27 May, 2014

Willow Flycatcher

Scientific Name: Empidonax traillii

Range / Habitat: Breeds in wet, marshy areas throughout most of the US, extending further north in the northwest and excluding the southeast. Winters in southern Mexico, Central American, and the northwest portion of South America. 

Field Notes: Drap Empidonax flycatcher, brown-grey above, white below, with faint yellow wash on the sides. Thin, white eyering may be absent. Alder Flycatcher essentially identical but more northern. In areas of overlap, can only be distinguished by voice. Other Empidonax flycatchers have more prominent eyering. 

Personal Notes: Seen in the boggy area of the Minnesota Arboretum. Confirmed by voice. 

25 May, 2014

Dusky Flycatcher

Scientific Name: Empidonax oberholseri

Range / Habitat: Found in open montane forest of American and Canadian West in the summer. Winters in central Mexico. 

Field Notes: Small, dull, Empidonax flycatcher. Grey back, underparts white. Prominent eyering and wing bars. Hammond's Flycatcher and Grey Flycatcher similar. Habitat and song best ways to distinguish among these species, though Hammond's found at higher altitudes and Grey has distinctive downward wag of tail. 

Personal Notes: Seen on Deseret Ranch in Utah

Red Fox-sparrow

Scientific Name: Passerella iliaca

Range / Habitat: Preferred habitat is dense thicket near water. Breeds in Alaska, northern Canada, and the American West. Winters primarily in the southeastern US, though can be found near the border of Mexico and on the Pacific Coast.

Field Notes: Though highly variable, generally rust-brown above with a mix of rust and gray on the head, and heavy brownish splotches on the flanks and the center of the chest. The bill can range from yellowish to dark grey. Song Sparrow with more distinct face markings and streaks on chest. Also, does not forage in leaf litter. Savannah Sparrow with yellow lores and found in open habitat.

Personal Notes: Seen at Deseret Ranch, Utah. Also known as Fox Sparrow.

24 May, 2014

Brewer's Sparrow

Scientific Name: Spizella breweri

Range / Habitat: Preferred habitat is sagebrush. Winters in Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts. Winters in the Great Basin.

Field Notes: Medium-sized sparrow with finely streaked grey-brown upper parts, pale eyering, dark moustache stripe and plain, pale grey underparts. Bill is pink with dark tip.

Field Notes: Seen on Deseret Ranch in Utah.

Ferruginous Hawk

Scientific Name: Buteo regalis

Range / Habitat: Found in open country. Summers in the American West extending up to Canada. Winters on in the southern portion of the western US extending down into Mexico.

Field Notes: Large hawk. Has both pale and dark morph. In both forms, tail light grey to white with dark legs. Back rufous in both forms.

Personal Notes: Seen on Deseret Ranch in Utah.

Cordilleran Flycatcher

Scientific Name: Empidonax occidentalis

Range / Habitat: Found in arid forest regions, summers east of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges in the western US and Canada. Winters into Mexico.

Field Notes: Small flycatcher with prominent pale yellow, almond-shaped eyering. Two pale yellow wing bars. Upperparts greenish-brown, underparts yellow. Pacific-coast Flycatcher (with which it used to be considered one species, Western Flycatcher) nearly identical, separated by range.

Personal Notes: Seen on the late spring ski slopes of Park City, Utah.

Stilt Sandpiper

Scientific Name: Micropalama himantopus

Range / Habitat: Breeds in sedge tundra near water in subarctic North America. Winters in a variety of water habitats in South America and part of Mexico and Central America.

Field Notes: Medium-sized shorebird, heavily barred in breeding plumage as above. Long, greenish legs, long neck. Long bill, drooped at the tip. Rufous patch to cheek. When seen among other sandpipers, tips tail high in the air.

Personal Notes: A record first at Deseret Ranch in Utah where seen in migration with Bill and Billy Fenimore.

21 May, 2014

Blue-headed Vireo

Scientific Name: Vireo solitarius

Range / Habitat: Breeds through the northeastern US and eastern Canada. Winters on the southeast coast of the US, the Gulf coast of Mexico (excluding the Yucatan), and into Central America. Preferred habitat is forest of various types.

Field Notes: Small to medium passerine, grey upperparts, generally white underneath, with two white wing bars and distinct white spectacles. Yellow wash to sides but throated white. Plumbeous Vireo and Cassin's Vireo similar (all three formerly called Solitary Vireo), but distinguished by range.  Yellow-throated Vireo with yellow throat and head.

Personal Notes: We followed this bird for a long time at Fort Snelling SP in Minnesota, where he was just passing through as a spring migrant, and only barely were able to capture him on film.

Philadelphia Vireo

Scientific Name: Vireo philadelphicus

Range / Habitat: Breeds in deciduous forest throughout central and eastern Canada. Winters in Central America, up through the Yucatan in a wider habitat range. 

Field Notes: Small, plain-winged vireo with white eyestripe and buffy to yellow throat. Warbling Vireo similar but easily distinguished by song. Other vireos have either wing bars or pronounced spectacles. 

Personal Notes: Seen during spring migration in Fort Snelling SP in Minnesota. Verified both visually and by song. 

12 May, 2014

Solitary Sandpiper

Scientific Name: Tringa solitaria

Range / Habitat: Breeds in taiga throughout Canada and Alaska. In migration and winter found along freshwater, more commonly in wooded areas. Winters in southern Mexico, including the Yucatan, Central American, Cuba and other Caribbean islands, and throughout northern South America.

