This has been a week with two remarkable days for the beginning of fall migration. The first traveler to reveal itself was a Red-eyed Vireo on Sunday, 9-1-19 about 12:40 pm. That bird was my cue to get outside and commune with the migrants.
About an hour later, a female Mourning Warbler popped up in the Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) behind the bubbler with an insect in its bill. This species is considered rare, partly because they are such skulkers and difficult to see. They prefer to stay in cover. This bird was the first female I had ever seen here, and the first Mourning Warbler I've seen in the fall. It's also only the second time I've managed to photograph one.
The Mourning Warbler was species #114 for the year and warbler #29 for the list. Tuesday was fairly quiet, with Ruby-throated Hummingbirds chasing each other and usual suspects about. In the evening, we were having dinner outside when I noticed birds up in the Virginia creeper, grabbing berries to eat. One young Eastern Wood-Pewee was captured with a berry in its mouth! A bit later that evening, I saw several Common Nighthawks flying toward the high school. They made #115 on my year list.
On 9-4-19, I saw Red-eyed Vireos eating more berries of Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) early in the morning. Hmm, even though it was bound to be a warm day, maybe birds did come in the night before, ahead of a cool front. Boy, did they ever! Nine warbler species plus a wonderful surprise were soon to be revealed.
American Redstart, Wilson's, Black-and-white and Chestnut-sided Warblers were feeding and flitting around. They soon made their way to the bubbler. Two Black-and-whites were having so much fun that they soon caught the attention of another bird waiting in the wings.
The waiting bird had been seen earlier up in a white oak when alarm chatter was heard. Not sure what the excitement was about, couldn't find a snake or an owl, but the chatter brought in several birds to check out a squirrel's nest. OH! I saw what looked like a female Golden-winged Warbler, with a yellow wash of color. I had seen this bird once before, three years ago. OH, MY! What were the chances that this time it would come down where I could get a photo? It was indeed, rara avis. A hybrid of the Golden-winged and Blue-winged Warblers, it had a name all its own - Lawrence's Warbler. It did come down. It was a female, and looked exactly like my bird from 8-31-16. What a beautiful stranger! I am still in awe.
I think that last photo is my favorite. You can see from the composite photos below the two species together, and then the female Lawrence's Warbler compared with the typical female Golden-winged Warbler. All of these birds have been photographed here.
Genetically, these two species are 99.97% alike! A very interesting article on this phenomenon of their hybridization can be found here: Golden-winged and Blue-winged Warblers
To view a map of the sightings for this hybrid, look at this page:
My bird is not shown on this map yet, I hope to have word soon that it is an accepted record for this rare hybrid. As you can tell if you looked at the above map, there have only been three other documented sightings in Missouri. The last one in our area was in Tower Grove Park on 4-17-1990.
Happy Fall Birding!!