Tag Archives: Yellow-rumped Warbler

Club Scrub-Jay

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Cool lake on a hot day at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, last Sunday, when I went on a solo trek to find scrub jays.

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I walked around this lake. It smelled a bit like a northern freshwater lake – cool, fresh, watery and alive!

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This narrow trail was shared by mountain bikers. Best to choose the trails marked for foot traffic only, I learned.

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Jonathan Dickinson preserves a large area of Florida scrub habitat.

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Florida sand pine scrub is an endangered subtropical forest ecoregion found throughout Florida in the United States.[4] It is found on coastal and inland sand ridges and is characterized by an evergreen xeromorphic plant community dominated by shrubs and dwarf oaks. Because the low-nutrient sandy soils do not retain moisture, the ecosystem is effectively an arid one. Wildfires infrequently occur in the Florida scrub. Most of the annual rainfall (about 135 cm or 53 in) falls in summer. It is endangered by residential, commercial and agricultural development.

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Can you see the mountain biker in the above two photos? There is an active club at the park, Club Scrub.

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But count me as a member of Club Scrub-Jay! (They should start one, right?) Here’s a Florida Master naturalist who is a big fan…

Why the Scrub-Jay should be Florida’s state bird, with Eva Ries

It has a beautiful dusty-gray breast, it has a gray collar around the back, it’s blue up top with a gray eyebrow, and it has the most unusual call. When they call to their compatriots, they make a rrih! rrih! rrih-rrih-rrih!

Video of Florida Scrub-Jay “happy song” while perched on a man’s hat! LINK

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They are not hard to find, when you are in their habitat. They are curious and the landscape is open.

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Audubon…

This bird is noteworthy on several counts. It lives nowhere in the world except Florida, it has a complicated social system, it has been the subject of very detailed field studies, and it is threatened by loss of habitat. Formerly considered just a race of the scrub-jays found in the west, it is now classified as a full species.

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Breeds in cooperative flocks. Each nesting territory is occupied by an adult pair and often by one to six “helpers,” usually the pair’s offspring from previous years. These additional birds assist in defending the territory and feeding the young. Studies have shown that a pair with “helpers” is likely to raise more young than a pair without. Nest site is in tree or shrub, usually an oak, with sand live oak strongly favored.

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I saw a total of three scrub-jays but just focused on getting decent shots of this one, close by and in good light.

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Range map.

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A bit jay-like appearance but without a crest. Here is the familiar and widespread (east of the Rocky Mountains) Blue Jay for comparison, from a little later that morning in the park…

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Blue Jays’ behavioral attitude seems a bit fussier and sassier, like they enjoy complaining and picking fights. I watched them a lot in New Hampshire, especially at my bird feeders.

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From a Feb 5, 2015 blog post: Birds are avian dinosaurs 

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The Scrub-Jay seems a bit more peaceful, even elegant, especially for a corvid. Although maybe I need to spend more time observing them.

Saving Florida’s Friendliest Native Bird Matters

For the past 2 million years, Florida has been home to a superlative bird found nowhere else on earth. These birds are remarkably smart, with extraordinary memory and perhaps even the ability to plan ahead. Highly social yet quarrelsome, they’re like the stars of an avian soap opera. And they’re as brash and curious as precocious kids. Many a jubilant birdwatcher has turned to find one mischievously perched upon their shoulder.

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Park sign.

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I also got close to a Yellow-rumped Warbler in a thicket, a winter visitor to Florida.

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The Yellow-rumped Warbler is the only warbler able to digest the waxes found in bayberries and wax myrtles. Its ability to use these fruits allows it to winter farther north than other warblers, sometimes as far north as Newfoundland.

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Yellow-rumped Warblers are perhaps the most versatile foragers of all warblers. They’re the warbler you’re most likely to see fluttering out from a tree to catch a flying insect, and they’re also quick to switch over to eating berries in fall. Other places Yellow-rumped Warblers have been spotted foraging include picking at insects on washed-up seaweed at the beach, skimming insects from the surface of rivers and the ocean, picking them out of spiderwebs, and grabbing them off piles of manure.

I bought an annual pass to Florida State Parks and I will be heading back to Jonathan Dickinson again soon!

Haney Creek list

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Green Heron!

Not an uncommon bird, but hard to spot. This is my first sighting since we moved to Florida.

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I went for a walk at Haney Creek yesterday late morning. I kept track of the birds I saw and heard and posted an eBird checklist for the first time in a while.

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The first to greet me: a couple of Gray Catbirds.

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Meow.

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Next, a non-bird.

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A slow-moving Gopher Tortoise was grazing at the edge of the path.

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On the fence at the dog run, an Eastern Phoebe.

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“Phoebe!” it said, helpfully.

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I expected to see more wading birds in the wetlands but only came up with this immature Little Blue Heron.

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That is a school just beyond the wetlands.

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The Little Blue is starting to get its adult colors.

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Why do they start off white and turn slaty blue-gray? I don’t know.

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On the hunt.

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Mirror, mirror.

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Last time I was at the dog park at Haney Creek (two days before), there were a pair of Sandhill Cranes and a pair of Great Egrets having a turf battle. I did not have my camera. I was hoping to see them this day but no luck.

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Next I walked a trail through sand pine scrub.

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There were little birds calling but I only got a good look at a few, including this Yellow-rumped Warbler.

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There have been a ton of butterbutts around this winter. I’m almost getting sick of them.

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More info on Florida sand pine scrub, an endangered subtropical forest ecoregion.

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Another gopher tortoise out for a stroll.

