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.

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