May 27, 2013

Jewels of the Eastern Forest

A big find for both of us ( a life list bird for me, and a new phase for Kim) was this Indigo Bunting passing through a
A Red Eyed Vireo calls from a branch in a newly leafed out Choke Cherry ( Prunus virginiana).

Sure, I could do a post on what is happening on the ground this week in our forests, but who wants to see another photo of a pink ladyslipper....so today, I got up at the crack of dawn, and went birdwatching. There may be no better time to go birding in the Eastern deciduous forest than in May, just as the new foliage is opening with a green so bright, it can seen almost un-natural. Each week in May brings new migrating song bird species to the forests and meadows here in the Eastern US, and as my guide and neighbor Kim Allen explained ( who is also a fellow blogger ), some decide to stay and mate, raising their brood in territories defined roughly by habitate and food sources, or, they simply stop and rest, on an even longer journey north, into Canada to breed. 

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Mid May to Mid June is peak birding season as most of these migratory species are at their busiest ( and noisiest, with their morning chorus starting near 4:00 AM). These are busy times for these tiny, melodious birds - timing their journey perfectly to the emergence of new foliage on the bare trees, as larvae hatch which also time things just-right, to munch on the tender, new foliage. It's a perfect balance that Mother Nature has arranged, not to mention the wild flowers and ephemerals carpeting the woodland below, which will quickly go dormant for the summer, as the canopy above shades the forest floor, and the roots of these now leafed-out trees, drain any moisture left in the ground. 

A Stunning Scarlet Tanager refused to jump into the bright sunshine, but even in the shade, his red color
seemed so tropical and out-of-place.

The cycles are simple to see, migratory song birds sweep in, on warm breezes in early May, to quickly mate, nest and raise their brood before the plentiful food sources dry up. They seem to know if there are going to be breakouts of Gypsy Moth caterpillars, or even Locusts, as this year will bring, and maybe that's why there are so many songbirds this year. Kim and I spent the morning in two locations, first in an unlikely ( but perfect habitat) under high-tension wires, where meadow-like conditions merge with the edge of a forest. At 7:30 am all we could hear were tweets from a million warblers, all flitting from elderberry to mountain laurel as if someone opened the door to a canary factory. I still find warblers so difficult to identify, but Kim was swift and knowledgeable, still sometimes referring to her Sibley's app for confirmation - the Sibley Guide and the Sibley eGuide come highly recommended - clearly, the digital age has affected bird watching in a positive way.

A big find for both of us ( a life list bird for me, and a new phase for Kim) was this Indigo Bunting passing through a

Another view of this Indigo Bunting, which was in a transitional phase with its plumage.

A female Prairie Warbler gathers down for her nest.

American Redstarts were everywhere. This male sat and watched us as we focused on an Orchard Oriole.

A great find today for both of us, an Orchard Oriole calling from a dead tree on the edge of the forest.

Nothing comes brighter than this - the Baltimore Orioles seemed to be in every other oak tree, each one calling with it's bright, melodic American Robin- like voice. I still have a lot to learn, as I still get confused when I hear a Rose Breasted Grosbeak, and a Baltimore Oriole - not to mention the Scarlet Tanager. At least I know that they are not robins!

Deep in the cool woodland, where thrushes call, we came upon this songster, a Veery.

Under the high-tension wires, warblers seemed to be calling from every twig. This masked marauder is the Common Yellow Throat - they always remind me of going blueberry picking with my parents when I was a kid.

A pair of Cedar Waxwings rest for a moment in a dead Cornus. They were feeding on some Juniper berries.

It's easy to see why they call this the Black and White Warbler.

Our list today included:

Red Eyed Vireo
American Redstart
Indigo Bunting
Blue Winged Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Black and White Warbler
Chestnut Sided Warbler
Common Yellow Throat Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Downy Woodpecker
Scarlet Tanager
Oven Bird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
Mallard Duck
Cedar Waxwing
American Robin
Eastern Flicker


  1. I am also a bird watcher. You have some beautiful birds here. Yes the digital age helps, but you still need to have a great subject to shoot and a good eye. Thanks!

  2. What gorgeous pictures, and what a variety of birds you have. I moved a couple years ago to a house abutting a park that has a pond. The birds spill over into my yard and I hear calls I've never heard before. I've got to d/l that app about birds your neighbor has.

  3. Beautiful! I love how colorful all the birds are!


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