Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Friday, June 29, 2012

May: a Month in Migration

Migration is like performing a cannonball into a swimming pool. When it starts, you're not quite sure just what to expect, but as you you sail through the air, you're excitement swells. Finally, right when the jump is most exciting, the whole thing ends suddenly. This migration season started out with my lifer Prothonotary, but really got going at the end of April and beginning of May. However, immediately after the coolest migrants showed up, migration ceased quickly.
May started after a week of Black-throated Blue and Cape May Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos, and Acadian Flycatchers. 3 days in, I knew migration was in full swing. One morning, I woke up to a song I'd never heard in person before, a "Sweezy Sweezy Sweezy". I immediately recognized it as the song of an overdue lifer. I was simply hoping it wasn't an American Redstart. I searched from 7:30-8:00, but instead of locating the singer, I found two Bay-breasted Warblers and a Northern Parula. Slightly after the 8:13 mark, I saw a handsomely marked bird fly up onto a dead branch more-or-less 5ft from me and start nuthatching around. I quickly snapped some less-than-perfect photos with my camera. I finally observed my lifer Black-and-White Warbler! The worms that morning must have been everywhere. Shortly after this encounter, the American Redstarts and Black-throated Blue Warblers started to sing and even a Common Yellowthroat was present.
Well I did say less-than-perfect...
My next lifer I encountered just two days later during a trip to Phinizy Swamp Nature Park with my brother, Kyle. On this trip we observed great birds such as Wood Duck, Snowy Egret, White-eyed Vireo, Northern Parula, Yellow-throated Warbler (with adorable fledglings!), and Indigo Bunting, but the award-winners were the Bobolinks (estimated number of 1000 individuals; video) and my lifer Yellow-breasted Chat! I wasn't expecting to find this bird, but heard it calling off in a grove of well-spaced trees and was lucky enough catch it singing in the open! I've met a few Yellow-breasted Chats after this, but none have been as cooperative as my first.

Two days later, I was out in the yard, very early in the morning as usual, when the sharp note of a warbler caught my attention. I noticed a pair of warblers flitting through a juniper. Of course, my interest was piqued and I had to know what these two unknown migrants were. After snapping a few backlit shots, I noticed the bright legs of the birds and immediately knew they were Blackpoll Warblers. Later, when reviewing the, again, less-than-perfect photos, I concluded there were two males and one female. I was content with the record photos I had (fortunately in focus, but horridly backlit and noisy), but I knew I could do better. So I went out that afternoon and found myself to be in luck - the Blackpolls were still there. I was happy to find a female Redstart hanging around with them as well. Throughout the day they stayed in the vicinity, especially near my chestnut tree and I was able to take some better-than-less-than-perfect photos. This wasn't a lifer for me, but a great experience!

After the Blackpoll Warblers, migration slowed down dramatically, with mostly Red-eyed Vireos and Redstarts visiting the yard. By the end of May, all the Summer birds were out in full force.
Butterfly lifers I observed during May include: a Broad-winged Skipper at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park, and a Summer Azure in my yard.
My yearlist currently stands at 140, with Northern Rough-winged Swallow being my latest yeartick.
June hasn't been too exciting. I will probably not cover June, maybe just an individual adventure. Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

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