Tag Archives: spring migration

Rest stop for amazing warblers

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Blackpoll Warbler this morning, after yesterday’s rain.

Because their migration paths are different in fall and spring, we only see them here in spring, traveling from the Caribbean and South America north to the Canadian boreal forest.

National Geographic: Amazing: Tiny Birds Fly Without Landing for Three Days

Warblers that weigh about as much as a stack of 12 business cards fly thousands of miles across the Atlantic during their fall migration.

What’s black-and-white and blogged all over?

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Many Black-and-white Warblers in Sewall’s Point today!

I took a three-mile walk through the neighborhood with my camera and spotted these little birds in groups of three or more (probably many more, but they are small and hard to see) in seven or eight different large live oak and banyan trees.

I haven’t noticed them here before today, though the map shows that Florida is one of the places they winter… along with the Caribbean, Central and South America.

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I see from my blog archives that they were in our New Hampshire woods last year on May 9 and again with a bunch of other warblers on May 14. Reading the old posts makes me a bit nostalgic for our old home.

I suspect the birds I saw today are migrating north. Just like some of the snowbirds I talked to this morning at the dog park. I will be flying north in May to visit my daughters. I miss them!

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One of the earliest-arriving migrant warblers, the Black-and-white Warbler’s thin, squeaky song is one of the first signs that spring birding has sprung. This crisply striped bundle of black and white feathers creeps along tree trunks and branches like a nimble nuthatch, probing the bark for insects with its slightly downcurved bill.

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One of the big trees in our Tree City USA. Great places for insects and birds.

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It’s been a dry winter, which I guess is pretty typical for Florida with it’s wet/ dry season climate. But after the big rain on Sunday I’ve noticed more flying (biting) insects in the past couple of days. Are these bug-eating warblers following the bug bloom north?

Warblers abound

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Black-and-white Warbler, in the maple tree right off our back deck.

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Good morning, Common Yellowthroat.

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The male Common Yellowthroat has a black mask, the little bandido bug eater.

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Witchety, witchety, he says.

I saw three males near each other in the underbrush out by our pond this morning. I can hear even more out in the wet woods. A female spotted yesterday in the same area. I suspect some will migrate through and two or three pairs will stay around to nest.

Got some cute photos of an almost- fledgling last summer.

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Rain last night in the perfect amount. Sunny day ahead. Wild blueberries are blossoming.

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Walking the dog out past the pond around 7:15 a.m. I spotted a yellow bird flitting from branch to branch up high in a cherry tree. Distinctive song.

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It’s a Yellow Warbler.

I saw one for the first time last May on a birding trip offshore to Star Island, among the Isles of Shoals. (Here’s a Flickr photo album from that trip.)

This Yellow Warbler counts now as a Backyard Bird on my sidebar… number 48.

Males sing a sweet series of 6–10 whistled notes that accelerate over the course of the roughly 1-second song and often end on a rising note. The tone is so sweet that people often remember it with the mnemonic sweet sweet sweet I’m so sweet. The songs are a common sound of spring and early summer mornings and may be repeated as often as 10 times per minute.

8:50 a.m. BONUS

Just got some photos of an American Redstart in the woods next to our house! I saw two but heard more.

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A lively warbler that hops among tree branches in search of insects, the male American Redstart is coal-black with vivid orange patches on the sides, wings, and tail. True to its Halloween-themed color scheme, the redstart seems to startle its prey out of the foliage by flashing its strikingly patterned tail and wing feathers.

A buttery yelllow bird

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Looking up at a Yellow Warbler on Star Island last weekend.

North America has more than 50 species of warblers, but few combine brilliant color and easy viewing quite like the Yellow Warbler. In summer, the buttery yellow males sing their sweet whistled song from willows, wet thickets, and roadsides across almost all of North America.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warblers nest on Star Island, one of the Isles of Shoals off our coast.

Look for Yellow Warblers near the tops of tall shrubs and small trees. They forage restlessly, with quick hops along small branches and twigs to glean caterpillars and other insects.

We also saw migrating warblers like Magnolia Warblers, Northern Parulas, Black-throated Green Warblers and Wilson’s Warblers. And many other birds too!

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This Yellow Warbler was banded, probably on the banding station next island over – Appledore Island.

More on our our especially birdy weekend coming up in a few more posts.

Photos from a Spring Birding Weekend are on Flickr HERE.

Catbirds return

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A couple of days ago the catbirds came back.

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Shy at first, they are growing bolder – making acrobatic forays to the suet cakes and observing our behavior. We are quickly being classified as reasonably harmless food providers.

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This catbird is pictured out past the pond and big garden, at the beginning of the red maple swamp woods. They do seem to like this area, I remember from last year too, maybe because there are winterberries growing wild there.

I saw 5 or 6 catbirds yesterday. Maybe some are just passing through. Last year we had a couple of pairs that nested nearby and visited feeders regularly.

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I heard catbirds before I saw them. Their “catty mew” is distinctive.

If you’re convinced you’ll never be able to learn bird calls, start with the Gray Catbird. Once you’ve heard its catty mew you won’t forget it. Follow the sound into thickets and vine tangles and you’ll be rewarded by a somber gray bird with a black cap and bright rusty feathers under the tail. Gray Catbirds are relatives of mockingbirds and thrashers, and they share that group’s vocal abilities, copying the sounds of other species and stringing them together to make their own song.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology video: Catbird Mimicry

A pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks

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Rose-breasted Grosbeak puts in an appearance, yesterday evening around 7 p.m.

First sighting of the year.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak male

Bursting with black, white, and rose-red, male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are like an exclamation mark at your bird feeder or in your binoculars. Females and immatures are streaked brown and white with a bold face pattern and enormous bill.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak female

And right on cue, just before I blogged the male this morning the female appeared, around 6:45 a.m.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak female

These chunky birds use their stout bills to eat seeds, fruit, and insects. They are also frequent visitors to backyard bird feeders, where they eat sunflower seeds with abandon.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks breed in eastern forests; you can find them among both deciduous trees and conifers. They are most common in regenerating woodlands and often concentrate along forest edges and in parks. During migration, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks frequent fruiting trees to help fuel their flights to Central and South America.

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Welcome to your summer lands, RBGs!

This bird’s sweet, robin-like song has inspired many a bird watcher to pay tribute to it. A couple of early twentieth-century naturalists said it is “so entrancingly beautiful that words cannot describe it,” and “it has been compared with the finest efforts of the robin and… the Scarlet Tanager, but it is far superior to either.” Present-day bird watchers have variously suggested it sings like a robin that has had opera training, is drunk, refined, in a hurry, or unusually happy.

The female Cowbird appears

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The female Brown-headed Cowbird made an appearance yesterday, a few hours after I spotted the male. Both seem to have arrived with a mixed flock of Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles.

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The cowbird and a male Northern Cardinal shared the feeder for a few minutes in the late afternoon.

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This is the moment my husband opened the sliding glass door to the back deck and both birds became alert, just before flying off.

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Common Grackle cleaning up the old bird seed in melting snow.

Why Do Blackbirds Form Large Flocks?Though many birds band together during winter, none are as notorious for their flocking behavior as blackbirds…red-winged blackbirds, European starlings, common grackles and brown-headed cowbirds.

This was a small flock yesterday, a mini-flock, maybe a transitioning-to-spring flock (if there is such a thing) with 6 or 7 grackles and about the same number of red-winged blackbirds, plus the cowbird couple.

Birdcast Regional Migration Forecast: 3-10 April: Upper Midwest and Northeast lists Brown-headed Cowbirds as “arriving.”