Sunday, September 22, 2013

Northern Parula: Many Sightings, Few Pictures

All through this wave of warbler visitors we've probably mostly seen American Redstarts and Northern Parulas.  It seems to me last year the parulas were coming in closer to the house, and I was getting good pictures of them.  This year, I see quite a few of them, but they are usually far away, too far to get a halfway decent picture.

Happily I've seen at least one pair foraging together; last year we only saw one at a time, so this was different and welcome.

northern parula one

Finally in, again, my favorite at the moment warbler tree, one of the parulas stopped for a second and I got a few pictures.  Still he didn't sit for long, and the pictures have the blur of his movement.

northern parula two

I like these pictures nonetheless because you get both a front and back view of the bird, and a top and bottom view as well.

I'll keep trying to get better pictures.  Hopefully they'll spend more time in the closer by trees.

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Magnolia Warbler, New To the Yard

Whenever I read about the Magnolia Warbler, I'm struck by how each author feels the need to point out the Magnolia can be seen pretty much anywhere and everywhere during migration!  I pair that information with the knowledge that I've with certainty only seen one Magnolia ever, and I start to think how come everyone else is seeing them and I have hardly ever?  Am pretty new to birding but still, I've seen a lot of other birds.

Happily I had my day this week during the yard warbler frenzy.  This time it was evening, shortly before sunset, and I was watching for warblers as I have been other morning and nights lately.  A bright vivid yellow caught my eye.  Here was a bird new to me, I realized I didn't know what it was.  It had two thin white wingbars, a thin eyering, a blue-grey head and back, with some olive on the back as well.  It had some fine black streaks on the belly too.  The yellow was on the chest and belly, and the under tail coverts were white.

magnolia warbler one

Funny, it was on the same tree as the Cape May a few days before.

It took me a while to figure out what it was.  There aren't too many warblers that have both an eyering and wingbars.

The strategy for figuring out this bird was to look at all the non breeding and immature plumages.  The male breeding Magnolia looks quite different.  It has black around and behind the eye, a thick white above eye streak, a broad white wingbar, and thick black streaking on its yellow breast.  The male breeding version was the one I'd seen in my one prior Magnolia sighting; this bird looked nothing like it.

I think it's a first winter male or female, not sure which one.

magnolia warbler two

One other thing I learned.  The Magnolia has a thick white band on its inner tail, which is pretty distinctive.  It contrasts with the black on the end of tail.  You can see this in the above picture.  You can also see a pattern of white and black when it fans its tail, though this one didn't do it while I had it in sight.

Pretty cool, another warbler to add to the yard list.

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Monday, September 16, 2013

Could It Be A Cape May?

It's been a week for warblers!  Just when I was thinking that maybe we would not have a repeat this year of all the warblers seen in the yard last year this time, strange little creatures started to pop up here and there at the edge of the woods.  I'd glimpse out a window and see one, two, three small birds flitting from tree to tree.  None of their short flights would take them anywhere near the seed feeder, so I knew these weren't the usual chickadees and titmice making their way out into the open, these were birds looking for insects or fruit in the trees.

Knowing they were out there and actually getting a good look at them of course were different stories.  I'd see the flitting about action, then step outside ever so quietly so as not to scare them.  Once I was outside, I swear I'd have four chickadees in the nearby trees perched prominently, staring back at me, saying, "chick-a-dee dee, chick-a-dee-dee-dee."  I'd say, "Where did all your warbler friends go?", and they'd answer back, "chick-a-dee, chick-a-dee-dee-dee."

You get the idea, the week was a little bird-nutty.

Finally one morning at dawn I just went outside and decided to bring my camera and I would see what I would see.  I lucked out!  I saw two northern parulas fly into one of the small "birding" trees right next to the house.  As I tried to get good shots of them, they were quickly flying off, but all of a sudden, I saw another bird, and this one was slowly climbing a branch making his way into the open.

cape may warbler one

I didn't know what it was, I just kept taking his picture.  He was happy to sit there, and even happier to turn a few times so that I could get front and back shots.

cape may warbler two

I am grateful he stayed this way for a few minutes allowing me to get these shots, because otherwise I would never had known what he was, because turns out I'd never seen this bird before.  The big clues were the yellow on the rump, the yellow in the face with the dark markings under the eye, the white bar on the wing, and the bright yellow on the breast with the dark streaks.

cape may warbler three

Later that day with pictures in hand I hit the bird books/apps and asked some friends (you know who you are!) and we all came up with an immature male Cape May Warbler.  I am fairly new to birding, so my experience seeing these warblers in different plumages is limited, but through process of elimination, I came up with a rather short list of what this bird could be.  My other thought was a yellow rumped warbler, but the markings and yellow color on the face, and the yellow on the breast, just didn't seem to fit for yellow rumped.

