Thursday, May 22, 2014

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Another recent visitor was Chestnut-sided Warbler.  This was the first time I've seen this warbler in the yard.

chestnut sided warbler in apple tree

I am not surprised I hadn't seen him before.  He was difficult to see this time because he kept going behind pink blooms, and even though he is not pink colored, he did blend in.

I heard him before I saw him.  His song supposedly sounds like, "pleased pleased to meet you!"

chestnut sided warbler in the pink

Or so I thought.  I heard this bird singing and thought, "He kind of sounds like a Chestnut-sided, but not quite, because he isn't saying, "pleased."

Turns out his song sounds more like, "very very pleased to meet you!"  The shuffling sound of "very very" was confusing me until I realized that's what he was "saying".  Different bird guides/apps describe this song with slightly different variations of the "pleased to meet you" phrase.  

People hear different things when listening to the same song.  If you use word phrases to remember song, you have to find the phrase that makes sense to you and that you will remember.  

chestnut sided warbler upside down

After finally catching sight of this bird, I watched him for quite some time.  It was a sunny evening and he enjoyed his time in the apple tree.

This species is around all summer, I look forward to seeing more of them.  They are both beautiful in plumage and in song.

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Magnolia Warbler in the Yard

Short update today.  I'm catching up since there have been so many birds in the yard.  This is the yard's best spring migration yet.  I don't know if I'm finally noticing birds or if for some reason there are more species around during this particular spring migration.

I had the pleasure the other night to find a Magnolia Warbler in the yard.  I'd had a female on fall migration last year; this is the first male in spring I've seen.  I heard him first - his song has been described as "weeto weeto weeteo".  In my opinion it kind of does sound like this, but you have to listen closely.

The funny thing about birdsong is that when one listens to it from an application, you're listening to just the bird, loud and clear without any other competing sounds.  In the yard this time of year, needless to say, other birds are making a racket, so it can be difficult to hear.  I say this because I was straining to hear this bird over the house wrens and house sparrows.  When I looked up luckily I found him.  I looked at him and he at me, and he sang his song as I watched.  Then he was flitting about and I managed this one not so great picture.  He liked this birch tree so I am continuing to look for him here; hopefully will get more pictures.

magnolia warbler in yard

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Swainson's Thrush in Yard

I had the pleasure of returning home over the weekend to find a Swainson's Thrush in the yard.

It had rained the night before and even during the morning it was quite misty.  Out and about during the day we had seen many migrant birds so I wondered what would be in the yard that evening.

swainson's thrush in yard

The first thing I heard was an ovenbird singing, a bird which I had never heard here before.  So when I saw this bird a few minutes later I expected it to be an ovenbird, but quickly it was apparent this was a thrush.  For one thing this bird was hopping along the ground like a robin, whereas ovenbirds walk.

Happily I had a nice long look at this bird.  He seemed comfortable in the yard and hopped along in the open for quite some time.

swainson's stays a while

Swainson's is a migrant through these parts, they don't breed this far south.  I have seen them on spring migration before, but not in the yard.  Last spring I thought I heard one singing but wasn't sure, so I was happy to see this one.

Other thrushes that breed here might be confused with Swainson's.  Wood thrushes are more boldly spotted and reddish on top.   To me they don't look much like Swainson's.  The Hermit thrush on the other hand looks very similar.  Two things say to me "Swainson's."

The first is the buffy color on the face along with the eye "spectacle" (the marking around the eye that looks somewhat like eye glasses).  Hermit thrush is not marked this way.

swainson's buffy face

The second is the tail color.  In Hermit thrush the tail color is reddish, contrasting with the rest of the bird's brownish color.  In Swainson's there is no such contrast between the color of tail and the main body, as you can see from this next picture.

swainson's thrush from behind

Ultimately one great way to tell the difference between these birds when one cannot get a good look is to hear them sing.  Both birds have lovely songs.  I won't try to describe them in words, you really need to listen to them to appreciate.  Because I don't hear Swainson's sing as often, I would give the edge to their song in loveliness over Hermit thrush.

I watched this bird hop in the yard for much of the evening.  He flew up once into the pignut hickory but still he did not sing.

swainson's in pignut

Later I fell asleep and awoke to birds singing.  Swainson's song rang out through the late evening.

Enjoy the day - 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Nashville Warbler in the Yard

The last several days have been exciting bird times.  It seemed like for days we searched fruitlessly for migrating birds only to all of a sudden have them arrive in full force, at least that is how it seems to me.  Now we have arrived in this season so anticipated for months, and it doesn't disappoint, it has been full of wonder, and great fun.

