May, oh my!
So many birds = so little time
Today, we start with a video. Fortunately, I saw this bird and could confirm its identity. That will be revealed in due course. So, watch for the bird on the left side on the down-angled branch. It disappears into cover and comes into the basin area 'back door' on the left side. As you can see, these birds are small, quick and it's often difficult to catch sight of them when the leaves have filled out and the bubbler area is so dark and shady.
Four different vireo species have come to the bubbler, usually to splash-bathe. They pause to look, giving me a better chance to get their passport photos. Warbling Vireo and Philadelphia Vireos look similar and are often difficult to separate out. The Philadelphia is the least common. Blue-headed Vireo and Red-eyed Vireo are a bit easier to tell apart.
Both Baltimore and Orchard Orioles have come to the bubbler this spring. It is the first time that a male Orchard has gotten in to bathe.
Summer and Scarlet Tanagers have also been seen and heard. The young Summer Tanager reminds me of Neopolitan sherbet with its multicolored plumage. Soon, it will be an orangey-red all over.
Gray-cheeked and Swainson's Thrushes come early and often to the bubbler. However, one evening this spring was the first time in ten years that a Wood Thrush got in! Now let's look at a few more warblers.
Yellow Warblers have been a joy to see this year, and a female came in on Monday, 5-9-22.
We had Northern Parulas a few more days before they began to establish breeding territory.
The lovely Bay-breasted Warbler pair arrived on different days. Both are so uniquely colored, though the female can be confused with the Blackpoll female. Dark legs? Bay-breasted.
And, here is the Blackpoll pair. Certainly don't have dark legs, do they? Orangey legs are a key diagnostic feature for this bird.
What would spring be without the beautiful Blackburnian Warblers? Firethroats!
The video of the first bird was recorded on Friday, 5-16-22. I was able to find the bird in the hydrangeas behind the bubbler. It gave me one full frontal view, Mourning Warbler! Then, it flew down into cover again to forage and sang a little, "cheery-cheery, chorry-chorry-chorry." I had a long list of other things to be done, but thought there might be a good chance that the bird would come back after feeding. It is a skulker, and stayed in the cover of mayapple and wood poppies most of the time, but I was able to get these two photos, certainly not glamour shots but, "C'est la vie!" It is #109 for the year and #78 at the bubbler. To me, having it be comfortable enough to come back in was reward in itself. Every minute a bird is here finding what it needs helps to anchor our location into its genes.
All the photos that make it into a gallery or on the blog go through my 12-step process. I've taken hundreds every day this spring and I'm still sorting through them. Maybe I'll be caught up by fall migration!
If you'd like to look at more of the birds, start here: Photos beginning May 4
Update: The Eastern Bluebirds fledged successfully on 5-12-22. We hope to see more of them soon!
Happy Mother's Day!
How about some warblers to help celebrate?
"Sweet, sweet, sweet, I'm so sweet!" There have been Yellow Warblers here almost every day since 4-22-22, Earth Day! Some years we don't see them at all.
An unusual sighting is this Pine Warbler that was here for several days. It is a rare but regular migrant through the St. Louis area during the last two weeks of April and first few days of May. There is a wintering population in shortleaf pine stands in the southern part of Missouri.
Blackpoll Warblers! Orange legs are diagnostic for the species. Male is in first photo, and the most beautiful female I've ever seen in the second. It's important to see this species in the spring because there are very few records of them in the fall. In fact, we have the third record of a fall sighting for the state.
Chestnut-sided Warblers have been heard calling, "Pleased, pleased, pleased to meet 'ya!"
Blue-winged Warblers! "Bee-buzz!" What a beauty to be blowing raspberries, but that is just what it sounds like.
"Zee-bee-bee-bee bee!" sings the Golden-winged Warbler, the bird of highest conservation concern that we've seen here.
"Zeeee-up!" The diminutive Northern Parula can easily be heard, not always easily seen. It took years to coax them down to the bubbler.
"Weesee, weesee, weesee, weesee, weesee." The Black-and-white Warbler has a repetitive, rhythmic squeaky song.
The brilliant Magnolia Warbler sings, "Weeta-weeta-weetsee". Its tail looks like it's dipped in ink and like no other warbler's.
