Three Connecticut Warblers, a Wilson’s Warbler, Gray-cheeked Thrush and More!

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Common Yellowthroat.  Photo by Gloria Ives.
Common Yellowthroat. Photo by Gloria Ives.

Ode to a Bander’s Autumnal World

by Blake Goll

 As the ardent air of autumn eclipses the weary haze of summer’s last breath,

The wind whispers to the wild wings that it is time.

Oh how the northern trees must weep as they somberly settle into winter solitude

And yearn for the intimate avian romance that enchants their days of green.

By most of mankind, the birds’ desperate southern voyage goes unseen.

 

But to the fortunate few, like you and me, this is the splendor we have feverishly awaited!

As if a million precious gems of a giant royal chest were catapulted south,

We scramble frantically to touch as many as we can before they continue spilling past,

Each jewel in hand more exquisite and exciting than the last.

 

Like secretive spiders faithfully tending their dewy webs by dawn’s dim light,

We raise our mist nets in hopes of gently snaring a few denizens of the sky;

A small silver ring upon the ankle, a reverent study of intricate feathers, then the rapturous release that leaves us breathless in awe,

Each lovely feathered captive feeds our hunger to understand

The storied lives of the heavenly birds with whom we share the land.

Blake Goll carefully ageing a White-eyed Vireo by its feathers.  Photo by Gloria Ives.
Blake Goll carefully ageing a White-eyed Vireo by its feathers. Photo by Gloria Ives.

The feathered gems are indeed, flying southward in all earnest now.  The wood warblers are still abundant, but the mid-fall migrants are beginning to show up, like the thrushes, kinglets and Yellow-rumped Warblers.  The endless procession of catbirds still has not diminished and White-throated Sparrows have yet to reach us.

Northern Parula female.  Photo by Blake Goll.
Northern Parula female. Photo by Blake Goll.

Nothern Parula female.  Photo by Mariana Pesthy.
Nothern Parula female. Photo by Mariana Pesthy.

Yesterday, we banded 43 birds of eleven species for ten environmental educators from all over the country. The most notable birds were a beautiful first year female Northern Parula (only our third since 2010), a young Red-eyed Vireo (our second ever during migration banding) whose eyes were more brown than red,  and the first Gray-cheeked Thrush of the season!  We caught several Swainson’s Thrushes as well, distinguised from the Gray-cheeked by yellow orangish spectacles and buffy rather than gray cheeks.  The Gray-cheeked Thrush is the most northen breeder of all America’s spotted thrushes and is infrequently seen; its gray pallor is a reflection of its austere tundra environment.

Gray-cheeked Thrush.  Photo by Blake Goll.
Gray-cheeked Thrush. Photo by Blake Goll.
Gray-cheeked Thrush (left) and Swainson's Thrush.  Photo by Mariana Pesthy.
Gray-cheeked Thrush (left) and Swainson’s Thrush. Photo by Mariana Pesthy.
Young Red eyed Vireo.  Photo by Blake Goll.
Young Red eyed Vireo. Photo by Blake Goll.

Heard and seen (but not netted) yesterday at the banding station were several small kettles of Broad-winged Hawk (nothing compared to the tens of thousands counted at DelCo and MontCo hawk watches), Red-breasted Nuthatch, and at least three Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.   Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks circled over the net lanes looking for easy pickings.

We hosted 21 members of the Birding Club of Delaware County on Saturday and the staff of PA Audubon on Monday.  Both of these days were relatively slow (around 35 birds each day), but the quality was stupendous! No one was mourning when a female Connecticut Warbler materialized and mesmerized with her quiet, rare beauty.  This is a bird that evades most big time birders’ life lists, as I mentioned before, and it was our third of the season!  Check out bird photographer Matt Levanowitz’s guest blog post on Nemesis Bird about his quest to find the mysterious Connecticut.  Can somebody tell him he just needs to visit Rushton!?

Connecticut Warbler (female).  Photo by Justin Thompson.
Connecticut Warbler (female). Photo by Justin Thompson.

Other birds banded earlier this week include Swainson’s Thrushes, Magnolia Warblers, Ovenbirds, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Cardinal, Yellow Shafted Flicker, Wood Thrush, Field Sparrow and one scruffy young male Eastern Towhee.

