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Blog Birding #278

Warbler watching season is coming to a close, as the birds have mostly found their way to dense stands of boreal forest, or southeastern swamps, or western mountainsides, but Al Batt, excepted at Out There With the Birds, still suffers from warbler neck.

I assume the warbler-watching position—feet spread comfortably, binoculars tipped towards the tops of the trees as though I am looking for clouds shaped like birds. I scan a tree filled with varicolored warblers. It’s a morning of which a birder’s dreams are made. Some look on it as an odd activity, but watching birds isn’t odd. People watch golf and fishing on TV. That’s odd. Looking at birds isn’t enough. You have to stare at them. Each one is a definite flight risk.

The Galapagos Islands have been mercifully free of bird extinctions for centuries, but the final accounting of the San Cristobal Vermilion Flycatcher might be a harbinger of things to come, according to John Platt, writing at Extinction Countdown.

The news of this San Cristóbal vermilion flycatcher’s extinction isn’t exactly a shock. The birds, which only lived on the easternmost island of the Galapagos, haven’t been seen since 1987. Numerous searches since then have failed to turn up any evidence that they still exist.

And speaking of island birds, the wintering migrants of Puerto Rico have seen their numbers decline over the last several years, for reasons that aren’t exactly clear, writes Jason Crotty at Birdwatching Daily.

Populations of the most common migrants — American Redstart, Black-and-white Warbler, and Ovenbird — have dropped precipitously. Black-and-white Warbler, for example, has declined approximately 50 percent since 1989. Numbers for less numerous but previously regular species — Northern Parula and Worm-eating, Prairie, and Hooded Warblers — have also declined; in some years, none are caught.

The culprit for the above might be climate change, as it’s already having an impact on grassland birds, as summarized recently at the AOU-COS Publication Blog.

Extreme heat waves have been known to kill adult birds, and droughts can cause birds to abandon nests or skip breeding altogether. To learn what species might be at greatest risk, Jessica Gorzo of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her colleagues analyzed more than four decades of bird survey data from the Dakotas, Montana, and Wyoming, looking for patterns linking grassland bird abundance to temperature and precipitation.

There have been a good run of rarities in Newfoundland this month, and Alvan Buckley of Birding with Buckley has been on top on most of them, as he shares.

It is thanks to the eBird hotspot pages that I started visiting Quidi Vidi more regularly this Spring. I was keen to bump up the year list for what is one of the best known hotspots on the island – so have been seeking spring migrants passing by the lake. Consistent with previous years, there seems to be a surprising lack of diversity in warblers around the lake. But it has made up for that with a great list of rarities!

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
Nate Swick

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