Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Missing Life Birds

Yesterday I made an attempt to see the Painted Bunting that had been appearing at a feeder in Absecon, NJ. I waited in front of the feeder for about an hour and a half. In that time plenty of birds passed by the yard – resident House Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, and House Finches; a Red-bellied Woodpecker; singing Carolina Chickadees; an Osprey; and a flock of Double-crested Cormorants flying overhead. However, there was no sign of the bunting. From what I understand, the bird was last seen on Thursday. The bunting would have been a life bird, and it becomes one of several that I have missed this spring. After a glut of life birds at the Superbowl of Birding, my life list building has slowed considerably.

In the afternoon, I tried to find an Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler that had been spotted the previous morning at Lake Lily in Cape May Point. I walked all around the lake, checking every warbler and warbler-like flying object. There were plenty of Myrtles, but no sign of the Audubon's. For those unfamiliar with the terms, Myrtle is the subspecies of Yellow-rumped Warbler normally found in eastern North America, while Audubon's dwells in the west. These forms were previously considered separate species and may one day be split again.

Even though I missed the potential future armchair-lifer, the trip around the lake was not a waste. The Myrtles were nice to see and hear, especially in their bright spring plumage. I saw several year birds. These included Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Great-crested Flycatcher, and Prairie Warbler. Even better, there was a very cooperative Yellow-throated Warbler in front of one of the houses bordering the lake. My only previous sighting of this species was a singing bird at the top of a tall pine tree in Virginia. The look was good enough to recognize it, but it was not very satisfying. This view was much better, as the warbler crept along a rooftop gutter like a nuthatch and then flitted through nearby trees and shrubs, usually no more than 10 feet off the ground.

I do not have a photograph of the Painted Bunting or Yellow-throated Warbler, so take a look at this Mute Swan instead.