Of course the rump on this bird is yellow (see picture 2), so you can see how I was lead that direction.

cape may warbler four

The Cape May is only around here during migration season, summering well north, and wintering to the south.  How cool to see!

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Monday, September 9, 2013

Oriole Passing Through

We don't tend to get many orioles in the yard over the summer.  Sometimes in the spring I put out an oriole feeder.  The feeder is an open box with a nail on two sides on which you mount two halves of an orange.  I had pretty good success attracting orioles to this feeder in the spring when I hung it in a crabapple tree.  This year though I decided not to put that feeder out.  We had had coyotes around, and I didn't want to leave any extra food that might attract them.  Plus the feeder worked great in spring, but as the summer wore on not many birds came to it, and it got messy to change the oranges.  I figured for the short amount of time that the feeder brought in birds it wasn't worth the extra trouble.

baltimore oriole one

I was happy to see a few days back, after not seeing or hearing many during the summer, that an oriole passed through for a few minutes.

Baltimore oriole two

He sat atop an oak tree and caught the evening sun.  He looked brilliant orange.  He sat for just a few minutes, then took to the air, singing a classic beautiful piping oriole song as he flew off.  His way of saying, "Happy summer, see you next year!"

Baltimore oriole three

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Friday, September 6, 2013

Seeing Red Eyed Vireos

So many days in the woods over the spring and summer, I've looked and looked for red eyed vireos, and have had little luck finding them.  It's not that they're not around.  They're one of the most consistent and persistent singers.  They seem to sing every day, and they seem to sing all day.  Sometimes in the middle of a hot humid afternoon, their song is the only sound, repeated over and over, loud and clear.  You feel after a while that you wish you could tell these birds to pipe down, you'd like to try to hear another species sing!

Yet as much as I've heard the red eyed vireo, I usually find it difficult to catch sight of one.  They often sit high in the canopy, behind the leaves, unmoving as they sing.  If they do move they quickly hop from behind one clump of leaves to another.  I've strained my neck to only catch a glimpse of a nondescript gray bird, too far up to get many details.

Here on "the edge" I have also heard the red eyed vireo singing from the woods.  I haven't even tried to find them, I figure if I can't find them when I'm out in the woods, I have little chance of seeing them from the yard.

Yet in September everything changes.  For whatever reason, the red eyed vireo becomes less heard, and more seen.  Now that August has past, I don't hear them singing much, they have finally quieted down.  And every now and then, when I swing my binoculars toward a white bellied bird sitting quietly, low in a tree, I find it to be a red eyed vireo, out in the open, and not saying anything!

red eyed vireo

The other day, I saw one at the yard's edge, and snapped a few pictures.  He wasn't very close, so the pictures weren't great, but considering my shortage of red eyed vireo pictures, I'll take what I got.

I was pleased to see another head poke out of the leaves - another vireo joined the first!

You can tell these are red eyed vireos by the dark line through the eye, with the white line above.  The eye itself in a young bird is brown rather than red, so it looks like these are both immature birds.

red eyed vireos

Happy to see them for a change!

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Monday, September 2, 2013

American Redstart in the Bird Bath

As the last week of August came to an end, I started thinking about the migrating warblers I saw last year at about this time.  The American Redstart is the one that came the most, and the earliest, to the yard.  Last year I saw my first on August 24.  This year, a few days later.  And then finally a few days ago, I captured a few pictures, though not the greatest.

american redstart in apple tree

The first redstart I saw was a male, making quick sputtering flights in and out of a small ornamental tree to catch bugs in the air.  By the time I got my camera he was gone.  The next evening I saw a female, and luckily this one was inclined to hang around a bit.  I first saw her poking her head up out of leaves and apples in the crabapple tree behind the bird bath.  Look closely - she is right in the middle of the picture amongst the apples!

american redstart in bird bath

All of a sudden she jumped onto the birdbath.  I was so surprised!  She jumped right in and had the whole place to herself.

american redstart in bird bath two

It was an overcast day and getting dark with twilight, so I didn't expect to get great pictures, but I wanted to document her presence.  She turned and swam and shook and hopped from side to side.

american redstart in bird bath three

The redstart stayed on the bath perhaps for as long as five minutes!  I couldn't believe my luck in having her enjoy dunking herself in and out of the water.

american redstart in bird bath four

I didn't get any decent pictures of her actually in the water!  She fluttered so quickly and it was so dark that the pictures were quite blurred.  I was happy enough with these - the redstart kept showing her tail feathers, and the yellow on black made for a great classic look.

american redstart in bird bath five

I've continued the last few days to see both a male and a female.  Don't know if there are multiple ones or not.  I have yet to get another look as good as this one on the bath!

Enjoy the day - Cheerily