Saturday, May 5, 2012

Warbler Fallout, The Mega Migration of Red Admirals and A Red Fox Stores Her Gruesome Treats

Magnolia Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler or the"fire throat"
With the start of May comes the arrival of dozens of bird species from the south. Most of them have flown in during the night and are now busily foraging for caterpillars in the tree tops. The movements of many of these colorful songbirds –particularly the warblers and vireos, are virtually invisible to most of us, since they are small birds and they do most of their foraging high in the tree canopy and under cover of the newly emerged leaves. We would hardly know that they were there if it wasn’t for their songs, and what a variety of songs they produce.
Black &White Warbler - about the size of a chickadee
On May 1st, the Blackburnian Warbler returned to the forest at our Nature Preserve, and I only knew that because I heard its extraordinary song. The song most often starts with a slow trill and ends with a single long note that dramatically ascends in pitch. That note already starts high, but reaches right to the stratosphere before ending. The Blackburinian Warbler helpfully provides human-kind with a hearing test every time he sings his song. A large number of people fail that particular test, since as we age, many of us lose our ability to hear notes in the highest frequency range.
Blue-winged Warbler returned to its nesting territory this week

Most of the warblers moving around in the tree tops are Myrtle Warblers, and in parts of the forest, the air is filled with their uneven metered trilling. The majority of the Myrtles will go to their breeding grounds in the Adirondacks and to points north, but some will stay nearby to nest in patches of spruce dominated forest that grow in upland areas. The Myrtle is also called the Yellow-rumped Warbler –named for a prominent yellow patch at the base of their tail. Though this field-mark is shared with several other species, it’s only the Myrtle that is sometimes referred to as the “Butter-butt”. This is one of our only warbler species that can sometimes be found in our area during the winter. At that time of year, they feed on the waxy berries of Myrtle, and on Poison Ivy berries. The latter being my personal favorite.
The Yellow-rumped Warbler is by far the most common migrant warbler 
Sensory overload is sometimes the consequence of trying to identify the constituents of a large mixed flock of warblers. When a hundred birds are all singing at the same time, sorting them out can be a daunting task even for those who are proficient at bird song identification. It can be like trying to pick out each individual person’s voice in a noisy crowd. Believe me, with birds, this is a good problem to have. In modern times, when populations of these long distance migrants has dropped to record low levels, what we need are more 100 songbird symphonies.
The Red Admiral Butterfly soaks in the sun

The unprecedented migration of Red Admiral Butterflies continues. Lately when even the sun comes out and the temperature rises above 65 degrees, these red striped butterflies come out of hiding and resume heading north. Hundreds of them were seen at the Nature Preserve yesterday and it’s easy to imagine that millions of them are traveling through the region. Such a mass movement is bound to result in many casualties, as the Admirals fly low over busy roads and are struck by vehicles. On my way home from the Preserve, I saw scores of dead Admirals on the sides of the road, while others continued to successfully zip by.
Another warbler species: the Northern Waterthrush 
 Other species of butterfly were out as well, but not in nearly such impressive numbers. The Spring Azure is a very small blue winged butterfly that does a great job concealing its blue top wings. Whenever the butterfly is not flying, its wings stay closed over its back, but when in flight, the Azure is among the most beautiful butterfly species.
The Red Fox is a new mammal for the Nature Preserve

I came face to face with a Red Fox on one of our trails yesterday. This was unusual at the Nature Preserve, where the Gray Fox was thought to be our only resident fox. But since the Red Fox is generally common throughout our region, it comes as no great surprise that one was finally seen here. This female fox is likely feeding kits. For several days, she’s been making gruesome little food caches in the middle of several different foot trails. There was part of a mouse left on one trail, and a freshly killed Red-bellied Snake on another. She’ll come back for these later, once she has amassed enough treats for all her kits. 

No comments:

Post a Comment