Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Early Fall Migrant Songbirds

An Ovenbird prepares to leave its breeding grounds at the nature preserve
It may be hard to believe, but at this point in August some birds already have their bags packed are close to bidding farewell to the Northeastern US.
An Immature Baltimore Oriole is ready to make its first journey south
The Baltimore Oriole is one species that always seems anxious to leave and to get to their tropical retreat. The fact is that I rarely encounter orioles after the first few days of September. This means that their entire stay with us in the North is barely 4 months long.
Blue-winged Warbler --rarely in the Northeast seen after the first week of September
Blue-winged Warblers also don’t dally long, and most of them will be on their way south before the first week of September is done. But other species of warblers continue to pass through the area -most coming from their breeding grounds in the Adirondacks and Canada. Even many of the latest migrant warblers will be gone by the 3rd week of October. After that, we won't see them again until next Spring.
A migrant Magnolia Warbler -- this individual is lacking the typical black marks on the sides of the chest
Yesterday at the nature preserve, I saw the first migrant Tennessee Warbler. This small and fairly innocuous species breeds in the forests of eastern Canada and like so many others, they only pass through Central New York during spring and fall migration.

A Tennessee Warbler as they appear during fall migration

Some people might not recognize the fall Tennessee Warbler as being of the same species as the Spring Tennessee -they look that different. In spring they have a whitish chest, dark eyeline, bluish gray cap and greenish back with no wingbars. In fall, an adult is usually quite yellow on the underside, and even has yellow on the top of its head and on its wings and back. Though some individuals may retain a muted version of their spring colors.

The Philadelphia Vireo's plumage resembles that of the fall Tennessee Warbler
The Philadelphia Vireo bares somewhat of a resemblance to the fall Tennessee Warbler, and both species may occur together in a mixed flock of foraging songbirds. The vireo's noticeably heavier bill is a good distinguishing trait to look for in the field, since the Tennessee Warbler's bill is narrow even for a warbler.
The male Northern Parula looks a little duller in its fall plumage, but is still quite a colorful bird
The Least Flycatcher has begun showing up in mixed foraging flocks. This small, relatively non-descript member of the flycatcher clan is closely related, and strongly resembles 2 of our summer resident flycatchers –the Alder Flycatcher and the Willow Flycatcher. However, the Least, as its name implies, is noticeably smaller and it tends to linger longer into September than do the other 2 species. Some Least Flycatchers breed in the area, but not at our nature preserve.
A migrant Least Flycatcher tries its luck catching bugs along the trail-side

The Olive-sided Flycatcher is another early season migrant. However, we often go several years without seeing one of them during their migration period. This is due to their species population being relatively small -at least when compared to some of the migrants already discussed. The Olive-sided Flycatcher breeds in the Adirondacks and places north –usually in close proximity to bogs and wooded swamps.
The Olive-sided Flycatcher perched over one of the beaver ponds

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