The Northern Waterthrush loves the still waters of the swampy thicket. It has a loud metallic "chink" call, and sings, "Sweet sweet sweet swee wee wee chew chew chew."
The Black-throated Green Warbler has two songs, "zee-zee-zee-zee-zoozee!" and "zee-zee-zoo-zoo-zee." It's fun to hear all these songs tumbling on top of one another. In May, it is challenging to keep up with all the activity!
Birds will be tumbling in now, in even greater numbers. Here's the forecast: http://birdcast.info/
For all the birds since the last post: Birds beginning 5-28-22
Just warblers, you say? Warblers
Enjoy the miracle of migration!
Migration is now in full swing!
What a big change in the last ten days. Here are just some of the new FOY (first-of-year) birds.
The last Rusty Blackbird was seen on Earth Day, 4-22-22. There are still a few being seen in Forest Park, very late for this overwintering species still to be here.
This Blue-headed Vireo splash-bathed on 4-21-22.
Black-throated Green and Orange-crowned Warblers came in on Earth Day. The second Orange-crowned Warbler was sheltering in a Blackhaw, out of gusty winds the following day.
A Yellow Warbler stopped by the bubbler on Earth Day. This species has been seen on three days, more photos will be added soon (if I ever catch up!)
To complement the Yellow Warbler, and Indigo Bunting also came in for species #66 for the year and #45 at the bubbler.
Finally, our first Ruby-throated Hummingbird arrived on Saturday, 4-23-22. This bird was at the Virginia Bluebells even more than the feeder. I saw the first female yesterday, 4-29-22.
Beautiful Northern Parulas came in on Saturday, 4-23-22 as well. The female shows us all what these birds are doing, finding caterpillars on native plants to eat! This is exactly why we do not use pesticides because that would eliminate this essential food for these migrants and for nesting birds. Caterpillars are the primary food fed to baby birds.
Nashville, Tennessee and Blackpoll Warblers, you guessed them! "Parties at the Bubbler" have officially begun!
From the tiny Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and shy Lincoln's Sparrow to the Wild Turkey that stepped out of the woods before scooting back to cover, birds of every size have been coming through. It's spring migration!
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Golden-winged Warblers and the Great Crested Flycatchers have been added to the mix.
For the first time ever, we have TWO Red-headed Woodpeckers frequenting the woodland. They both are seen and heard every day now since Monday, 4-25-22. The first photo shows the near adult bird and the next two show an adult. Perhaps they are a pair now. This species is on the Watch List due to habitat loss, so this is a remarkable development. With the leaves filling out on the trees, it may be trickier to see and photograph these birds. Will try to keep you updated.
Carolina Wrens and House Finches have fledged. Northern Cardinals, Eastern Phoebes, Eastern Bluebirds and more are feeding young. Yesterday, I had 56 species of birds here, including 14 warblers. It will take me a while to catch up, but photos will be added into this gallery.
It's truly spring!
PS Some of you have asked about the highly contagious Avian Flu situation for the birds in other states. I'll post an alert if we need to take down feeders and bird baths. At this point, it is not necessary as far as I know.
The moody month of April is now under the full Pink Moon.
A female Purple Finch was seen on a couple days and visited the bubbler on 4-7-22.
Two Hermit Thrushes were also here chasing each other and finding tiny larvae to eat.
We had a setback with sleet and light snow when a cold front came in on 4-8-22. The next morning, we had a hard freeze. Birds need to find food no matter what the weather! Somehow, dark days make the goldfinches all the brighter.
A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and a Hairy Woodpecker found insects by pecking away at a Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) and small stump.
Red-breasted Nuthatches glean insects from vines and bark. The Yellow-rumped Warbler also does but along with the Eastern Phoebe, a flycatcher, it will sally out and catch insects on the wing.
Bathing is a favorite activity even on the coldest days. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet checked the bubbler when it was full of wind-blown leaves and returned the following morning. The Carolina Chickadee, Yellow-rumped Warbler and White-breasted Nuthatch always find a time to freshen up.
