Monthly Archives: October 2020

Three little birds

I leaned back in a chair on the patio, looked up, and waited for a bird to come into the sunny spot overhead. Lights, camera, action… Palm Warbler.

When the sun first hits the tree tops is the best time to see and hear the variety of small songbirds arriving for the winter, or passing through on their way further south.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are familiar winter visitors – easy to hear, harder to see.

A tiny, long-tailed bird of broadleaf forests and scrublands, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher makes itself known by its soft but insistent calls and its constant motion. It hops and sidles in dense outer foliage, foraging for insects and spiders. As it moves, this steely blue-gray bird conspicuously flicks its white-edged tail from side to side, scaring up insects and chasing after them.

The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher’s grayish coloring and long tail, as well as the way it mixes snippets of other birds’ repertoires into its own high, nasal songs, have earned it the nickname “Little Mockingbird.”

The Northern Parula “hops through branches bursting with a rising buzzy trill that pinches off at the end.”

The warblers are in my yard because of the laurel oak and all the tasty insects and arachnids it hosts. The tree has a tendency to shed many little leaves, even more so at this time of year. But sweeping is a small price to pay for happy warblers and happy warbler watchers.

Listen: Three Little Birds, Bob Marley

A visit from a Wood-Pewee

This little gray bird was perched on the hammock stand in our backyard, between short flights to catch insects on the wing. It was there for about 20 minutes on Monday morning and didn’t seem to mind me watching, first from behind French doors, then from the edge of the yard with my old Canon superzoom I had grabbed from a dark closet corner.

At first I thought it was an Eastern Phoebe. But after I posted the photo to Facebook a friend helped me ID this as an Eastern Wood-Pewee. The contrast on the wing bars and the pale loral patch between the eye and beak are pewee clues. Also, phoebes bob their tails almost constantly. I did not observe that with this bird.

Blogging has been light overall this year and I took a total break from bird photos and blogging since July. But since my curiosity has been sparked by this little flycatcher’s visit, I decided to open up the blog again and record this bird, which is #224 on my blog life list.

From Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

The Eastern Wood-Pewee’s plaintive song of three sliding notes (pee-a-weeeee) is distinctive and easy to learn. It makes finding these woodland birds fairly straightforward. It helps that male Eastern Wood-Pewees are inveterate singers, belting out song nearly throughout the day. Look for small, olive-colored birds making sallies and watch such birds until they perch; Eastern Wood-Pewees pause frequently after sallying, which usually enables you to study them well.

While an Eastern Phoebe might have been arriving to spend winter in Florida, the Eastern Wood-Pewee is a long-distance migrant, wintering in South America. Most migrate over land through Mexico, but some (maybe this one?) will fly over the Caribbean.

Pewees and phoebes are members of the tyrant flycatcher family of passerine birds. They live in North and South America and they are the largest family of birds, with more than 400 species.

In North America most species are associated with a “sallying” feeding style, where they fly up to catch an insect directly from their perch and then immediately return to the same perch.

I definitely observed that, and thought, “This bird really likes my hammock.” I hope mosquitoes were on the menu.