Sunday, September 18, 2011

NASWC Bird Walk

Bird WalkersThis morning, ten folks participated in this month's NASWC Bird walk. We started at 7:30 AM in the Lake Creek Trail parking lot (at the end of Braes Valley) and spent nearly three hours covering about half a mile of the trail. It was one of those special mornings that happens only a few times per year during spring or fall migration. Birds were everywhere! We spent over an hour in one spot just watching a group of willow trees between the parking lot and the creek. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were the most numerous bird, and you could hear their raspy calls almost constantly. They were followed by Yellow Warblers, Wilson's Warblers, and Black-and-white Warblers. We almost got tired of seeing these four species!

These willow trees are a hot-spot for migrating songbirds, so I knew if we stayed there for awhile we'd likely see more. We did...
A Northern Parula made a brief appearance, and most of us got great looks at a male Mourning Warbler and a Yellow-breasted Chat. A waterthrush showed up that we decided was a Louisiana Waterthrush instead of a Northern, based on its broad white eye-stripe and unstreaked throat. A Red-eyed Vireo appeared and flew just a feet over our heads. It foraged very close for a bit and I was able to get this photo.

Red-eyed Vireo

There were several flycatchers around, including a singing Eastern Wood-Pewee and a few empids, one of which I identified as a Least Flycatcher. We encountered at least three Olive-sided Flycatchers, more than I've ever seen on this trail before. I photographed this one, showing its vest-like body pattern and relatively short tail.

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Further down the trail we found several Dickcissels and more gnatcatchers, Yellow Warblers, and Wilson's Warblers. At the footbridge we got good looks at a few Clay-colored Sparrows, and brief looks at two Baltimore Orioles. Also a Cooper's Hawk soared almost right over us. On our way back we found a few Blue Grosbeaks, including one mature male. And right by our original spot by the willow trees, we were treated to a long close look at a beautiful first-year female Northern Parula. I was able to get this photo of it.

Northern Parula

What a morning! Like I mentioned at the beginning, mornings like this only happen a few times per year. Local weather patterns that can seem too subtle to make a difference actually seem to affect migrating birds' decisions to stop or continue their journey. And sometimes this leads to large numbers moving through at the same time. I'm glad I could share this migration event with the folks on my neighborhood bird walk! Here is the complete list of bird species we recorded.

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