I was filling the feeders one morning when I heard a scuffle and looked up to see a Red-headed Woodpecker and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker having a bit of a confrontation. Four days later on 4-13-22, I was able to find the Red-headed Woodpecker again in the woodland. What a striking bird! Because it has dark barring in the secondary feathers and they're not pure white, it is a young bird in near adult plumage. I wonder, is it the same juvenile bird that was here in January? (last photo)
We've seen three new arrivals for the year. In between storms on 4-13-22, I spotted this bedraggled little White-eyed Vireo for FOY #56. Two days later, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was confirmed. (Thought I'd had a glimpse when I saw the vireo.) And, yesterday, this Swainson's Thrush popped out of the bluebells at the bubbler for FOY #58 and Bubbler Bird #40.
Remember in the last post, I mentioned my little nemesis, the Brown Thrasher. Well, I have to take that back. It came out on Friday to give me a real education on how it thrashes about in the leaves to find food and lives up to its name. Of course, haven't seen it since! Some days it's all about luck and being in the right place at the right time.
We checked the Eastern Bluebird nest on 4-12-22 and found five beautiful eggs. The female is diligent about being on the nest and the male takes his guard duty very seriously. Fingers crossed they'll be successful.
Recently, I was asked why we have so many beautiful birds here in our yard. We became aware years ago that birds were in trouble. My birding mentors told me stories of birds literally, "dripping off the trees." Well, birds are in trouble and their numbers have dropped dramatically since 1970. Birds are the "canaries in the coal mine", that means they are indicators of environmental health. If you are interested in helping birds and more, here are some things that you can do, right in your own yard.
Together, we can make a huge difference for our native birds, butterflies and bees!
To view all the photos taken since 4-7-22, begin here: Mid-April
New arrivals and nesting birds are being seen.
Our FOY #50 Purple Finch was seen on 3-28-22. This male was here just one day. In the tray feeder, it's easy to see the differences between the House Finch in front and the Purple Finch behind. The House Finch is orangier and smaller with striations on its flanks.
A bird that we missed last year showed up on 3-31-22, a Swamp Sparrow, FOY #52. Another bird had shown up earlier that day, a Brown Thrasher for #51. Though seen several times, it has eluded my efforts to photograph it.
Many male birds are getting pretty testy with each other. Robins, sparrows and these American Goldfinches dramatically display the pecking order! Breeding is serious business and finding the best places to attract a mate and procreate is what Spring is all about for birds.
Yellow-rumped Warblers have been surviving on bark butter, peanut crumbs, suet and flying insects on warm days. The male in full breeding plumage caught a tiny mason bee while it was pollinating spicebush (Lindera benzoin). This is the first time I've documented that behavior.
Another new arrival was a little Chipping Sparrow FOY#53 on 4-1-22. It was here for two days before moving on.
I found the Swamp Sparrow again, in the swamp of course, on 4-4-22.
We have seen large flocks of Rusty Blackbirds come in to forage in the leaves throughout the yard and especially in the swampy woods. It can be really challenging to begin to show how many there are, they're so camouflaged. On Tuesday, there was a very large flock here and when I left to go vote, they flushed and started to move east and then north out of our yard and into our neighbors' yards. I drove very slowly to photograph the birds with my phone. I enlarged the photos and counted the birds, there were over 450! Add in another 150 or so that had moved up into the canopy, and well, at least 600 birds were here in the neighborhood. This species is listed as Vulnerable. We are lucky to see them and try not to disturb them so they can feed on insects in the leaves. I suspect they moved back into our yard after I left.
The pair of Eastern Bluebirds has been very busy building their nest. They both seem to be micromanaging this joint operation! They were still working on finishing touches this morning.
The pair of Eastern Phoebes have been at work as well. We've seen the female gathering nesting material while the male calls away.
On 4-4-22, a Great Blue Heron flew over for FOY #54 and a bit later I spotted our FOY #55 Hermit Thrush. It has a distinctive way of moving along quickly, then stops and flicks its tail up, then lowers it slowly.
Red-breasted Nuthatches are still around, sometimes I see two males and a female. The two males are pictured here, the second one lighter than the first.
Brown Creepers are still foraging on the trees, sometimes on oaks, cherries or maples.
Well, it's time to get those hummingbird feeders cleaned up and ready to go. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds will be coming in soon, along with warblers ready to refuel from their long hauls, too. It has been cool and somewhat slow, but Spring is springing!