Sunday, August 22, 2010
First fall warblers!
I was out and about a few times this week, seeing some cool stuff but nothing so exciting that I just had to blog about it. Also, Greenturtle, my photographer, has been laid up with the painful aftermath of wisdom teeth extraction, so there's no new pictures. (The ones above are from our archives. They were all taken at Sugar Grove Nature Center.)
In addition to this blog, I keep a Bird Journal in which I write the complete list of species I've seen, place, time, anything noteworthy, etc., which goes back two years, so I've been trying to go back to the same places on approximately the same date to compare birds now with birds then.
Wednesday after work I went to Moraine View because a year ago on that date I saw two black-crowned night herons on the pond behind the boy scout camp, perched on treetops and crying loudly to each other before they both flew off. I knew that the chances of seeing them there again a year later, in the same place, was very slim indeed, but since I log all my observations onto Cornell Lab of Ornithology's ebird database (I love ebird!) I like to think it's making a contribution to science. Surely the scientists want to know if the night herons are there, right?
They were not there. It was pretty much the same mix of birds as last year, minus night herons, and with the addition of solitary sandpipers, since the water in the pond was down, exposing plenty of mud for them to feast in. Sandpipers are nice, but I was a little disappointed...until, right before I left, I looked up and saw a great horned owl, perched on the top of a dead tree. Worth the trip!
Yesterday I went to Sugar Grove Nature Center. I didn't see anything but the "usual suspects," although there's just something about goldfinches that makes me smile whenever I see one. I'm glad they're so common, and here year round (though they turn brownish in the winter), because they just make me happy. I'll always remember the first time I saw one, on my first birding walk with the JWP Audubon Group. Everyone was very nice even though they probably thought I was a nimrod for being in awe of such a common little bird. I mean, they're everywhere, how could I have gone over three decades and not noticed one?
I also saw a blue jay with a completely bald head. The poor thing... I could see his earholes and everything. (Wish I'd gotten a picture.) When I got home I looked on the Internet and read that bald blue jays, robins and cardinals are not uncommon, usually because of feather mites. The birds can't preen their own heads so the mites eat all the feathers off. Luckily, the next molt usually sets things right for the victim.
Today I went to Humiston Woods outside of Pontiac, full of anticipation because two years in a row I've seen my first fall warblers there on the third weekend of August. It was a little sad because before I always went with Sunwiggy, my old birding buddy, and as she is Up North, I had to check it out by myself. I hurried to the spot where I saw the flock two years running (black and white warblers mostly)...and they weren't there. Nothing was there. The woods were singularly unbirdy. I felt so disappointed.
But, it's a decent drive from Bloomington so I decided to make the best of it. It's a pretty walk regardless, with the Vermilion River crossing one part of the park and Wolf Creek zigzagging to join it, and banks of beautiful yellow flowers lining the trail along the creek. I walked quicker than I normally would because it was quite buggy. Slowly, I built up a list of birds: a red-bellied woodpecker by the savanna, four tufted titmice, two red-headed woodpeckers that appeared to be squabbling. And then: there they were. My First Fall Warblers. An American redstart and a Nashville warbler, one each. Fall migration has begun!