Tag Archives: eBird

Cackling Goose at Shenango Reservoir

This morning I finally ventured outside of Grove City to do a bit of exploring in Mercer County. I had a few spots in mind to visit, including Buhl Park and Shenango Reservoir. A short, cold stop at Buhl Park (eBird Checklist) yielded a number of Canada Geese and Mallards along with a lone Mute Swan and female Green-winged Teal.

Buhl Park in Hermitage, PA on January 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Buhl Park in Hermitage, PA on January 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

I then drove to Shenango Reservoir (eBird Checklist) to check for ducks and geese using open water. I arrived to find most of the reservoir to be frozen, but Mallards and Hooded Mergansers were taking advantage of the “small” opening in the water.

Hooded Mergansers at Shenango Reservoir, Mercer County, PA on January 5, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60x85 & Phone Skope Adapter.

Hooded Mergansers at Shenango Reservoir, Mercer County, PA on January 5, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter.

I drove along the reservoir with little success at finding any more open water. Just as I was about to leave, I noticed a decent-sized flock of geese off Rt. 846. I found an open parking lot and, fortunately, a trail leading to the edge of the reservoir with a clear line of sight to the flock. Most of the birds were sleeping, but would occasionally lift their heads. I counted 258 Canada Geese and managed to pick out one Cackling Goose (eBird Checklist). Although distant, I was able to get photos and video using my iPhone 6 Plus and Phone Skope Adapter.

Cackling Goose at Shenango Reservoir, Mercer County, PA on January 5, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60x85 & Phone Skope Adapter.

Cackling Goose at Shenango Reservoir, Mercer County, PA on January 5, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter.

Say goodbye to BirdLog and hello to eBird Mobile!

From BirdsEye Nature Apps:

BirdLog for Android retires on Monday, December 14

BirdLog for Android was recently replaced by eBird Mobile. In advance of this release, we reached out to BirdLog users to inform everyone that support will soon end for BirdLog, and we are writing with a final reminder. That time is nearing; BirdLog for Android will no longer be supported after Monday, December 14. Please download eBird Mobile in order to continue submitting your checklists from the field.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Submit all of your pending checklists from BirdLog. After December 14th you may not be able to submit them!
  2. Download eBird Mobile. It is FREE and the single app works globally.
  3. Log in and make sure it is working on your phone.
  4. Remove BirdLog from your phone so you don’t accidentally use it.

Read my thoughts on eBird Mobile for Android here.

Review: eBird Mobile for Android

eBird Mobile for Android was released about a week ago. I have a Samsung Galaxy S4 on hand, so I downloaded it for a test run. First impression – looks superficially similar to the iOS app and gets the job done by allowing Android users to submit observations from the field, but is different in a few ways. The process for submitting a checklist is similar to that of BirdLog, but seems a bit more clunky than the iOS app, which is smooth and streamlined.

The app follows this workflow (be sure to click on the photos in the gallery for a blown up screenshot of each step):

  1. Start a checklist – easy and simple.
  2. Choose a location – choose from a recent location, location from a map, create a offline checklist, choose a new personal location, choose a nearby hotspot, search hotspots by place, or choose a nearby personal location.
    1. A cool feature of this app, which is faster than it is in the iOS app, is that you can easily switch between list and map view when choosing a nearby hotspot.
  3. Choose date and time of checklist – this is a bit more clunky than it is in the iOS app, but is easy enough.
  4. Tallying species is as easy as tapping the area left of the species name. Doing so will give a “one” count for each tap and increase with additional taps. When actually tapping on a species to add details or high numbers, I was a bit turned off. There is a line for number observed, a box for choose “X” (which no one should do ever), and a comments section. I’m not sure why, but this feature in the iOS app seems much simpler and more appealing to the eye. This could be due to differences in iOS and Android systems. Additionally, there are tabs for all species ever recorded and also a “checked” species tab.
  5. Review and submit – the normal info, including are you submitting a complete checklist, observation type, number of observers, duration, distance, and checklist comments. The only thing missing here is the list of “checked” species, which is on the same page in the iOS app. Also, there is no tab/button on the screen to go back to the list of species. You have to use the phone’s “back” function.
  6. Submit!

Overall, I am very happy with this app from Team eBird. I look forward to future updates that make the app less clunky and hopefully more similar to the iOS app.

eBird Mobile for Android!

eBird Mobile (an app very similar to BirdLog and is taking the place of BirdLog) is now available for Android users in the Google Play store! Read more about the app over at eBird News.

eBird Mobile for Android - eBird - EN_Home_framed-270x482

Rail Status and Distribution in the lower Colorado River Valley

Note: I wrote this post back in 2013 or 2014, but never published it. I updated the eBird range maps and added song and call recordings from xeno-canto for each species. If you have any info to add, please do so in the comments. Thanks!

