Where have all the parids gone? (Answer: probably nowhere)

The summer of 2018 proved to be a really great start for the atlas, but whenever we present last year’s data we are constantly pointing out that comparisons to the first atlas need to be made with care. In part, we make these cautions because the data are still being reviewed to ensure we’ve made no errors. But, the main reason is simply that the historic data come from five years of field work, not just one. Continue reading “Where have all the parids gone? (Answer: probably nowhere)”

The trouble with safe dates …

The single most common cause of confusion during last year’s summer atlas data collection, was the use of safe dates. The important thing to remember is that these dates are based on the timing of migration and other non-breeding season movements, and do not describe the period during which breeding occurs. The goal is to filter out possible and probable records that could involve birds that are just passing through a block and will nest elsewhere. For example, ducks can be seen doing courtship displays right now.  Many of these birds, however, will breed 100s of miles from where they are being seen right now and do not represent Connecticut nesting birds. Indeed, some species that are commonly seen displaying in spring have never bred in Connecticut. Continue reading “The trouble with safe dates …”

Ravens

Over the past couple of weeks, ravens have been a regular sight at UConn. Displaying from the roof of the visitor’s center, wheeling over the parking garage, and yesterday I even heard one while sitting in my office. The species has nested in a farm building near the university’s Depot Campus for a couple of years and is seen throughout the area, but this is the first sign that they might nest right on the main campus. Continue reading “Ravens”

Cuckoos carrying food

As we’ve noted before, the CF (carrying food for young) breeding code is problematic for species that regularly carry food for their own consumption. This code is designed specifically for cases where birds are presumed to be carrying food to their dependent young and it can be hard to determine whether that is the case sometimes. Many species can be seen with food in their beaks temporarily. But if they are going to eat it, they usually do so right away. Careful observation for a minute or two will usually ensure that the code is not misused. Continue reading “Cuckoos carrying food”

Slow birding in the swamp

Last week was widely noted to be one of the best for spring warbler migration in Connecticut for many years, and lots of birders took advantage of it to boost their year lists and to do big days. I, on the other hand, injured myself on the first morning and ended up laying on my back for most of the week (I did see 18 species of warblers and heard both cuckoos that first day … so some consolation). Yesterday, I was finally able to get back out in the field, but fearing a relapse I decided I shouldn’t push my luck. Continue reading “Slow birding in the swamp”

Confirming vultures

One of the goals of the Connecticut Bird Atlas is to document changes in distributions since the first atlas was done in the 1980s. At that time, turkey vultures were widespread, but breeding was concentrated in the western half of the state, away from the coast, and winter concentrations were still noteworthy. Black vultures were considered very rare, with no evidence of breeding recorded during the atlas, although they were starting to be seen more frequently. Both species have increased. Just how much, is something we hope the new atlas will tell us. Continue reading “Confirming vultures”

Red-bellied woodpecker nest site selection

This week the breeding activity has continued to pick up. Daily, I’ve been watching a song sparrow taking repeated beak-fulls of dead grass into a low, sprawling conifer in my yard, where it is clearly building a nest.  Yesterday, I watched an American crow climbing around in a maple pulling on twigs, trying to break one off, presumably for use as nest material.  And, this morning I watched a male red-bellied woodpecker calling repeatedly from a hole I’ve seen it roosting in at night over the past couple of weeks. At one point a female flew in and inspected the hole, which the male disappeared inside, before the female flew off a few minutes later. Continue reading “Red-bellied woodpecker nest site selection”

Backing up records from “unsafe” dates

A week or so ago, I provided two rules of thumb to reduce confusion over the use of safe dates:

1. If you are unsure whether to submit a record, do so.
2. Always submit any record that confirms breeding (i.e., warrants a 2-letter code).

The second rule has a firm basis in the way we will use the atlas data – anything that is confirmed is a solid record no matter what.  The first rule, however, simply defers the decision of what to include to us during the data management phase of the project.  This is good in that it means we can standardize what gets included and what does not, but we still have to decide when a record is counted as breeding evidence. Continue reading “Backing up records from “unsafe” dates”

Which species have been confirmed?

Yesterday, I pointed out that evidence for confirmed breeding by any species should be submitted to the atlas, even if we are not yet within that species’ “safe dates”.  In light of that recommendation, I thought it would be worthwhile to list the species for which we have already received confirmed records.  This list is growing every day – just this weekend I noticed a pair of chickadees excavating a nest hole in a dead tree stump in my backyard (see video here). Continue reading “Which species have been confirmed?”