Menagerie Of Nature Sightings

There have been fantastic rare sightings of birds lately. Birders from all over headed to a reef lighthouse near Buffalo and the Niagara River. In the early morning and toward dusk, a brown booby was often there about Oct.14. During the day, it would fly over Lake Erie.

The brown booby is in the order Pelicaniformes.

It is extremely talented at making a shallow die into water for a fish. Like the other members of the pelican family, it has a long bill and big pouch for scooping up the fish.

Normally, you find the booby from western Mexico to California.

Not hanging out in groups, it would be alone on a buoy, channel marker, or tree. If it break that generalization, it would be in a small loosely-knit, group.

Somebody, in the Buffalo area, while looking for the booby, saw a parasitic jaeger flying by. This much smaller bird is 16.5″ long compared to the 30″ of the booby. Its nesting takes place on the Arctic tundra. In winter, it spends most of its time flying over the ocean, but not very far from land. Being solitary is normal for it. A human would find someone, who behaves like this bird, a scalawag.

That’s because it steals fish from other birds. Now, you have to agree that humans frown upon those who act like that. The bird thinks nothing of it.

Another rare sighting seen recently, was a Pacific loon in the Golden Hill State Park. It is quite common on the northern pacific coast, but rare any place in the United States.

The birder who identified this bird had a tough job viewing the back, but eventually he was able to view a small white patch on one side of that part. Now, the bird still could have been am Arctic loon. The clincher was that the specified bird was fairly small. Also, the Arctic loon is really, really rare.

Other loons, that you might well see in our area, are the red-throated loons (in migration) and the common loons. Which loons breed in the arctic? The answer is the red-throated and common loons.

Now, let’s discuss rare sightings in our own area- Point Gratiot. I just love to bird in the little woodsy area to the west of Dunkirk harbor. Among many birds, two prairie warblers were seen. Unlike what its name implies, it does not hang out in prairies. Nope. You would see it in its nesting period in forest edges, brushy fields, pine barrens, burned areas, and sand dunes.

How on earth did folks get so confused about its preferred habitat. Maybe it’s all the fault of the early American birder, Alexander Wilson. He gave it this English name. He found the bird near Bowling Green in the “barrens of southwestern Kentucky”. The locals used to call that “prairie country.”

Ok. Enough of that. Let’s talk about the bird’s behavior. It has a large repertoire of songs including two main ones. Like the palm warblers, it pumps its tail, but not as fast. Also, that movement is not as obvious as that of the waterthrushes.

Unlike the other warblers, this one builds one or more parts of a nest, before it finally completes one. You would usually find this in a forked branch of a shrub, brier patch, or on a tree limb or crotch. It would usually be one to ten feet above the ground. The female completely builds the nest. Then, the male inspects it and might change its shape.

Well, I’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg. A wonderful source about wood warblers is Hall H. Harrison’s “Wood Warblers’ World.”

I have found that the really talented birders can spot the unusual bird in a group. I wish that I could do that. Like getting to play the piano in Carnegie Hall, I just need to practice, man, practice.