When birding a new place, it is helpful to have an idea on the status and distribution of various birds in the area. In this post, I’m going to discuss the distribution and identification of Ridgway’s, Virginia, and Black Rails in the lower Colorado River Valley (LCRV).

Ridgway’s Rail

ID: The largest of the three rails. Overall color is dull or grayish brown, but adults will have an orange-rufous neck and breast and have bold barring on flanks (Rush et al. 2012). The bill is long, and dusky-orange in color. Juveniles have a light gray-colored breast, no barring on the flanks, and the bill is dull gray, while the face is orange (Sibley 2003).

Habitat: Ridgway’s Rails prefer dense marsh vegetation, but will also occur in moderately dense cattail and bulrush marshes. (Rosenberg et al. 1991). Some water depth is necessary year round in order to provide optimal breeding and wintering habitat as well as residual mats of marsh vegetation (Eddleman 1989).

Territory Size: 0.12–3.59 ha – approximately 100 m x 100 m to 200 m x 200 m (Bennett and Ohmart 1978)

Status and Distribution: Ridgway’s Rails are uncommon to fairly common summer residents and breeders along the lower Colorado River (LCR) from the southern part of the valley north to Topock Marsh in Havasu NWR (Rosenberg et al. 1991). Out of the three rail species discussed here, the Ridgway’s Rail is reported on more eBird checklists than Black Rail, but less than Virginia Rail (See Figure 1. Below).

Calls and Function:

      • Kek-kek-kek-kek – primary male advertising call (Scott et al. 2012)
      • Clapper or Clatter – primary call given by paired birds during breeding season (Scott et al. 2012)

Clapper Rail - eBird - Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 11.49.12 PM

Virginia Rail

ID: Larger than Black Rail, but smaller than Ridgway’s Rail. Adults look similar to adult Ridgway’s Rails, but have a gray face rather than an all orange face. The bill of the adult is longer and thinner than Ridgway’s Rail and the breast and neck is a rich reddish color. The juvenile is extremely dark compared to juvenile Ridgway’s Rails, with dark blotches on the chest instead of a light gray-orange color (Sibley 2003). Virginia Rails apparently have more red on the bill than Ridgway’s Rails (Conway 1995).

Habitat: Freshwater wetlands with shallow water, emergent cover, and moist soil (Conway 1995).

Territory Size: No good estimate

Status and Distribution: Virginia Rail is a fairly common and local spring and summer breeder in the LCRV (Rosenberg et al. 1991). From March through June in Arizona and California, Virginia Rails are reported on a higher percentage of eBird checklists than both Clapper and Black Rails.

Calls and Function:

      • Kiddick call – primarily given by males and given during a brief time in spring (Conway 1995)
      • Duetting grunt – given by pairs and is most frequent (Conway 1995)
      • K-K-K-Keerr – probably a primary breeding call giving infrequently in early spring and may be similar to Kek-burr call given by Ridgway’s Rail females (Conway 1995)
      • Juvenile birds give one-parted squeaks


Virginia Rail - eBird - Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 11.49.41 PM

Black Rail

ID: A tiny rail, the smallest of the three discussed here. All-dark bird with white speckling on the back and a rufous nape. Also note the short, pointed tail, small, black bill, and red eye (Sibley 2003). NOTE – You will probably never see this bird.

Habitat: Freshwater marshes, wet meadows, and flooded grassy vegetation. Generally breeds in areas with shallower water than Ridgway’s and Virginia Rails. For Arizona, Black Rails prefer a water depth of < 3 cm (Eddleman et al. 1994).

Territory Size: 0.4 ha – approximately 20 m x 20 m (Rosenberg 1991)

Status and Distribution: Probably the species of rail you are least likely to detect throughout the LCRV as the population was estimated to be 100-200 individuals (Repking and Ohmart 1977).

Calls and Function:

      • Primary Vocalization: ki-ki-kerrr given during breeding season; presumably by male (Eddleman 1994)
      • Agitated Vocalization: growling call grr-grr-grr, repetitive brrr, or churr, churr, churr (Eddleman 1994)
      • Nest Vocalization: females give a scolding call of a rapid series of soft, high-pitched, nasal ink-ink-ink-ink or nk-nk-nk-nk; males give a kik-kik-kik-kik or kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk in a similar manner (Eddleman 1994).


Black Rail - eBird - Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 11.50.04 PM

Frequency

According to all-time eBird records for Arizona and California, Virginia Rails are reported on a higher percentage of checklists than Ridgway’s and Black Rails. Ridgway’s Rails are reported more frequently than Black Rails, which is probably due to small population size.

Figure 1. Frequency of eBird Checklists Ridgway's, Virginia, and Black Rails are reported on in California and Arizona from the beginning of March through June.

Figure 1. Frequency of eBird Checklists Ridgway’s, Virginia, and Black Rails are reported on in California and Arizona. Image provided by eBird (www.ebird.org) and created 2 December 2015.

