THE BIRDLINE, by ARMAS HILL
With a Vireo, a Petrel, other birds, and a Supernova
Armas Hill has presented the "Birdline", originally from
Philadelphia, on the phone and internet for decades, and on the radio
in Delaware for years.
List & Photo Gallery of North American Birds, in 6 Parts
The YELLOW-GREEN VIREO is
similar to the common RED-EYED VIREO but it breeds in Central America,
occurring there normally from February to September.
Birdline for September 9, 2011 :
From September to February, it occurs normally in South America.
On September 5, 2011, a YELLOW-GREEN VIREO was banded in North America, in Massachusetts
at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island.
That was a first for North America north of Florida.
Previously, YELLOW-GREEN VIREOS have been found in North America rarely
along coastal California in the fall and in south Texas in the summer, and
more rarely along the upper US Gulf Coast in the spring.
On the opposite side of North America, a seabird of the Southern Hemisphere,
the GREAT-WINGED PETREL was seen on August 26, 2011 during a pelagic trip
off Monterey, California.
That was the 4th known occurrence of the species off the North American
coast, or anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere.
The bird was the subspecies GOULDI, with a whiter face.
Back in 1925, the naturalist and writer Edward Howe Forbush wrote that
"The COMMON NIGHTHAWK is a wonderful bird. It flies at any hour of the
day or night, apparently able to see and catch flying insects in bright
sunlight or in the dark."
The COMMON NIGHTHAWK wanders in migration from the edge of the Arctic to
south of the Amazon.
9 subspecies are in South America during the North
Mostly in May, NIGHTHAWKS come from the south, and arrive, among other
places, in New England, where, again quoting Forbush, "In mating the
courtship is mostly an aerial performance. The male rises to a considerable
height and then falls swiftly, head first, with wings partly closed, until
near the earth, when spreading his wings, he turns upward, producing with
his vibrating primaries, a resounding boom that may be heard a considerable
The sound of the NIGHTHAWK most often heard, in areas where they breed, is a
nasal "peent", when the bird is high in the sky in flight.
That sound has not been heard, during recent years, in the skies above towns
in New England and elsewhere, as much as it was, even a decade or two ago.
I read lately, to my surprise and disappointment, that data for the most
recent Vermont Breeding Bird Atlas has shown that the COMMON
NIGHTHAWK is now almost certainly extirpated as a breeding bird in that
The species has nested in towns and cities around the state on flat, gravel
roofs. It is said that now, with newer construction and renovations, there
are not as many - flat, gravel roofs or nighthawks.
It is interesting that in 1925 Forbush wrote that "Breeding in cities
is a comparatively recent custom and dates from the introduction of flat,
The bottom line: For the COMMON NIGHTHAWK, as a breeding bird in the
Northeast US, it is certain that the recent trend is negative and dramatic.
But it is not really known why.
If you know any definitive information in this regard, or of any reports of
large numbers of nighthawks during their southbound August migration, please
send an e-mail this way, to: email@example.com
Almost 250 COMMON NIGHTHAWKS were observed above the Mount Auburn Cemetery
in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the evening of August 29th.
About that same number were tallied above the Rock Creek Hills Park in
Kensington, Maryland the evening of September 3rd.
A nice note: At the 25th annual New York Book Show, recently, the Second
Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Maryland and DC took first place
among reference books for book design. That's quite an achievement. Congrats
are in order to all involved.
An item not included in the summary in the last Birdline of displaced birds
in the Northeast US due to Hurricane Irene:
A dead SOOTY TERN was found in New Hampshire, in Stoddard, on
September 2nd, a victim of the storm.
In Texas lately, especially in the south-central part of the state
near Austin, one can not imagine the disruption to wildlife due to the
extensive fires. It has been said to be over 45,000 acres. And of course,
the horrific destruction for people, with over 1,000 homes lost.
For wildlife, this has been just part of a bigger picture involving so much
heat and dryness, during a drought that has gone on for two long years.
If there's any definitive info known about the effects of that drought on
birds and other wildlife, please let us know.
In parts of the Northeast, especially in Pennsylvania and New York State
lately, there has been the opposite situation - too much water.
In central Pennsylvania, this past week, as the weather has been
going north, SHOREBIRDS have been dropping in as they go south.
In Cambria County PA, on September 8th, RUDDY TURNSTONE and SANDERLING were
by a lake at the Prince Gallitzin State Park (where there have recently been
2 EARED GREBES).
In Centre County PA, that same day, RUDDY TURNSTONE and SANDERLINGS were by
a lake at the Bald Eagle State Park (where there were also 4 species of
The day before. in Centre County, there were 4 GOLDEN PLOVERS. That same
day, over 20 GOLDEN PLOVERS were noted in Cumberland County, in central
In Lancaster County PA, on September 7th, at two locations, HUDSONIAN
GODWITS dropped in, during their long migration, near Manheim, and at the
Conjohela Flats along the Susquehanna River.
As this Birdline was being typed, a MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD was seen flying
from Cape May, New Jersey, out over the Delaware Bay.
A non-bird note:
Astronomically, now, there is a SUPERNOVA in the sky, the closest and
brightest in decades. It is not bright enough to be seen with the naked eye,
but it can nicely be seen on a clear night in a telescope or binoculars. It
is in the handle of the Big Dipper.
Armas Hill has presented the Birdline, originally from Philadelphia, on the
phone and internet for decades, and on the radio in Delaware for years.
The Birdline is an affiliate of Focus On Nature Tours.
The long migration of the HUDSONIAN GODWIT, just referred to, takes them
from the Arctic south to southern South America. About 75 per cent of them
go to eastern Tierra del Fuego, not far to the south of where many RED KNOTS
go. About the other 25 per cent of them go to Chiloe Island in southern
There will be a FONT (Focus On Nature) Tour in Chile, including
Chiloe Island, November 11-20, 2011. There is a place or two still
available on the tour.
I remember during a previous tour there, on Chiloe Island, a mudflat covered
with shorebirds, all of them HUDSONIAN GODWITS.
FONT tour info is elsewhere in the website: www.focusonnature.com
Also in the site, a List
& Photo Gallery of North American Birds, in 6 Parts. With
information, such as you read here, about the YELLOW-GREEN VIREO
and GREAT-WINGED PETREL, but about all of the birds ever observed in North
America. To visit, click the link at the top of this page.