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Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Warbler-iffic Day

After Wednesday’s intense storms, I woke up yesterday morning to a cloudless sky and sun shining through my windows. I have to admit I was mostly asleep when James called me, but the prospect of birding on this gorgeous day got me out and about, and we headed for Mason Farm. The day started out slowly, with little singing and even less showing. A pair of beautiful Prothonotary Warblers positively glowed in the early morning light, giving me my best look at the species this year.

Apparently they call them "swamp canaries" across much of the south - not a great name, but not inaccurate either.

A short walk through the woods gave us great looks at an Ovenbird catching food for its young, but we didn’t see anything great until the next field over. While we surveyed the five or so Indigo Buntings singing in the field, James saw one that seemed quite a bit larger, and when I put my binocs on it, I saw a brilliant Blue Grosbeak chilling in some low hanging brambles. We tried to get it closer, but they’re not really the type to stick around and suffer humans, so we had to move on.

Another species we haven't yet gotten that perfect shot of... still working on it!

Just around the corner, James noticed a small bird flitting through the braches that hung over the trail. I couldn’t tell what it was at first, but upon looking through my binoculars I saw a beautiful male Canada Warbler making his way through the trees, presumably for small insects and other prey. Every once in a while, he’d give snippets from his song, and I didn’t realize what it was at first. I sat there for almost five minutes trying to figure out what this odd song was before finally realizing it was the Canada Warbler singing overhead.

My first in the Triangle for spring, and a totally unexpected bird this time of year.

Back along the canal, we tried to find migrant warblers, and though American Redstarts and White-eyed Vireos put on good shows, we couldn’t find what we were looking for. We walked back and forth for a good half hour, and during one pass we realized there was a snake sitting in the path. It seemed obvious, but I don’t know how we missed it before. It froze while James shot this picture, but bolted as soon as I made the move to catch it. Typical Black Racer behavior.

Apparently I'm still not a fast enough herper to catch a Black Racer, which is a huge disappointment to me.

While the Black Racer was exciting, we had birds to see. James noticed an odd bird with a yellow belly flitting through a nearby tulip poplar, and I tried to get on it, but every time I put my glass up the bird disappeared deeper into the foliage. Finally, I got the briefest of glimpses, and I got my one and only look at a breeding-plumaged Magnolia Warbler. Knowing its identity, we played the song to draw it in, but it didn’t respond – instead, randomly, this Common Yellowthroat flew in and gave us a hell of a show.

Responds to Magnolia song, ignores Yellowthroat calls - that's what I'd call a Scumbag Yellowthroat!

Still, a Magnolia Warbler would have been a lifer for James, so we moved up and down the path to try and get a look at it. Every once in a while we’d see something flitting, just briefly, and we’d look again and it was gone. It didn’t help that every other bird decided to come out into the open while we were searching, and we ended up with great looks at American Redstart and White-eyed Vireo. But we didn’t have our target. Back at home, James looked through his pictures, and realized that one of them did indeed show a blurry but identifiable shot of the bird we were searching for – his lifer Magnolia Warbler!

Oh Maggie we couldn't have tried any more... you're so hard to photograph!

It’s a great-looking bird by anybody’s standards, but it’s starting to get late in the year. Pretty soon our migrants will be gone, and I’ll have to spend all summer trying to get that one perfect shot of an Indigo Bunting or Prairie Warbler. For now, I’ll enjoy the migrants I have. James is enjoying them too, and as soon as he got home, he emailed me some shots of a bird he found flitting around our feeders.

Not a great pic, but it's enough to make me suuuper jealous!

Turns out, it’s a Worm-eating Warbler, a lifer for James, and a bird I’ve never seen in Durham county! I’m going to try and pick it up tomorrow, and hopefully it’ll stick around, but I’m not feeling too confident. I have terrible luck with these bird, but the thought of a new county bird would get me going any day of the week. Hopefully it’ll end up in my favor!

1 comment:

  1. Hey guys, saw you at Mason Farm. I was the chick with the curly hair and the camera. I mentioned you on my blog Hope you will check it out!