Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hermit Thrush and Ruby-crowned Kinglet Arrive at the Preserve

The Hermit Thrush
The back view of the Hermit
The Hermit Thrush returned to the Nature Preserve this week. This thrush is arguably one of the finest singers of all the songbirds. At this time of year, the Hermit’s flute-like song begins emanating from the  wooded gorges. An individual typically sings 3 or 4 musical phrases –each in a different key. Each phrase starts with a single sustained note and ends with an ethereal flourish –of a kind that no instrument would be able to emulate. A thrush's ability to simultaneously sing more than one note at a time allows an individual to, in effect, harmonize with himself. One of the warning calls of the Hermit is a single elongated note, which sounds like “Waaay” or “Reee”. In areas where the bird only migrates through, this call is most often the only sound that you’re likely to hear from them.

This Thrush dips its tail up and down when alarmed
Typically, in our region, the Hermit Thrush prefers to nest in cooler, hemlock dominated, mixed upland forest. Even though we’ve always had a fair amount of that habitat type, the species only began breeding at our preserve within the past several years. Competition with other thrush species could be responsible for keeping the Hermits out for so long. It may be that as some of the other resident thrushes decrease in population in the Northeastern U.S. (primarily due to winter habitat loss, migration accidents, forest fragmentation and destruction of breeding habitat), the Hermit may expand into newly vacated areas and fill some empty niches.
Of the region’s forest nesting thrushes, the Hermit is always the first to return from the south. Unlike the Wood Thrush, Veery, Swainson’s Thrush and Gray Cheeked Thrush, the Hermit will sometimes spend the winter with us. Occasionally we will come across  one during our Annual Christmas Bird Count. The other woodland thrush species reliably remain in the tropical regions of Central and South America for the duration of the winter months.Click here to see our Nature Sanctuary's video of the Hermit Thrush
A migrant Ruby-crowned Kinglet
The tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet has also returned to the area this week. Now they’ve joined up with their kinsmen –the Golden-crowned Kinglet, and together they’ve been circulating through the forests and wooded margins. For a little guy, the Ruby-crowned has a loud and boisterous song –and one that seems to easily punch through the other songs in the spring chorus. The kinglets are tiny olive colored birds –smaller than chickadees. The Ruby-crowned has a distinct light eye ring and wing-bars.They also have a red or “ruby” cap. The male erects this ruby cap when trying to attract mates and intimidate other males. When he does this it looks like he’s sporting a gleaming red Mohawk.

Note the red or "ruby" patch on the back of the head

In 2010, the Northeast experienced a remarkable influx of Red Admiral Butterflies. That phenomenon seems to be repeating itself this year.

A Red Admiral on some Apple Blossoms
On Monday, when the mercury reached into the 80’s, scores of these red striped anglewing butterflies seemed to come out of nowhere and started moving through many regions of State including our Preserve. At rest, and with their wings closed, these butterflies are reasonably good dead leaf mimics. With their wings open, they reveal bold red “admiral” stripes on a dark background. White spots decorate the apex of their wings. Today started with a cool morning and I found dozens of these admirals sunning themselves on the forest floor. Definitely, they were warm enough for quick bursts of flight –as I found out when trying to take some pictures of them.

Rue Anemone is a rare woodland  flower in our region
Squirrel Corn is related to the Bleeding Heart
Woodland Wildflowers continue to bloom at the Preserve. This week some old favorites were located including Squirrel Corn, Long-spurred Violet and Dwarf Ginseng. The forest trees are quickly leafing out now, and most of these spring ephemerals that have yet to bloom will be doing so in an increasing amount of shade. 

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