Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Great Start to 2019

Many birders including myself enjoy starting the new year birding. There's something undeniably fun about wondering what your first birds of the year will be. This morning I slept in, and I think the first bird I perceived in any way was an American Crow that I heard cawing while I was still laying in bed. I finally got out of the house around 9:20 AM with the plan to do some "street birding." Our neighborhood has so many mature native trees that you can find great birds just by walking the streets, especially in the winter when year-round and winter resident species come together in mixed-species foraging flocks.

After initially hearing some Blue Jays and an Eastern Phoebe call note, the first birds I actually laid eyes on were American Goldfinches, a distant small flock of about half a dozen birds making their "tutu, tututu" call as they flew between treetops. These were just the first of dozens of American Goldfinches I encountered, mixed with dozens of Cedar Waxwings and American Robins mostly just west of Broadmeade between Chesterforest and Shady Oaks. There were lots of other cool birds with them in smaller numbers, including most of our expected winter-resident songbirds. Species I was most excited to find were Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (a beautiful mature male), Pine Warbler, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Pine Siskin! The nuthatch was in the same area I'd seen one a couple weeks ago, near Stillforest and Hazelhurst. I unexpectedly found 3 sparrow species (White-throated, Song, and Lincolns) in the reeds of the tributary creek that Broadmeade crosses just north of Meadowheath.

I didn't take my camera with me because light was bad for photography, and because people seem to be more suspicious of me when I have a camera. But here's a photo from late 2012 of a Red-breasted Nuthatch I found in the same area as this morning:

Red-breasted Nuthatch

I covered about 2 miles in a little under 2 hours and found 34 species of birds.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

LeConte's Sparrow

This morning Barry Noret and I birded the east half of Lake Creek Trail, starting at the Parmer Village pond. The most exciting bird we found was this beautiful little LeConte's Sparrow in the tall grass along the trail between this pond and the last dam. I got these two mediocre photos. (Unfortunately it was before the sun came out.)

LeConte's Sparrow - 4

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

This morning ten people joined me on the monthly group walk. It was cold and clear when we met at 8:00 AM at the Braes Valley parking lot. We spent about 3 hours covering 1 mile on the trail and as a group observed 42 species of birds. And we enjoyed beautiful clear conditions and morning light. Here are some highlights.

Two Carolina Chickadees were some of the first birds we got good close looks at as one sang and both foraged in and around the dead mimosa tree near the trail head. There was a nearby cavity in one of the branches that they might have been checking out or even guarding for future use to nest in. Here's one:

Carolina Chickadee

A little further down the trail we started hearing the "vree" call of a Hermit Thrush, the first I've heard or seen this season. We played a recording of its song and this normally hidden bird that prefers low dense brush in the woods came out and flew by us several times looking for the source of the song. Unfortunately it never gave us a good photo opportunity.

There was a fair amount of activity including Yellow-rumped Warblers, White-throated Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, and a few other species but getting good looks at them was difficult. Then from across the creek there was a large flight of White-winged Doves and a minute later we spotted a Cooper's Hawk flying through the canopy. We then noticed that nearly all the birds were silent because of the close proximity of this avian predator.

The subdued activity lasted for a long time, and we were approaching the footbridge before things seemed to return to normal. We got some brief looks at a Brown Thrasher in the dense trees and shrubs between the trail and the creek. And then I looked up and was stunned by the fall color of a cedar elm tree in the angled morning light. The leaves looked almost electric!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

About a dozen people joined me for the monthly group walk this morning. We started at the east end of Lake Creek Trail by the Parmer Village pond. It was cold and windy initially but the sun came out and it became a beautiful morning. Here are some highlights from the walk. The pond was pretty quiet, with a few Double-crested Cormorants and a Loggerhead Shrike being the most interesting birds. We made our way to the creek bed and began walking upstream. A heard-only House Wren chattered at us when we first went off trail. And there were a few sparrows around but most couldn't be seen.

We briefly saw an Osprey flying low over the creek up by the last dam. And a little later we saw it again. It was headed our way and flew right over us!

Osprey in Flight - 1

Here it is again, head-on!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

About 8 people joined me last Sunday (October 7) for the monthly Birding on Broadmeade group walk. We started at 8:00 AM at the Braes Valley parking lot of Lake Creek Trail. What started slow turned out to be a great morning of finding fall migrant birds and returning winter residents! Here are some highlights.

About .1 miles from the footbridge Helen Mastrangelo spotted a pair of American Redstarts (one male and one female) in the dense brush between the trail and the creek. These birds were hard to see deep in the foliage, and while we waited for them to sometimes offer brief clear views, more birds showed up. Two Great Crested Flycatchers, a female Baltimore Oriole, a Wilson's Warbler, and an Indigo Bunting were all added to our list standing in this one spot watching the redstarts!

From the footbridge we found a Nashville Warbler. Across the footbridge we found a Yellow Warbler, a few Eastern Bluebirds, and estimated 30 Chimney Swifts that hadn't disappeared to the south yet. At the second creek crossing this lone male Rambur's Forktail damselfly was perched on a plant in the water. This might be the best photo I've gotten of this species!

Rambur's Forktail

On our way back Virginia Rose spotted a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, a winter resident species that is one of my personal favorite symbols of the season. I'm jealous that she got to see it but I missed it!

By this time the hackberry trees were full of brown butterflies chasing each other around. I assume they were mostly the same species that use hackberry trees as their host plant. I photographed this one which was identified as a Tawny Emperor when I posted it on iNaturalist:

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

Eight people joined me this morning for the monthly group walk on Lake Creek Trail. We started at 7:30 at the Parmer Village end and spent two and a half hours covering about one mile of the trail. Before we left the pond we watched this White-tailed Deer fawn following its mother along the east edge:

White-tailed Deer Fawn

The first half of the walk turned out to be an exciting morning of fall migration birding! In the creek bed just east of the trail we got brief looks at a few Orchard Orioles and Yellow Warblers. We also saw a Cooper's Hawk fly by, low in hunting mode, and we got to experience how most of the birds quieted down in response. Approaching the last dam on the creek we spotted three male Blue Grosbeaks feeding on seeds in the johnson grass. A little later on the other side of the creek we got great looks at them and I got this photo of one:

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Birding on Broadmeade Walk

Only five people joined me for the monthly group walk on Sunday morning. We enjoyed a humid but breezy morning, finding 35 species of birds in about three hours. Here are a few highlights. Many of the birds we saw looked messy and unkempt because they are currently molting. Here's a Northern Cardinal missing some of its crest feathers. (That didn't stop him from singing!)

Northern Cardinal

At the footbridge we saw this juvenile European Starling that was a little more challenged than normal. Somehow it had broken off the tip of its bill!