Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Early Fall Wrap Up: A Blue Headed Vireo Sings

It was another early October morning.  I was making coffee, and the window was open, because it was a beautiful warm day.

I heard a bird singing.  At first I thought it was a red eyed vireo.  The red eyed's song I am familiar with and you probably are too.  You can hear it day after day, all day long, all summer long, echoing through the woods, four phrases repeated over and over. 

I've heard its phrases variously described as some combination of, "see me, here I am, right here, see me".  I think of it as, "here I am, where are you, way up here, you can't see me!"  Regardless of what the bird is saying, you know you are hearing a vireo!

Yet the red eyed is not the only vireo who sings in these phrases.  The blue headed vireo sings a similar song, and this song I was hearing now turned out to be his.  I had never before been sure I'd actually heard a blue headed singing before.  An acquaintance of mine had told me I was mixing up my red eyed's song with my blue headed's song.  The blue headed's song is supposed to be somewhat slower.  Now was my chance to learn the blue headed's song for sure, because I looked out the window, and there he was!

blue headed vireo one

As I looked outside, I was really not expecting to see a red eyed vireo, because this song I was hearing was  Sweet?  Lyrical?

All these words came to mind.  I decided the blue headed's song to me sounds like a red eyed who had been to a party!

The two birds actually look quite different.  The lighting was not good, but even so, you can see the white "spectacles" on this bird's face.  He really has a unique look to him.  Below is a shot from behind, you can see the blue head, and the wings folded with bright white edgings.

blue headed vireo two

As I did for the yellow-bellied sapsuckers that visited, I waited to post about the blue-headed vireo, hoping I'd have other chances to take their pictures.  Haven't seen any more recently; these pictures are from the first week of October.

I had also posted recently on the red eyed, here is a somewhat better picture of him below for comparison.  See, nothing like the blue headed.  So if you hear either of these birds singing, if you can find the bird, you can know for sure what you are hearing, because you can't visually mistake one for the other.

red eyed vireo

For the record, I went back and checked this blog last year.  I had an uncertain blue headed vireo sighting then, at the end of September.  I guess I will see him again, same time next year!

Meanwhile, one other vireo which migrates through these parts, the Philadelphia vireo, sings yet another similarly phrased song.  My mission this year is to find one of them.  I have never seen one, or heard one - at least as far as I know!

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Early Fall Wrap Up: Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, New to the Yard

Early October continued to bring new birds to the yard.  Late one afternoon I heard a strange yet somehow familiar mewling sound.  Then two shadows flew high into the box elder tree.

They were two yellow-bellied sapsuckers.  Often we see these in the woods north of here, and they make very familiar sights and sounds in those parts.  Here in the yard, I'd never seen or heard them, so it took me a moment to place them.

yellow-bellied sapsucker one

This one above looks like a male.  See the red on the throat, a mark of the male bird.  You can also see the large white patch along its side, another familiar yellow-bellied identifier.

When I catch a glimpse of one of these birds, I'm always struck by the "busy-ness" of the markings on the breast, and the overall "smudginess" of the markings on the entire bird.  Compare these birds to pictures of hairy and downy woodpeckers.  Those birds are black and white, with little or no shades of gray.  When I see a "smudgy" woodpecker, I start thinking yellow-bellied sapsucker.

Both of these look like young birds, especially this one below.  He has a lot of brown to him, a sign of a younger bird.  You can also see a faint hint of yellow low on the belly.

yellow-bellied sapsucker two

It's been almost two weeks since I saw these birds.  I should have posted sooner, but I was hoping I'd see them or others again and be able to get more and better pictures.  This was my one chance though, I haven't seen them since!

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Early Fall Wrap Up: Scarlet Tanagers Everywhere!

Mid October is here, and with it an astonishingly different assemblage of birds than just a week or two ago.  All the clich├ęs about the quick passage of time apply here.  It literally does seem like yesterday that I was sitting outside watching who knows which warblers flit in and out of the trees.  Now, white throated sparrows dominate, and the juncos have returned, along with chillier weather.

I spent some time yesterday and today looking at pictures trying to sort out all the bird comings and goings.  One thing stands out for late September/early October:  Scarlet tanagers were everywhere in the yard!

scarlet tanager one

Here a male, I believe, is enjoying a good bug, maybe a yellowjacket?

scarlet tanager two

He appears here in many a bird's favorite tree.  I kept seeing him as well in the flowering dogwood, though most of the time he kept well hidden as he searched out the remaining berries.  See his head right in the middle of the picture?

scarlet tanager three

I also saw him sitting up in a white pine....

scarlet tanager four

High up in the box elder....

scarlet tanager five

And low down in the box elder....

scarlet tanager six

scarlet tanager seven

Anywhere there were berries, you'd see this bird!

scarlet tanager eight

But most often, I'd see this bird up close, right near the house in my favorite bird tree.

scarlet tanager nine

Day after day, morning and night!  Now why couldn't this bird have been so visible in the summer when he was red??

scarlet tanager ten

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Monday, October 7, 2013

Black Throated Greens in September

One of my favorite warblers is the Black Throated Green.  I think the main reason is it's one of the first warblers I ever saw, and one of the first I was able to identify.  Plus it's just a great looking bird!

black throated green warbler two

They can be heard out in the woods in the spring and summer, especially north of here.  So wonderful to hear a bunch of them singing together.  Often they're tough to see because they are high in the trees.  They have a beautiful, funny song.  If you're lucky, especially in spring, they'll come out in the open.  The first one I ever saw I came upon sitting on a branch over a trail early in the morning in May.  He looked me in the eye and sang, "Zee zee zee zoo zee!"

