Twelve folks joined me this morning for the monthly group bird walk. We met at the Braes Valley trail head in very light rain which soon moved off to the east. We spent over two hours on the trail, starting in cloudy and ending in partly cloudy conditions. The temperature was delightfully cool.
The trail was very birdy, with Blue Jays and Yellow-rumped Warblers being the most obvious birds. Last week I did not find any Yellow-rumped Warblers but this morning they were back for the winter in force. I estimated there were 50 along the half mile of trail we covered, and they were almost a constant source of small movements and call notes in the trees. Among them were a few Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Orange-crowned Warblers, and we found a single Nashville Warbler in the largest group on its way further south.
The most exciting bird observations of the walk were two normally skulking species that I recognized by sound before seeing them. They both responded to played recordings of their calls and came out in the open for great views by all. (Playing recordings to lure birds out of hiding is a waste of energy for the birds, and it puts them in added danger from predators, so I only occasionally do this, and never for endangered or threatened species.) The first was a male Spotted Towhee which I didn't get a good photo of, and the second was a Brown Thrasher which I got this mediocre photo:
The group had a bit of a scare while we were watching birds from the footbridge. An electrical transformer blew up right next to us! Some of us actually saw a blue fireball! There was no obvious cause. We wondered if a squirrel had short-circuited it.
I found a new dragonfly for the trail -- an Autumn Meadowhawk that was hanging high in the canopy early in the walk. I think this species normally hunts from a low perch, but it was just too early and cool for it to be hunting yet. Here's a poor photo.
We found 36 species of birds. Here's our complete list. What a fun morning!