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Finally an animal that can’t outrun me, or fly away.

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Lots of Northern Cardinals around.

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I think it’s nesting season for them.

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Chestnut cap helps identify this (out of focus) Palm Warbler.

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Who doesn’t love a Green Heron??

Not a lot bigger than a gnat

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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in an orange tree, spied from along River Road in south Sewall’s Point.

First time I’ve seen one of these tiny fellows. I got ID help on the Facebook page What’s This Bird.

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.

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A Black-and-white Warbler was nearby.

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And a few Yellow-rumped Warblers were in the neighborhood too.

All of these little insect-eating birds are winter residents, in town for “the season.”

Fort Morgan

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The nonchalant cormorant.

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Looking north toward Mobile Bay from Fort Morgan, Alabama.

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We drove from Gulf Shores out to Fort Morgan because we do love a nice peninsula. Breezy and chilly, but sunny.

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Oil rigs in the bay.

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Shrimp boats too.

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Which way to the beach? More Double-crested Cormorants.

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There is a dog beach at Fort Morgan. Radar was happy about that. He loves the beach. We went on the beach across from our rental too, because it’s off season and nobody was around.

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Nothing like a good stick.

Sometimes it’s hard to get good bird photos when traveling with a dog, especially one shaped like a bit like a wolf. At least he (mostly) doesn’t chase birds. He prefers squirrels and balls.

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Just offshore were 7 or 8 Bufflehead ducks, disappearing now and then under water. This is a male.

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This is a female.

A buoyant, large-headed duck that abruptly vanishes and resurfaces as it feeds, the tiny Bufflehead spends winters bobbing in bays, estuaries, reservoirs, and lakes. Males are striking black-and white from a distance. A closer look at the head shows glossy green and purple setting off the striking white patch. Females are a subdued gray-brown with a neat white patch on the cheek.

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Bufflehead chase.

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On land at Fort Morgan, an Amy-attracting sign.

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The migrants included my old friends the Killdeer, bobbing, running, calling and flying…

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Killdeer flies off.

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And my other old friends the Yellow-rumped Warblers.

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Show us your butt!

Auld acquaintance: butterbutt

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Yellow-rumped Warbler in the neighbor’s banyan tree yesterday evening near sunset. There were a couple of them flitting around, calling softly. I pished them closer and got a few photos of one of them. (I’m always still surprised when that works.) Unfortunately, no good view of their defining feature, the bright yellow rump patch.

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Yellow-rumped Warblers are here in winter, fly north in April, and return south in late October. Here is a very cool animated map showing the species distribution and relative abundance throughout the 52 weeks of the year in North America.

The Yellow-rumped Warbler is one of the most abundant birds in North America, connecting almost every part of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico during its annual cycle.

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This is the first time I have noticed them in Florida. I first met them in my New Hampshire backyard in October 2016. Warning: gorgeous autumn foliage that will induce intense nostalgia if you have ever lived in NH!.. (But today they are having a blizzard.)

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Last two days

Reaching the peak

Thank you, little bird, for connecting the old and the new for me.

(This is my 67th Florida bird. My bird total in NH was 64.)

Reaching the peak

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Maple on fire!

What a morning. We are reaching the peak of color out back by the pond, field and red maple swamp.

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White-throated sparrow, a bird we see in winter.

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Sun coming up, moon going down. Pretty sure this tree had leaves yesterday!

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Must remember these colors. They go so fast. And we go soon. House closing date is Nov. 29.

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Mm-maple.

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A nice place for a dog walk.

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Yellow-rumped warblers are still here.

#59 is a butterbutt

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There were warblers in the maples out by the pond this morning, but what kind?

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Maybe 8 or 10 flitting around, hard to see, mostly making chip noises, sometimes trilling faint tuneless trills.

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Later, comparing photos with internet photos and descriptions, and checking local eBird checklists, I thought they might be Yellow-rumped Warblers. But I didn’t have a photo of the defining feature, the yellow rump patch.

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Bird Watcher’s Digest: One of the best-known warblers in the United States—and easily the most widespread and numerous in winter—the yellow-rumped warbler is a paradox: Its plumage and its habitats are very variable; yet, it is relatively easy to identify whenever you find it. The yellow-rumped warbler is 5 to 6 inches long, with a sharp thin bill and slightly notched tail. In breeding plumage, the eastern male is blue-gray with a white throat and belly, black streaking on the back, a black face patch, two white wing bars, black bib, and yellow spots on the crown, shoulders, and rump. Spring females are browner and duller than their mates. Immatures and fall adults are brown above, with brown-streaked underparts and little or no yellow visible. The one constant in all plumages is the bright yellow rump.

Looks like its plumage winter.

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I went out to the pond at lunchtime and tried a few more photos. I thought I saw the yellow patch but I did not get a photo. They don’t hold still very long!

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Finally, 4:15 p.m… bingo!

“I got your butt,” I told this little bird.

Breeding in the far north, the eastern race of the yellow-rumped warbler is known in most of the country only as a migrant or winter resident. Migrants can be found in woodlands, hedge-rows, thickets, and even along beaches as they stream through in large flocks. Winter birds congregate wherever they can find berries, their principal cold-weather food. In Florida, yellow-rumps are known to drink the juice of broken or fallen oranges, and throughout their winter range they will consume weed seeds large and small. Some yellow-rumps come to backyard feeders where they eat a variety of fare.

I learned a new bird today! and it was one of the challenging (to me) warblers. Also, it is backyard bird #59.

A Facebook friend said birders nickname the Yellow-rumped Warbler “butterbutt.” I love that.