Literature Cited

Bennett, W. W. and R. D. Ohmart. 1978. Habitat requirements and population characteristics of the Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris yumanensis) in the Imperial Valley of California. Univ. of California, Lawrence Livermore Lab. Livermore, CA.

Conway, Courtney J. 1995. Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.bnaproxy.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/173 doi:10.2173/bna.173

Eddleman, W.R. 1989. Biology of the Yuma Clapper Rail in the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico. Final Report, Interagency Agreement No. 4-AA-30-02060. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Yuma Projects Office, Yuma, Ariz., 189 pp.

Eddleman, W. R., R. E. Flores and M. Legare. 1994. Black Rail (Laterallus jamaicensis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.bnaproxy.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/123doi:10.2173/bna.123

Repking, C.F., and R.D. Ohmart. 1977. Distribution and density of black rail populations along the lower Colorado River. Condor 79:486-489.

Rosenberg, K. V., Ohmart, R. D., Hunter, W. C., and Anderson, B. W. 1991. Birds of the Lower Colorado River Valley. Univ. Ariz. Press, Tucson.

Rush, Scott A., Karen F. Gaines, William R. Eddleman and Courtney J. Conway. 2012. Clapper Rail (Rallus longirostris), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.bnaproxy.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/340

Sibley, David A. 2003. The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America. New York: Knopf. Print.

DOS Local Patch Birding Series – Newark Reservoir Trip Summary – December 5, 2015

Birders searching for avian life at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Birders searching for avian life at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

This morning, I was joined by nine birders for the DOS Local Patch Birding Series trip to the Newark Reservoir. The Newark Reservoir is located in the heart of Newark, Delaware and is surrounded by fragmented forest and urbanization. To this day, 154 species have been recorded at this eBird hotspot.

Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware - December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

The walk started off with Song and White-throated Sparrows sounding off, American Pipits flying over, and a Red-winged Blackbird singing as if it were on territory. As we walked the path around the side of the reservoir, we spotted a beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk perched, in which all participants got excellent scope views.

Red-shouldered Hawk at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Red-shouldered Hawk at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

We reached the top of the path and of course the Red-shouldered Hawk flew off, but we did catch up with it in-flight later in the walk. We were surprised and mildly bummed to only find nine Ring-billed Gulls and a lone Canada Goose on the water. Recently, there have been several hundred Canada Geese and a variety of other waterbirds, but waterbird diversity was not present today.

Ring-billed Gulls at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Ring-billed Gulls at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Additional Ring-billed Gulls joined the crowd as we walked around the loop and seemed to pick up on a food source that was not apparent to us. The gulls eventually landed, allowing us to really study their plumage.

Ring-billed Gulls at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Ring-billed Gulls at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

We were discussing ages of Ring-billed Gulls when Alan yelled, “Snow Bunting on the path!” I couldn’t believe it, a rarity for New Castle County and the first record for the reservoir! The bunting was a lifer for a few folks in the group, which made it an even more savory experience. Plus, the bird was extremely cooperative allowing for great scope views and photo and video opportunities.

Snow Bunting at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60x85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Snow Bunting at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Digiscoped with a iPhone 6 Plus + Vortex Optics Razor HD 20-60×85 & Phone Skope Adapter. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Birders admiring the Snow Bunting at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Birders admiring the Snow Bunting at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Warning: This video contains three minutes of pure Snow Bunting cuteness. Soak it in.

After watching the Snow Bunting for ten minutes or so, we moved on to watch Northern Flickers and Red-bellied Woodpeckers fly from tree to tree and a few Canada Geese drop in for a visit.

Canada Geese at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Canada Geese at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

We also stumbled upon several flocks of Dark-eyed Juncos with a few White-throated, Chipping, and Song Sparrows mixed in. Eastern Bluebirds even made and appearance!

Birders checking out the Dark-eyed Junco flocks at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Birders checking out the Dark-eyed Junco flocks at the Newark Reservoir, Newark, Delaware on December 5, 2015. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

To round out the walk, I was telling a story about a Marsh Wren I found at the reservoir a few weeks ago and a Marsh Wren started scolding in the same exact spot! What are the chances of a wren stopping over in the same, small patch of cattails for over three weeks. Birds are awesome!

In the end, we spent two hours birding in calm, sunny conditions at the Newark Reservoir tallying at least 38 species (eBird Checklist). You never know what you will find if you visit a local patch over and over again. The Newark Reservoir is still my favorite birding spot in the state of Delaware. Check out the DOS Field Trip Schedule for upcoming trips to local and regional birding hotspots.

December eBirder of the Month Challenge

A recent update to the eBird checklist submission process allows users to upload photos and audio recordings directly to the checklist without having to link to Flickr photos or xeno-canto/SoundCloud recordings. Sweet! Anyway, the December eBirder of the Month Challenge requires eBirders to “submit at least 15 complete no-X checklists containing rich media in December” to be enetered. Read more about the challenge here.

Here is one of my most recent illustrated eBird checklists featuring photos and video of gulls and other birds.