Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hurricane devastation in the Caribbean from Hurricanes Irma and Maria

Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Jose, Sep 19, 2017
I figured I would do an update on the recent hurricanes that have devastated a number of islands in the Caribbean and what impact these storms had on the various warbler species that call these islands home.  As I mentioned in a previous post Barbuda was absolutely destroyed by a direct hit from the powerful Category 5 Hurricane Irma.  Satellite images show the complete denuding of all vegetation on the island with the previous tropical green color replaced by a dingy brown.  The entire islands human population was evacuated immediately after the storm as the damage was that extensive (the first time in over 300 years that no humans were on the island).  Before the storm the endemic Barbuda Warbler population was thought to number between 1500-2000 (about the same as the human population on the island).  A brief return by a few researchers to the island found no warblers at all.  The hope is that some were able to ride out the storm but the road ahead for them will be difficult with no vegetation left to provide cover and the all important insects the birds depend on.  Certainly there is hope but it is not good news for this endemic.  Thankfully the island just avoided more major hits when Jose veered off to the north a bit and Maria stayed south.  This is one warbler species I have never seen and one I had plans to catch up with in the next couple years...hopefully I will still get a chance.
Elfin Woods Warbler, Bosque Estatal de Maricao, Puerto Rico, Dec 3, 2016
Adelaide's Warbler, Ceiba-Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
Hurricane Maria developed quickly and reached Category 5 status before landing a direct hit on the small, mountainous island of Dominica, home to the Plumbeous Warbler (found also on the nearby island of Guadelope).  The damage on the island sounds like it is just as extensive as in Barbuda.  Hopefully the mountainous terrain protected a few pockets of birds.  I have plans to be down there in a few months and I hope the birds, the people and the island recover enough to allow the trip to go forward.  After hitting Dominica the storm continued northwest and struck Puerto Rico directly on the southeast coast and traveled across the island bringing strong winds and heavy rain island wide.  There are two endemic warbler species on the island, Adelaide's Warbler and Elfin Wood Warbler.  The Elfin Woods Warbler is the rarer of the two and is considered endangered.  I'm sure the population took a hit but hopefully a decent number pulled through.  I was down in Puerto Rico last year and managed to find both warblers and I hope to make a return visit there someday to see them once again.  Post from my visit there: Puerto Rico Dec 2016
Hurricane Maria should continue off to the northwest and then north hitting the Turks and Caicos and southern Bahamas which may impact a number of migrant warblers including the endangered Kirtland's Warbler that winters in the area.

The hurricane season is not yet over and there is certainly a chance of additional storms to impact the area but hopefully the worst is behind them.  The birds here have evolved with the existence of hurricanes but the difference is that habitat destruction and reduction due to human development and a variety of other human involved issues have moved ever smaller populations into smaller areas making the birds less able to recover from the storms.  In addition the storms have continued to become stronger and more frequent as the climate continues to change due to global warming.

What can you do to assist?...you can always make a donation to Birds Caribbean to assist those that will be on the front line assisting the birds that made it though.  Link here:  Birdscaribbean-Hurricane-Relief

Friday, September 15, 2017

Fall totals as of mid September


Cape May Warbler, Amherst, MA, Sep 11, 2017
Bay breasted Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 12, 2017
Blackpoll Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 15, 2017
Magnolia Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 15, 2017
Ovenbirds having a squabble, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 15, 2017
Ovenbirds having a squabble, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 15, 2017
Nashville Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 13, 2017
Prairie Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 12, 2017
Pine Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 12, 2017
With the arrival mid September warbler migration has reached its peak and so far this month I have found 26 species and a total of 27 for the fall migration season so far (I consider the start of fall migration season to be mid August).  The only species I saw after mid August that I didn't see in September was Louisiana Waterthrush (an early migrant that barely hangs around through mid August).  The warbler diversity will continue to drop off over the second half of September but there is always the chance of a rarity popping up most anytime through the end of the year.  The great year for spruce nesting species continues with loads of Tennessee, Bay breasted, Cape May and (to a lesser extent so far) Blackpoll Warblers.  It is easily one of my best falls ever for some of these species and I will post later about it in greater detail.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Connecticut Warbler today among 22 species of warblers the last two days


