Saturday, June 24, 2006

Summer Birding at the Arboretum

I have not been to the Arboretum in quite some time. In fact I have not been doing a whole lot of birding at all for the past couple weeks. So this morning I decided to change that by getting myself over to the Arboretum for a morning bird walk.

When I stepped off the bus near the visitor center, a barn swallow whizzed past me. I followed the course of its flight, which led my eye to a mud nest under the visitor center eves. There were at least two chicks in the nest, and possibly more. The picture at right has one of the parents keeping watch.

The atmosphere has changed there quite a bit since my last visit towards the end of the spring migration season. Birds are a lot quieter now. As spring ends and summer begins, they need to put more energy into feeding newly-hatched fledglings and less into territorial posturing. Acadian flycatchers, eastern wood-pewees, and eastern towhees were still singing; there were good numbers of all three in the Azalea Gardens and in the woods across the street from Mount Hamilton. One very weird song made me stop and listen for a long time. Eventually I decided that it must be a variant northern parula, though I never did find the singer.

One sign of nesting is the incomplete nest below. I am not sure what species built this or why it is incomplete. Most likely it was either (a) the work of a parent who was killed or scared off before finshing the job; (b) the start of a nest for a second brood or a couple getting a late start; or (c) a dummy nest.

Some of the fields behind the state trees grove have been left unmowed for now. Today there was nothing out of the ordinary, just lots of chipping sparrows. But if it is left unmowed when fall migration rolls around in a couple months, the field will bear watching. The other big no-mow area is around the Capitol columns and near Fern Valley. Today those meadows sported some loudly singing indigo buntings. There were also first-summer Baltimore and orchard orioles.

Wildflowers are now in their full glory. The picture above shows one of the many Butterfly Weed plants that dot the meadow by Fern Valley. The same area was full of Joe-Pye Weed. I do not normally associate that plant with strong smells, but this morning it was very fragrant.


Red-shouldered Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Barn Swallow
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
Eastern Bluebird
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Carolina Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Fish Crow
European Starling
House Sparrow
Red-eyed Vireo
American Goldfinch
Northern Parula
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
Orchard Oriole