The other day I spent a few hours watching the goings on in the yard.  I kept hearing a bird song that I felt I should know, but I just couldn't place.  People ask me how I learn bird song, and the answer is it takes practice and experience for most, and I like most of us am trying to learn more all the time.  Bird song apps help, but nothing substitutes for being outside and hearing the bird, then seeing the bird sing.

So I heard this bird and couldn't place it, but neither could I find it.  I looked for it the whole time I was bird watching, then finally gave up to go inside.  As I moved to leave a flash caught my eye, and then I saw it - a warbler was flitting around in my neighbor's apple tree.

I didn't know immediately what it was, but I had my camera right there and started taking pictures.  Turns out it was a Nashville warbler, and that turned out to be the bird whose song I just couldn't place.

I've only known the Nashville to be in the yard on one other occasion, about this time last year, when it sang so long and so clearly that I sat with my bird app and went through the warblers until I matched the song to the bird!

This time though I didn't hear the song clearly, probably because until the last minute the bird was in a tree far away.  I did recognize it was a warbler though and that's why I sat there looking so long.  I guess if there is a moral to the story it is if you hear an unfamiliar song, try to at least place what kind of bird it is.  Recognizing a song as likely a warbler is a big start, you can then look in likely places for warblers to be, and look for warbler-like movements.

This is a rather long winded excuse to post a Nashville warbler picture!  I got one picture that I was very happy with:

nashville warbler in the yard

When I initially saw the bird my first thought was he was a Connecticutt warbler, as the Connecticutt also has a bold white eye ring.  The Connecticutt though has the grey of his head extend over onto his throat as well, and this bird clearly is yellow on the throat and in fact all the way underneath including the undertail.  The full yellow throat and belly plus the eye ring are big clues.

Also the Nashville can show a rusty patch on his head.  This picture somewhat shows that if you look closely.

nashville warbler top of head

One other note about Nashville's song - it has two segments to it, and the word "Nashville" has two syllables.  This is supposed to help one remember the song.  It didn't help me this time, maybe next time!

I don't expect to see this bird around here during the summer though it does breed in this range.  It likes brushy pasture areas.  The yard and surrounding woods combined do not have much of this type habitat.  I will continue to look and listen for it.

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Monday, May 5, 2014

Slow Spring Has Sprung

It's been a long cold slow spring.  I guess I've been slow too, not updating my blog during the entire month of April!  Thanks to those who contacted me to check in, I appreciate being missed.  The good news is I can correlate my time not blogging with an uptick in birding trips away from home.  Inadvertantly I took time away from this blog in my quest to see birds beyond "the edge"!  My new reality has me out and about more, so I need to adjust my blogging schedule.  I also at some point may need to adjust my blogging content as well, but right now I am happy to return to this blog I love, and I thank you for your patience and support.

Meanwhile, I am happy to report that the snow is finally gone, though today as with many recent days I've needed gloves outside in the evening due to the chill.  At least the yard looks like this now, not quite in full bloom, but getting there.

the yard in spring

In way of news, you might notice above the little birdhouse that I had taken down in March due to attempts by house sparrows to nest in it.  A few weeks ago house wrens returned to the yard; they are the birds who nested in the house last year.  They were singing in this tree and I felt that they might be looking for the house, so dutifully I went outside and put the house back up!

Soon a battle of sorts ensued.  Every time a house wren would approach the box, a male house sparrow would chase him or her away.  And every time a male house sparrow entered the box, the house wrens were waiting to harass him and chase him away.

I had my money on the house wrens, so was disappointed this weekend to see both the male and female house sparrows putting nesting materials in the box.  The house sparrows appeared to have won the competition, and the house wrens were no where to be seen.  At this point I feel like it would be cruel to the house sparrows to remove the box again, so I had been reconciling myself to house sparrows in the box.

Until today - on goes the drama, an unexpected turn - this morning I found a house wren entering the box!  I don't know if this means the wren has gotten the better of the sparrows, but I did not see the house sparrows enter the box today at all.  Stay tuned!

house wren checks house

Today also saw a return to the yard of many migrating birds:  Grey Catbird, Northern Parula, Blue-headed Vireo, and American Redstart.  I struggled to take pictures of the warblers and vireo, and even the catbird did not seem to want to stay in sight today.  This picture of the American Redstart is the best I managed.

american redstart first of year

The Redstart reminded me that I needed to get the birdbath back out in the yard.  Last fall the Redstarts loved the bath so maybe now he will come out of the trees and into the open lured by the water.

We still have plenty of winter bird friends around, including this White Throated Sparrow.  This time of migration makes for a fun mix of birds, some coming, some going.

white throated sparrow still here

Hurray it's May, what a great time!

Enjoy the day - Cheerily