Connecticut Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 10, 2017
Connecticut Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 10, 2017
Connecticut Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 10, 2017
Connecticut Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 10, 2017
Connecticut Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 10, 2017
Prairie Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 10, 2017
I met up with Keenan this morning and we explored quite a bit of area around Arcadia with one of our main goals being Connecticut Warbler...and we were quite successful!  It will be interesting to see how many of them I can find this year, I'm off to a good start with two so far.  Last year was my best year ever when I tallied a total of ten individuals (Connecticut Warblers 2016).  Besides the CT warblers we had 13 other species of warblers.  Full list with additional photos here:  Arcadia
Nashville Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 9, 2017
Magnolia Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 9, 2017
Pine Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 9, 2017
Northern Parula, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 9, 2017
Tennessee Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 9, 2017
Blackpoll Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 9, 2017
Black throated Blue Warbler, Amherst, MA, Sep 9, 2017
Bay breasted Warbler, Amherst, MA, Sep 9, 2017
Wilson's Warbler, Amherst, MA, Sep 9, 2017
Yesterday morning I got up and out before dawn heading out to various locations to catch up with what I was sure would be lots of migrants.  I stopped at various spots around Amherst for the morning until the wind picked up and then I headed over to a more sheltered spot at Quabbin Park.  An absolutely great early fall morning with good numbers and good diversity.  Highlights for the morning included 21 species of warblers (12 Tennessee, a Mourning, 13 Northern Parula, 24, Magnolia, 2 Bay breasted, 30 or so Blackpoll, 3 Canada and 2 Wilson's and others).  The diversity the last couple days in unlikely to be duplicated again until next spring as more and more species move out for the winter.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Hurricane Irma and the impacts on warblers

Hurricane Irma striking Barbuda (island within the eye in this shot), Sep 5, 2017
Hurricane Irma projected path as of 8AM, Sep 6, 2017
Hurricane Irma strengthened further yesterday becoming a very dangerous high end Category 5 hurricane with winds that reached 185 MPH sustained with higher gusts (only one other storm in the Atlantic, Hurricane Allen in 1980, had stronger winds at 190 MPH).  Hurricane Irma is also the second strongest Atlantic storm to ever make landfall.  The impact on any of the islands that get hit will be catastrophic for the people of the island as well as the flora and fauna.  Several islands in the northern Lesser Antilles have already sustained direct hits and the storm may yet make a few more landfalls in the Greater and Lesser Antilles before continuing further off to the northwest.  One of the islands hit directly was the small island of Barbuda which contains an endemic warbler, the Barbuda Warbler.  This is one warbler I have not seen and hope to one day get to the island to see it.  Hopefully the species makes it though but the population will certainly take a big hit.  The birds of the islands have evolved with the existence of hurricanes but this storm is the most powerful to ever hit the islands of the area.  Time will tell how much damage has been done in the coming days,weeks, months and years.  There are a number of other range restricted warbler species in the potential path including the Elfin Wood Warbler and Adelaide's Warbler in Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico 2016 trip), Bahama Yellowthroat, Bahama Warbler in the Bahamas and Olive capped Warbler in the Bahamas and Cuba (Bahamas trip 2017).  The birds in the Bahamas took a big hit last year with Hurricane Matthew in October so another major hurricane is not what is welcome there at all.  There is also a number of migrant warbler that are either on the islands now or on their way including the endangered Kirtland's Warbler..hopefully these species avoid the worst of the storm.
Yellow Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 4, 2017
Common Yellowthroat, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 4, 2017
Meanwhile migration continues to plug along here and I suspect there will be a big push migrants from Friday through the weekend as conditions for migration improve substantially.  Even without optimal conditions warblers continue to move through and I added one more warbler for the fall with my first Bay breasted Warbler along the Jabish Canal on Labor Day. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

September starts off in stellar fashion

Cape May Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 2, 2017
Prairie Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 2, 2017
Black throated Green Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 1, 2017
Chestnut sided Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 1, 2017
Tennessee Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 1, 2017
Ovenbird, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 1, 2017
September has started off great with the first two days of the month producing 17 species of warbler so far with the highlights including six Tennessee Warblers yesterday and another today (all 1st year individuals) and two Cape May Warblers (one 1st year bird yesterday and an adult male today).  It looks to be a good fall both of these above mentioned species.  The weather has been unseasonably cool which has certainly encouraged some migrants to move. This morning the temperature dipped down into the upper 30's which was a near record low and had me wearing gloves and a winter hat to start the day.  Tomorrow is forecast to be somewhat rainy and a bit cool but we should get a warm up for the first couple days of the week. Attached are a few lists from the last couple days with additional photos:  
Arcadia
Quabbin Park