm moths whose wingspans may measure several inches across. Most are patterned with shades of brown and gray, but some are brightly colored, and even moths with camouflaged forewings may conceal dazzling hindwings underneath. Since moths can be found anywhere and studied without a lot of special equipment, it makes them a natural subject for a citizen science project. Indeed, a National Moth Night has taken place in the United Kingdom for several years.

Anyone can participate in National Moth Week by attending a scheduled public event or by looking for moths themselves. There are currently events scheduled in 20 countries and 49 U.S. states; check the map at the link to find events near you. To study moths on your own, register your location and then leave a light on outdoors at night. Ideally, this would be a bulb that shines into the UV spectrum, like a mercury vapor lamp or blacklight, but even regular bulbs will attract some moths. The light should be near a landing zone, like a wall or a light-colored sheet. Check periodically to record what moths have come to the light and photograph any interesting ones for identification. Here are some suggestions for submitting data. Three websites have set up data collection projects for National Moth Week.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Loose Feathers #352

Common Yellowthroat feeding Brown-headed Cowbirds / Photo by Bill Thompson (USFWS)
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Friday, July 13, 2012

Loose Feathers #351

Piping Plover on the Fly / Photo by Steven Tucker (USFWS)
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Sunday, July 08, 2012

Birding Hawk Rise Sanctuary

Hawk Rise Sanctuary in Linden, New Jersey, was opened just this past May. It incorporates the land around the former Linden Landfill, which is being remediated into wildlife habitat. The 95-acre site includes grassland habitat on the landill proper, a salt marsh on the north side of the Rahway River, and a small patch of deciduous woods. There are currently 1.5 miles of trails, with more trails planned.

I was there yesterday to check it out. In a little over an hour, I observed 40 bird species, which I think it pretty good for a refuge of this size on a blisteringly hot day. (I made sure to finish up before the worst of the day's heat arrived.) The birds were mostly characteristic wetland species: Red-winged Blackbird, Spotted Sandpiper, Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat, and so on. The most unusual sightings were a half-dozen Purple Martins flying over the landfill and a single Boat-tailed Grackle that flew across the creek that meanders through the sanctuary. The grassland on the landfill looks large enough to attract grassland specialists (both now and in winter), but for now at least it is closed to the public except for a short trail between the landfill and salt marsh. An early-morning walk there in May could produce some interesting sightings.

Restoration of wildlife habitat in the sanctuary is still in progress. Preparation for the opening in May included planting native understory shrubs in the forested parts of the sanctuary. Many of these are still tagged with pink ribbons and occasionally temporary labels. I noticed rhododendrons, viburnums (pictured right), highbush blueberry, various ferns, and mayapples, among other things. Some of the plants looked stressed, probably due in part to the ridiculous heat waves we have experienced in late June and early July this year.

One habitat problem the sanctuary is still dealing with is invasive species. Phragmites seems to be the dominant wetland plant, at least from what I could tell. Other invasive species I saw included Japanese Knotweed (one of the world's 100 worst invasive species), Purple Loosestrife (another from that list), and Canada Thistle. Fortunately none of them are there in huge numbers. For more on the Hawk Rise Sanctuary, see New Jersey Audubon, the NY-NJ Trail Conference, and Gone Hikin' blog.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Loose Feathers #350

Brown Pelican / Photo by Roy W. Lowe (USFWS)
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