Saturday, September 22, 2012

Recent Migrant Songbirds

The Black & White Warbler migrates through the area
Migrant songbirds have been passing through the nature preserve for over a month now. These birds, for the most part, fly at night. so don’t expect to see them flying over in flocks like Red-winged Blackbirds and Canada Geese do. From our perspective, they just appear in our bushes and trees in the morning as if they came in with the dew.
A Swainson's Thrush spends the day in our forest
It is possible to detect their evening transit; if you listen to the night sky at this time of year you may hear their subtle short whistles or “seep” and “sip” notes. These would be the contact notes that the fellow travelers give to each other as they fly in the darkness. Actually, as I’m writing this in the early morning hours, I just heard a soft short whistle call that may be the contact note of a nocturnal migrant –a Swainson’s Thrush.
Lately, the most common migrant warbler has been the Magnolia Warbler
At the preserve, we’ve been averaging about a dozen migrant species per day. Yesterday, in the mix was a Lincoln’s Sparrow and a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. Both species nest in similar habitats –the former, almost exclusively in boreal bogs. The Yellow-bellied Flycatcher has been known to breed in wetland areas south of the Adirondacks, but they really prefer the northern bogs as well.
One of our most beautiful migrant sparrows - The Lincoln's Sparrow

And no, the Lincoln’s Sparrow was not named after the Great Emancipator. Actually John James Audubon originally dubbed the new bird “Bob’s Finch” after one of his young assistants –Bob Lincoln. Subsequently, the bird was given the more formal sounding title.
A Blue-headed Vireo perches on an open branch
A Blue-headed Vireo showed up for the first time this season. This bird didn't necessarily travel that far yet, since the species breeds in forested State land just to the north of us. Like the warblers, the vireos are small birds that feed on insects, but they have heavier bills that allow them to tackle larger prey. They are also generally slower moving in the tree tops. In other words, they’re not quite as hyperactive as the warblers are, so even a novice birder might stand a chance to get a good look at one before it flits off into another tree.
The Black-throated Green Warbler -- whose name is nearly a complete description
This year most common migrant warbler species for us has been the Magnolia Warbler with the American Redstart probably the second most common. I suspect that will change as the Myrtle Warblers (also called the Yellow-rumped Warbler) start to move through. While at most we might see only 5 or 6 Magnolia Warblers at a time, the Myrtles may be seen by the dozens.
Yet another warbler - the American Redstart . This is a juvenile male
The Myrtle Warbler is one of the only warbler species that I've ever known to try to spend the winter in Central New York. Winter foods for them include Poison Ivy berries. In years when there is an especially good crop of these berries, we can usually count on seeing a few overwintering Myrtle Warblers.

Each year several Philadelphia Vireos pass through during fall migration

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