I have seen them in the yard only during fall migration, so I always eagerly await September hoping to see them at home again!

They've been here mid September through the end of September.  I think they're gone now.  The first picture is the only shot I got where the bird wasn't jumping around a bunch.  This bird below was in and out of the pignut leaves, but I got a couple of not so great pictures.  What I like about the pignut pictures is you can see the fall version of the black band that wraps under the throat of the male....
black throated green with pignuts one

Especially in this picture:

black throated green with pignuts two

In breeding plumage that is completely solid black.

Also had one visit the apple tree:

black throated green with apples

They winter in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and also southern Florida according to one range map I saw.

Have a terrific winter!

black throated green two

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Finally There are the Grackles!

A friend of mine was commenting recently that flocks of grackles were visiting her yard and cleaning out her feeder with some regularity.  I sighed wistfully.  Secretly I was jealous, because I had not seen any grackles in our yard in weeks!  It is strange how some common birds come and go.

So I was laughing the other day because out of nowhere about one hundred grackles descended on the yard on a sunny afternoon!

yard full of grackles

Some find the grackle to be a nuisance, but I think it's a beautiful bird.  Its feathers iridesce in the sun!

pretty grackles

The birds were excited to be visiting.  They mobbed the feeder, but didn't seem to eat much.  Mostly they flew in and out and flapped their wings and squawked at each other.

grackles mob house

They also mobbed the bath and flitted in and out, continuing to call out to each other and make lots of noise while they splashed.

grackles on bath

They were a joy to watch.  They left as quickly as they arrived.  They stayed perhaps forty five minutes, then were gone.  Funny thing is, they didn't even clean out the feeder!

grackles on house

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Friday, October 4, 2013

Scarlet Tanager Finally Comes Out In the Open

All summer long, I heard the song of the scarlet tanager coming from my neighbors' yard high up from one of their soaring oaks and pines.  And all summer long, I stood in our yard and stared and stared at the treetops, hoping to catch site of the bird.  I only once caught a quick glimpse of red flying through the canopy.

So I was happily surprised to catch view of a large yellowish bird perched high in the box elder, out in the open.

scarlet tanager one

It was a scarlet tanager! 

Both the female scarlet tanager and the non breeding male (the male you'd see now) are yellow, not red.  Here's a male that did appear in the yard last summer, to see the difference.

scarlet tanager from last year

I couldn't tell if this yellow one was a male or female.  The male has dark wings, the female less so. 

I thought that this would be the only look I'd get at this bird, that he or she would fly off not to be seen again.

scarlet tanager two

So I took a few pictures.

Much to my surprise, instead of flying away, the bird flew closer, into my favorite bird tree, the flowering dogwood.

scarlet tanager three

What a pretty bird!  In a pretty tree.  Still not sure if a male or a female, not sure the wings are dark enough to be a male.  Regardless, a beautiful bird.

scarlet tanager four
The tanager apparently loves the berries in this tree.  He stayed and ate all afternoon.  Everytime I took a look outdoors, the tanager was in the tree, calmly feeding on the berries.
scarlet tanager five
I'm so glad I got to see this bird up close and for a good long time.  This time of year birds are on the move, so we get good opportunities to see them in places they'd otherwise not be.
Stay tuned, I think we'll be seeing this bird again!
Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Black Throated Blue Warbler Female Visits

One time when I hadn't posted in a while, a friend of mine asked, "Cheerily, you haven't updated your blog, there must be nothing going on in the yard!"  That time, and this time as well, the opposite is true - too much is going on in the yard, and I am overwhelmed!

Ok, maybe not quite overwhelmed.  It's just that since so many birds have been moving through the yard, I've been spending more time than usual bird watching, and less time sitting down and writing up what I've seen.

I have some catching up to do.  I'll start with a simple looking warbler, of which I only managed two pictures.

black throated blue warbler female one

It took me a while to figure out what this bird was.  I'd never seen it before, at least I thought I hadn't.  Turns out I had.  This is a female black throated blue warbler.  I'd seen the male last year about this time.  Here he is below:

black throated blue warbler male

They don't look much like each other.  I had to flip through my bird books and apps to find this female bird.  The id clues are the white spot on the edge of the wing, the half circle under the eye, the faint white line over the eye, and the overall drab coloring.

black throated blue warbler female two

The bird made its appearance and as quickly was not to be seen again.  She disappeared into the leaves of my favorite tree, this flowering dogwood.  I have probably said before, I love this tree in fall, it gets these lovely red berries.  The birds like it too.

Meanwhile, in other news from the "Edge" - I saw a yellow bellied sapsucker in the yard today!  A first!  I am sure - I thought I'd seen one a few days ago, but convinced myself it couldn't be.  I see them all the time north of here in the woods, but never expected to see one here in the city.  Hopefully he will stick around and I'll get a picture.

Enjoy the day - Cheerily