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Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Birds are Back in Town!

After my herping success at Sandling Beach the other week, I decided to show Mark the site and see if we could whip up any cool snakes. However, we decided to take a small detour to Brickhouse Road and see if we could kick up any of the bitterns that had been reported there. Nothing doing, and aside from some odd Pied-billed Grebe mating vocalizations, nothing out of the ordinary. We were, however, pleasantly entertained by this White-eyed Vireo belting away his extraordinary song.

Belting out his favorite song, it won't be long; won't be long 'til summer comes!

Ever since I first started birding, the White-eyed Vireo’s song has captivated me. It’s a perfect example of the feats Passerines can achieve with their twin vocal cords, and far from the melody of a Wood Thrush or Hooded Warbler, it’s a random jumble of phrases that sounds like some kid messing around with a digital sound mixer. Normally these guys sing from a dense bush, but this individual was kind enough to venture out into the open shadows.

Guess who just got back that day? Them white-eyed birds that'd been away.

Once we arrived at Sandling Beach, I made sure to scan Falls Lake for any sign of the Horned Grebe or Common Loon I’d seen the previous day. Unfortunately, a strong wind blew across the water, leading to choppy conditions particularly awful for scoping. All I could muster were fifty Ring-billed Gulls violently bobbing up and down in the turbulent water.

At the cover boards, we found our fair share of snakes – almost a dozen Ringnecks, plus a beautiful little Mole Kingsnake, whose markings shone bright orange in the mid-day sun. Nearby, I noticed a pair of birds frequenting some manmade nesting sites hanging from a scaffold. They were Tree Swallows, a species that breeds sparingly in our region. Perhaps that’s what these ones were doing, singing a bubbling call to each other as they decided whether or not to stay and nest.

And that time over at the herping place? These swallows got up and flew all in my face!

Upon arriving at a second herping site, Mark and I heard the distinctive rising call of an Ovenbird singing in the woods. Usually these guys are pretty secretive, but the site had good edge habitat and we decided to see if we could coax him out into the sun. Despite our best efforts, he seemed determined to stay inside his arboreal sanctuary, and the best I could muster were fleeting glimpses and dim photographs.

Man we just fell up out the place - if that Ovenbird don't wanna show, forget 'im!

Still, our breeding birds have come back in force over the last couple of weeks, and I don’t think I’ll have many left to look forward to as migration continues its course. The migrants are starting to stream in though, and pretty soon our woods will be filled with Scarlet Tanagers singing from treetops and Black-throated Blues buzzing from bushes. It’s probably my favorite time of year!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the new gadget in our sidebar – now you can check out the Birding Bros. photo galleries, and see every animal we’ve ever found on our journeys. They’ll be constantly updated, so keep checking back for new photos!

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