Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Warbler Agresssion

So I was back out at the edge of the far field, where I saw the Brewster's warbler, and many others besides, when I heard the song of the golden-winged warbler again. Then I heard the mixed song I'd heard the Brewster's singing. And of course, now that I've seen a Brewster's, I really want to see any bird singing this kind of song, not least because I can count the Brewster's as a "probable" breeder for purposes of the Breeding Atlas if I see it singing again in the same place a week or more after the first time. So, I listened and watched, climbed my viewing rock at the edge of the field, behind the willow copse (I have a line on a new camera--so I hope to be illustrating the action again soon), and watched and listened some more. I finally located the bird, but couldn't get a fix on it. I was looking through the binoculars, when all of a sudden, it flew by like a bullet within inches of my head.

Last fall I was in just this same spot, looking and listening, trying to identify the migrant warblers feeding in the shrubbery, and "pishing" to get one to show itself. A golden-winged flew at me in just this same way. I never did get a really good look at this current divebomber, but the glimpse I got after I found it again in the willows suggested golden-winged (I could see the a dark patch on the throat) not the Brewster's of earlier this month.

Any little bird might fly at your head once by accident, on its way somewhere perhaps, a moment of inattention, mistaking a person for some other large oblong shape. But twice? Same species? Same habitat? All I can say is, watch out for the pretty little golden-winged warbler.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Breaking the silence

Over a month since the last post--the reason? Overwork? stress? Well, the main reason is that my digital camera gave up the ghost, and somehow the lack of images silenced me. But the bird breeding season is well underway, and there is much to report, so I fought hard to find my voice again.

Until I find another camera or a source for images, we'll have to make do with links. It's too bad--the fields and cedar bush go through amazing transitions in both colour and form through April and May. Right now the leaves are almost fully out, the grass is growing so fast you can see it, and the marsh marigolds are in bloom in the swamp.

But best of all, the warblers and others are singing.

Song sparrows are feeding young in the nest. Chickadees in the yard are fledged, I think. (Chickadees are fast and quiet breeders.) The king birds showed up in the field just days ago, and already have a nest built in the big old apple tree on the far side. This morning the wood thrush was singing, great crested flycatcher calling, chestnut-sided warbler singing, common yellow throat singing, cardinal, black and white warbler, song sparrows, field sparrows, white-throated sparrows (white-crowned sparrows have finally left for points north). The wood thrush is a common bird around here, and its song is heard from woodlots daily, early in the morning and late in the day well into July, yet its beautiful haunting quality never fails to grab my attention. This example is not the prettiest I've ever heard (individual songs vary enormously), but contains a good range of the sounds that might be included in any particular bird's song--good picture too.

I also heard the song (well, buzzes) of the golden wing warbler. The golden wing warbler hybridizes with the blue wing warbler, which also occurs in this region. I've seen a Brewster's warbler in the far field this season, a product of such a pairing. The one I saw was singing a mixed song, not a pure golden wing song, but even so, I like to see the bird at least once before I say which one it is, especially now that I know hybrids are around. (This is the first year I've seen a hybrid--last year there was a golden wing present all season in the far field.) There is some concern that the golden wing is threatened by hybridization--Cornell Lab of Ornithology is running a study to collect data on the species across its range to assess the impact of the phenomenon. Their web pages also provide lots of good information on habits and identification of the two birds and their offspring.

Check out my breeding atlas square to see the list of breeding birds found in the area. This is the last year that data is being collected for the new Atlas, so check back here often for updates on how it's going.