Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Yellow-rumped Kind of Day

There has not been a whole lot of bird movement lately because we have had a steady flow of northerly winds. These seem to be pushing most of the migration through the Midwest. Still, there is a trickle moving through, and if you look in the right places, you can find some of them. This morning I went to the National Arboretum to see what could be found there.

Most of the warblers present in the woods today were yellow-rumpeds. It seemed that every time I looked up at a small bird moving through the canopy or understory, the bird turned out to have the distinctive yellow epaulets and black breast streaking of a yellow-rumped warbler. Part of the challenge of birding in late April is being able to sort through the maze of yellow-rumpeds to find the less common warblers; this is a skill that I am still learning. I do not mind the masses of Dendroicae coronatae, though, because their song makes a very pleasant backdrop for a morning of birding.

After getting a great look at an ovenbird in the Azalea Gardens, I started finding some first of the year birds for myself. First off was a singing black-throated blue warbler - one of my favorites. It sat on an open branch just long enough for a quick look; I saw one at a better angle later on. Northern parulas and black-throated green warblers were not new to me, but a beautiful rose-breasted grosbeak was. The grosbeak perched on a branch very close to the brick enclosure on the southeast side of the Azalea Gardens.

In the meadow outside Fern Valley, there was an orchard oriole singing. This was a first-summer male - yellow with a black face. Fern Valley itself did not turn up much, but when I emerged from the other side and walked along the road towards Heart Pond, I heard a yellow warbler singing in the vines across the road from the pond. After a brief search, I saw it perch on a branch and sing. These are such beautiful birds. My last new bird for the day was a blackburnian warbler on the top of Hickey Hill. Unfortunately I was not able to find it for a good look, but the fast-paced, high-pitched, ascending song is hard to mistake for anything else.

Finally, a couple notes.... There were quite a lot of house sparrows in the Azalea Gardens - maybe about 30-40. I find this disturbing because I have rarely seen house sparrows there before today. They appeared to be gathering food and nesting materials, which means they may be moving into cavities that would be used by other birds.... Towards the end of my walk I saw two adult bald eagles flying in close formation near the columns. The two birds were making high-pitched calls and following each others movements almost exactly. It seems rather late for eagles to be starting mating, but this did look very much like a courtship display. I guess the alternative explanation would be a territorial showdown.

(Unfortunately I do not have any photographs today, even though I brought my camera with me, because I forgot to check the batteries before I left.)


Double-crested Cormorant
Canada Goose
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Carolina Wren
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Blue Jay
American Crow
European Starling
House Sparrow
Red-eyed Vireo
American Goldfinch
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Pine Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Clouded Sulphur
American Copper
Spring Azure
Variegated Fritillary
Silver-spotted Skipper