Sunday, April 19, 2009

They're Trickling In

I did a little research this weekend. Not of the professional type, the kind I spend my weekdays focused on. This research was for a bird walk I'm leading next weekend.

I was asked to lead the bird walk for the annual conference of biology professors from two-year colleges, hosted this year at nearby Corning Community College. Coincidentally, my wife is a biology professor there . . . nepotism at its best! That, and they know I work cheap.

As the radar indicated on Friday night, and as Kenn Kaufman predicted for his corner of Ohio, short-distance migrants that winter in the southern U.S. would continue to arrive, but don't expect an influx of neotropical birds just yet.

Song SparrowSong Sparrow numbers swelled, so much so
that they tied for most abundant species.

Right on target: there were some new arrivals to the party, and birds that showed up earlier in the week were more numerous. Obnoxiously numerous, in some cases. There were a couple of species that I heard no matter where I stood (yeah, I said it, Song Sparrow).

Red-winged Blackbird, maleMale Red-winged Blackbirds have been back for a
few weeks but they're still proclaiming territory.

Red-winged Blackbird, femaleFemale Red-winged Blackbirds are a new arrival. Now the males aren't
just staking their turf, they're interested in catching the eye of the fairer sex.

All told, I spent nearly two hours trolling around Spencer Crest Nature Center, my old stomping grounds. Barron and I used to spend many weekend hours, and the occasional weekday morning, peering into every corner of the 220-plus acre property. But when we moved 30 minutes away I adopted a closer location -- our yard - so I haven't been back for any serious birding in a while. It was like revisiting the neighborhood where you grew up, everything looks mostly the same. In those cases you don't recognize any of the people, but happily I recognized all of the residents and spring visitors.

Eastern TowheeMy first Eastern Towhee of the year, one of several that
shouted, "Drink Your Tea" as I passed through scrubby fields.

I tallied 33 species over my mile and half walk which, like any good birding trip, crossed a variety of habitats. I meandered through old fields, upland deciduous forests, wetlands, the open water of Amelia's Pond, my
expectations shifting as I crossed from one to the other. Common Yellowthroat and Field Sparrows not yet in the old field, but Song Sparrows everywhere. Woodpeckers seemed to drum from every tree in the woods, but no tanagers or warblers, not yet. I didn't find a Hairy Woodpecker, but found all other expected species: Red-bellied, Downy, Pileated, Northern Flicker, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Edges, as they always are, were productive. Between the old field and the woods I came across a song that rang familiar but unidentified. It sounded like a finch (House? Purple?) but not quite. Too sparrow like.

Eastern Fox Sparrow, Red formThe "red," or eastern, form of the Fox Sparrow. These birds
always come across as a thrush x sparrow hybrid to me.

A-ha! Fox Sparrows are passing through our region now, and one was singing up a storm.

Eastern Fox Sparrow, Red FormStrike a pose: Fox Sparrows are such cool looking birds, here's a second shot.

There were a couple additional interesting sightings, more from the trip tomorrow.



Sky said...

fabulous photos. aren't birds just the grandest little things?!

jan m said...

Mike, glad you had such a good count that day. We definitely should have gone before e-cycling!
We did see the female red-wings, and they have been in my yard for a few days now too. Many song sparrows, as you said. I watched for a towhee, as last year was the first sighting for me, and it was there at Spencer Crest, but no luck this year.

noflickster said...

@Sky - thanks! Birds certainly touch every part of my day-to-day life, and this part of the year is like Christmas morning every day!

@jan_m - I keeping thinking that neat study in our area would be arrival dates (of birds on territories, not just fly-overs) at different elevations. I always note I find birds several days, if not later, on our hill in Horseheads than reports from the lower elevations.

Then there are birds that are dirt common below (mockingbirds, Carolina Wren) but rare to find at our place. Maybe our hill is simply sub-optimal habitat and we're getting the young males who can't stake out a good spot in the valley!


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