Saturday, May 27, 2006

Morning Warbler Walk

This morning I walked in the National Arboretum, which I had not visited in several weeks because of various other weekend birding activities. Migration is winding down now, which was certainly evident from the birds I was seeing (or rather, not seeing). I only encountered six species of warblers. As I noted in posts earlier this week, very few birds are singing now, as many have moved on, and others are busy with the work of settling down and raising this year's brood.

Winding down does not necessarily mean becoming dull. As birders know, migrants do not move in one steady stream but in clumps, each of which is dominted by certain groups of species. The late part of spring migration - the last two weeks of May - is frequently the best time to look for thrushes and Oporornis warblers.

Today certainly bore that out. When I first arrived in the Azalea Gardens, I could hear wood thrushes and red-eyed vireos, the usual warm-weather denizens of the hill. I stopped and talked for a short time to two birders, who then alerted me to the presence of a gray-cheeked thrush. I soon caught up with it a little farther down the trail. In the same area, a Swainson's thrush was singing its ascending song - like a backwards veery.

On the other side of the hill, down near the brick enclosure, I ran into one of the six warblers I saw today As I came down the trail for the top of the hill I saw some motion out of the corner of my eye and heard a couple of scolding chip notes. I raised my binoculars expecting a common yellowthroat or something like that, but instead I saw a life mourning warbler! It was bigger and more brightly colored than I expected. Because mourning warblers are hard to see, I thought the colors would be dull. But no, the yellow is very bright, the olive-green is very vivid, and the hood is very obviously gray, with some bold black speckling at the hood's base. It is a very beautiful bird indeed.

When the mourning warbler finally skulked out of sight, I amused myself watching a trio of pileated woodpeckers that were disputing which woodpecker should peck on which tree. (Surely there are enough trees on that hill for all of them to peck in peace!) One of them is pictured above. Another one is shown in flight in the the photograph at right. It took off just as I was taking the shot, so all you see is the blur left by white patches on the tops of the wings.


Green Heron
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Tree Swallow
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Swainson's Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
American Crow
European Starling
Red-eyed Vireo
American Goldfinch
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole