Monday, April 21, 2008

Trying To Complete The Puzzle

Identifying warblers and other spring migrants is like trying to put a puzzle together. Each year I'm able to add a couple of pieces but the puzzle is never completed. There are a few warbler songs that stick with me like the Black and White Warbler that does a nice imitation of George Jefferson-(Weezy, Weezy, Weezy). I'm also familiar with the songs of the Common Yellowthroat, Black-throated Green Warbler, Ovenbird, Prairie Warbler, Pine Warbler and Worm-eating Warbler. There are some that I have to hear each year before I remember them again, and the rest I haven't learned at all. Visually identifying the warblers isn't too bad, with a couple of exceptions, as long as I can get a good look at them; which doesn't always happen. Some of the vireos and Epidonax flycatchers can be a real pain to identify. Anyway, it's an ongoing battle for me-how about for you?

On Saturday, I made a short visit to Hurd State Park to see if I could find any warblers. As I was driving into the park on the main entrance road, I noticed a small marshy area on the left. I could hear a warbler singing but could not identify its song. I have noticed in recent list-serve reports that waterthrushes have been seen in Connecticut for the last week. Judging by the song, reports, and habitat, I thought one of the waterthrushes was a possibility. I spent a good fifteen minutes looking for this one bird before finally catching a decent glimpse of it. It was streaked underneath and the breast had an overall yellowish tint. I recognized it as a Northern Waterthrush. The song description in my field guide helped me confirm what I was hearing. I remembered that the Northern Waterthrushes are the ones more likely to be found near slow-running or still water. One more piece to the puzzle.

I had a few other interesting sightings of note at this park. An adult Bald Eagle flew right past me, just clearing the tree tops! "Where you going?" I was thinking. The river was in the opposite direction. I also spooked a bird or should I say the bird spooked me. I think it was a Turkey Vulture that had been perched in a tree above me. It took off quite fast for a Turkey Vulture and made plenty of noise doing so. Other birds of interest included Brown Creeper, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and Hermit Thrush. I was hearing a lot more birds than I actually saw. It's nice to get a visual confirmation of what you're hearing but a lot of times it just doesn't work out that way. I guess that's just the nature of the game in the game of nature.

On my way out, I stopped at some power lines that are just down the road from the park. There was a bird perched on the top of a tall dead tree in a small swamp that looked kind of falconish. It turned out to be an American Kestrel! Nice bird for me, I don't get to see them very often.

Here some flowers that I found in the woods this weekend. Can you identify them?
I visited Hartman Park off of Gungy Road in Lyme on Sunday. This was the first time that I've ever been there and I was really impressed. In fact, that whole area of the state is very scenic. Whoever marked the trails at Hartman Park did a great job. Every trail was clearly marked with a different color. Sometimes when I walk the blue trails, they venture off into several different directions. It can be very frustrating for the directionally challenged. Here, there was never any doubt about which trail I was on.
The photo above is of a Prairie Warbler that I saw near the power line area. I realize that it isn't much of a photo but this is my first Prairie Warbler of the year. When it comes to warbler photos, I can't afford to be too picky! I had to hide in a patch of Mountain Laurel just to capture this meager shot. I felt like Artie Johnson from the old comedy show "Laugh-In."
The Field Sparrow is a very washed out looking sparrow with a pinkish bill. You can see that it has a bit of an eye ring too. It might not be the most exciting looking bird but I like them. It was one of the first challenging LBJ's -(little brown jobs)- that I was able to distinguish from the other LBJ's. Up until this year, I've really only seen them occasionally; mostly in the Fall. This Spring I have come across droves of them for some reason. They have quite an interesting song that I hadn't heard before. The song had me baffled until I was able to match the voice with a face. -One more piece to the puzzle!
I had a single White-throated Sparrow visiting my backyard this weekend. I realized that I had not taken a single picture of a White-throated Sparrow this year. As Elvis would say, "It's Now Or Never" because I would imagine this little guy will be heading up north pretty soon. I will miss seeing this winter sparrow with its striped head and bright yellow lores.

I've actually been lucky enough to see several Pileated Woodpeckers this year but I haven't been lucky to get a good photo of one. This time I tried a video. I saw this one on my way out of Hartman Park. The view was shielded by some branches but I uploaded it anyway. In this video, the bird seems to be preening it's feathers and that about covers my birding for last weekend. I will be making my first-ever visit to River Road in Kent this upcoming weekend. I might be a little early but hopefully I'll come across some interesting birds. -Wish Me Luck!


J. Karl Clampit said...

Nice notes on your trip. Nice variety of birds for you to see. Loved the Pileated video. I got to see one for the first time for me last weekend, no pics or video though. Thanks for sharing!

Jayne said...

What a great variety of birds Larry! A pretty preening Pileated! Say that five times fast. :c)

Patrick B. said...

Good stuff Larry! I'll have to look through my field guide later for those flowers.

Lana Gramlich said...

Regarding bird songs, I recently realized that a hawk I've been hearing lately was actually one of our "regular" blue jays! My husband & I were having breakfast on the deck one morning & the jay did the imitation right in front of our eyes. Clever birds!

Mary said...


That Field Sparrow is precious. I've never seen one! It has a white eyering? So cute and a good photo.

Warblers escape me - I'd never be able to identify one.

I'm guessing you have bird feeders at your house. What types of birds visit?


Kathie Brown said...

Nice post and good luck birding this weekend. I don't think I have ever been to Kent. Empids are still a challenge for me too, even if I do get a good photo, you often need to hear the voice as well.

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

I wish I was better at warbler songs too. I'm sure my yard list would be longer if I could get them down and then remember them year to year!

steadyjohn said...

Hopefully the presidential visit to the Kissingers in Kent will be over and you can enjoy your birding weekend undisturbed by security concerns. Now, a question about Brant: I've read that they winter here but I saw a flock of 30 or so today at Black Rock Cove (Bridgeport). Would they normally be gone North by now?

Sandpiper (Lin) said...

Hi Larry, Great post. I tracked a pileated this week, only to have two people come along and scare it off as I was about to take a picture. I did get a video of an empty trail with the sound of him tapping though! :-) You've had some great sightings. Hurd Park is within walking distance to where I used to live. Are the yellow flowers Marsh Marigolds? Ours aren't out yet. We're still a bit behind you in terms of spring things. Good luck in Kent. If you don't find anything there, the Sharon Audubon Center is only a few miles away. Trails, Raptor Center, etc. It looks like they're doing a live birds of prey show on Saturday morning. Have fun!

Larry said...

Larry said...
J. Karl clampit-That is an exciting bird to see for the first time. Did the thought-what if I found an Ivory-billed Woodpecker ever cross your mind?

jayne-That is quite the tongue-twister.I could imagine someone from Monty Python saying that.

Patrick-Glad you liked it-I'll be waiting for those id's.-I don't have such a book so identification would be appreciated.

lana-they are clever birds-the've fooled me with Red-shouldered Hawk imitations numerous times.

Mary-They are nice little sparrows and have quite an interesting song. I have feeders but don't have too many visits from unusual birds.-I get a lot of Red-winged Blackbirds, Goldfinches, titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, Northern Flickers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers.I hae had Cedar Waxwings, Evening Grosbeaks, Indigo Bunting, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, White-crowned Sparrows,Red-breasted Nuthatch,Ruby-crowned Kinglet,Blue-gray Gnatcatcher,Carolina Wren, and House Wren.Only warblers have been Yellow and Yellow-rumped. I'm near the river so I get flyover Blue Herons, Osprey, Bald Eagles,and an Occasional falcon.-You would have to ask me that question-Now you made me do write.-Next time ask me a multiple choice or yes/no question!

Kathiebirds-In a way its good to have birds to work on. That way there's always a challenge ahead of me.-Not that I'm always looking to be challenged but it does keep things interesting.

Zen Birdfeeder-I've seen some of your yard birds and I would bet that the list would pretty long.

Steadyjohn-I just checked a handy little guide called CT Birds By The Season (BY Greg Hanisek).It shows that Brant are fairly common in CT until mid-may then they are rare between June and September.
If I had known that Bush was visitng Kent on Friday I probably would have picked a different camping site but it is what it is.-Hopefully I can avoid the traffic by arriving extra early.

Sandpiper-Thanks for the tip. it's nice to have more than one option.-I didn't realize that I would be so close to the Sharon Audubon Center.-I'm always just missing getting a decent photo of Pileateds.-I ecven had ones 10 feet above my head one time but they were blocked by foliage.-One of these days I'll get a decent photo-I hope.

Doug Taron said...

The blue flowers are Vinca, which is not native to the US. The yellow are marsh marigolds.

Sandpiper (Lin) said...

[Pileateds: "One of these days I'll get a decent photo-I hope."]

You and me both, Larry! I keep hoping. Unlike me, at the least you managed to capture more than the sound. :-)

Have fun this weekend. You can google it, but I think it's probably about 5 or 6 miles away. Not far, at all.

dguzman said...

What a great trip you had! I too am vexed by my inability to remember (or sometimes even pick out) individual songs, especially warblers. I'm working on memorizing just a few sounds, the ones of my favorite warblers (blackburnian, hooded, prothonotary, etc) but it's hard to keep it in the old brain. Thanks for the black-and-white tip, though--Weezy Jefferson! That, even I can remember.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Larry,
Wow, you've got warblers already! Haven't seen any in Minnesota yet--their wings probably froze and fell off!
I have a hard time with warbler ID also. Every year I try to remember just one more and review the songs over and over (which sometimes just makes me more confused).
The field sparrow has a nice song--I finally memorized it and now I have a field sparrow in my backyard again this year.
Thanks for sharing all those great pictures and stories.

Kerri Farley said...

Wow! Fantastic post about the birds. I am just starting to learn more about birds and identify them. I saw my first warbler last year....haven't seen any this year so far.

I spotted a Green Heron yesterday, which I posted today.

Larry said...

doug-thanks for the identifications-too bad the vinca aren't native.

Sandpiper-Never made it out to Sharon-maybe next time-thanks.

dzugman-I pick them up slowly as time goes on.

ruthiej-I'm sure you'll have your share of warblers soon.Field Sparrow does have a nice song.

Kerri-Great sighting with the Green Heron!I saw the photo-very nice!

Mary said...


What you call regular birds are unusual to me! You see a great variety at your house!