Field Notes: Medium-sized shorebird with proportionate legs and bill. Brown upperparts, densely speckled white. White underparts and white eyering. Similarly sized non-breeding Spotted Sandpiper without speckling on back and with white eyestripe. Lesser Yellowlegs with prominent yellow legs and more mottling on back.

Personal Notes: Seen in migration at Minnesota NWR in May, 2014.

09 May, 2014


Scientific Name: Porzana carolina

Range / Habitat: Preferred habitat shallow wetlands with plenty of emergent vegetation. Winters in Florida, along the Gulf coast, in Mexico and Central America, through to the far northwest of South America. Summers in the northern US and Canada.

Field Notes: Small marshbird, unmistakeable in range with black face, grey neck and chest, and rufous back. That is, if you can see it. Distinctive descending whinny call.

Personal Notes: Seen sneaking along the roadside just outside of Frontenac SP in Minnesota.

Wilson's Warbler

Scientific Name: Wilsonia pusilla

Range / Habitat: Breeds in scrub habitats, particularly willow thickets in Canada, Alaska, and parts of the American West. Full migrant that winters in a variety of habitats in Mexico, including the Yucatan.

Field Notes: Warbler with bright yellow face and underparts. Back is olive, wings and tail olive-grey. Black beady eye and male with small black cap.

Personal Notes: Seen at Hok-Si-La city park in Lake City, MN.

Nashville Warbler

Scientific Name: Vermivora ruficapilla

Range / Habitat: Favours second-growth deciduous and mixed forests. Breeds in north-central North America and an isolated portion of the mountainous Pacific Northwest. Full migrant that winters along the coast of California and in central Mexico, excluding the Yucatan.

Field Notes: Yellow throat, breast, and belly with plain olive-green back and wings. Grey head with white eyering. Connecticut Warbler with grey down to breast and primarily found on the ground.

Personal Notes: Seen at Hok-Si-La City Park in Lake City, MN. Alternately know to the Spolts as the Memphis Warbler, Chattanooga Warbler, etc.

Northern Waterthrush

Scientific Name: Seiurus noveboracensis

Range / Habitat: Breeds in thickets near ponds, swamps, and bogs in northeastern US, Canada and Alaska. In winter, uses a variety of wooded habitats, generally near water, often in mangroves from southern Mexico, including the Yucatan, Central America, and into northwestern South America.

Field Notes: Large for a warbler, with a brown back and head. Buffy undersides with dark brown strips. Long buffy eyestripe. Constantly bobs tail.

Personal Notes: Seen at Hok-Si-La Park in Lake City, MN. Richard later found a several specimens outside Wellington, Florida in August -- not supposed to be there at that time of year!

Bay-breasted Warbler

Scientific Name: Dendroica castanea

Range / Habitat: Breeds in boreal evergreen forest throughout Canada, favouring the east. Winters in lowland tropical forest and second growth in Cuba, some Caribbean islands, and northwestern South America.

Field Notes: Small songbird but large warbler. Breeding male with black face and chestnut head and throat. Two broad white wing bars on black wings. Rufous on flanks.

Personal Notes: Seen at Hok-Si-La Park in Lake City, MN.


Scientific Name: Seiurus aurocapilla

Range / Habitat: Breeds in hardwood forests from the mid-Atlantic states up through eastern Canada. Broader habitat range in the winter, when found in Florida, Cuba and other Caribbean islands, central and southern Mexico, including the Yucatan, and Central America.

Field Notes: Terrestrial warbler, olive above, boldly streaked / spotted below. Bold black-and-orange crown stripes and white eye ring. Song a loud, rapid-fire "teacher, teacher, teacher."

Personal Notes: Seen at Hok-Si-La Park in Lake City, MN

Least Flycatcher

Scientific Name: Empidonax minimus

Range / Habitat: Breeds in open woodlands of northern US and most of Canada. Winters along wooded ravines, woodland edge, and brush land on both coasts of Mexico, including the Yucatan.

Field Notes: Small flycatcher with grey to olive back, darker wings with two white wingbars. Underparts white and prominent eyering. Difficult to distinguish among other members of genus with call being the best determining characteristic. That having been said, Least Flycatcher is the smallest and most grey of the Empidonax.

Personal Notes: So small we initially mistook him for a warbler.

08 May, 2014

Barred Owl

Scientific Name: Strix varia

Range / Habitat: Year-round in large, mature, deciduous or mixed forests, often near water in the eastern US, across a swath of Canada and in the Pacific Northwest.

Field Notes: Unmistakable in range. Classic "who cooks for you?" song at night.

Personal Notes: Part of a wonderful "large bird day" at the MN Landscape Arboretum in early May, 2014.

06 May, 2014

Greater Scaup

Scientific Name: Aythya marila

Range / Habitat: Breeds on shallow, small lakes, rivers and pools in tundra and wooded tundra zones at high latitudes throughout the northern hemisphere. Winters mainly on coasts at lower latitudes, though can be found on inland lakes, particularly in central flyway of US.

Field Notes: Quite similar to Lesser Scaup and can overlap in habitat and the much discussed head colour. Overall, smooth head, larger black nail in bill, and white extending further down sides.

Personal Notes: We finally saw both scaups to compare on Albert Lea Lake in southern Minnesota. Only then did we realize the bottom photo (which we had taken at an aviary in Utah) was likely of the Greater Scaup.