Eastern Towhee (hatch year male).  Photo by Bob Pierce.
Eastern Towhee (hatch year male). Photo by Bob Pierce.
Northern Cardinal (hatch year male).  Photo by Blake Goll.
Northern Cardinal (hatch year male). Photo by Blake Goll.
Ovenbird getting his picture taken before release.  Photo by Blake Goll.
Ovenbird getting his picture taken before release. Photo by Blake Goll.
Wing of Yellow-shafted Flicker.  Photo by Blake Goll.
Wing of Yellow-shafted Flicker. Photo by Blake Goll.
Child with Magnolia Warbler (hatch year female) before release.  Photo by Blake Goll
Child with Magnolia Warbler (hatch year female) before release. Photo by Blake Goll

Though our banding crew was not able to be out last Sunday the 16th, it would have been great banding because there was a BIG flight over Southeastern PA the Saturday night before.  I birded the woodlot behind my house in West Chester that morning from 9-10:30am, which is far too late by most birders’ standards.  However, I really lucked out and got awesome close views of 13 migrant species bustling about: Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Northern Parula, Pine Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Wood Thrush, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Red-eyed Vireo, Wood Pewee and my very first breath-taking BLACKBURNIAN WARBLERS!  Who says you have to set your alarm at the crack of dawn for birding? My warblers were feeding so low in the understory at one point that I could actually hear their bills snapping as they chased the insects out from the leaves and into the open air near me.  As close as they were though, it was still quite a task differentiating “confusing fall warbler” plumage.  It’s much easier in the hand than when they are darting through the canopy!

Male Chestnut-sided Warbler (Hatch year).  Photo by Blake Goll.
Male Chestnut-sided Warbler (Hatch year). Photo by Blake Goll.

Working my way backwards in news from Rushton banding station, last week we caught about 150 birds in 3 mornings.  Perhaps the most thrilling catch was an itty bitty WIWA or Wilson’s Warbler on 9/11, only the second ever for Rushton!  We measured the extensiveness of black on his head to determine he was an adult male.   These handsome little guys breed largely in Canada and the Pacific Northwest.

Wilson's Warbler ( an adult male).  Photo by Blake Goll.
Wilson’s Warbler ( an adult male). Photo by Blake Goll.

That same day we also banded a trio of refined Cedar Waxwings: an adult female and two “kids”.  Although we often hear and see Cedar Waxwing flocks feeding on berries and insects high in the hedgerow, this is the first time they have come down to our nets since fall of 2010.

Female Cedar Waxwing.  Photo by Blake Goll.
Female Cedar Waxwing. Photo by Blake Goll.
A hatch year female Cedar Waxwing.  Photo by Blake Goll.
A hatch year female Cedar Waxwing. Photo by Blake Goll.

On 9/11 we also banded three hatch year Song Sparrows, which we suspect are the ones born in the Tiger Stripe tomato plants this summer, a wonderful picture of the harmonious relationship between the sustainable farm and the birds.

Song Sparrow siblings.  Photo by Justin Thompson.
Song Sparrow siblings. Photo by Justin Thompson.
Asters and goldenrod at Rushton Farm.  Photo by Blake Goll.
Asters and goldenrod at Rushton Farm. Photo by Blake Goll.

At least two White-eyed Vireos were taunting us all last week, calling from the hedgerow, but never venturing into a net.  However, at the end of the week we did manage to catch one young White-eyed Vireo!  This is a fantastic bird with blue legs, an eery white, human-like eye and an uncanny resemblance to a miniature velociraptor, if you ask me.

White-eyed Vireo
White-eyed Vireo
Velociraptor
Velociraptor

Other birds banded last week include:

  • Another female Connecticut Warbler!
  • Black-and-White Warbler
  • Northern Waterthrush
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Yellow Shafted Flickers
  • Gray Catbird
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • House Wren
  • Carolina Wren
  • Ovenbird
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Wood Thrush
  • Veery
  • Field Sparrow
  • American Robin
  • Young Indigo Buntings
Black-and-white Warbler (hatch year).  Photo by Justin Thompson.
Black-and-white Warbler (hatch year). Photo by Justin Thompson.
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the net.
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird in the net.
Young House Wren with bill deformity.  Photo by Blake Goll.
Young House Wren with bill deformity. This bird’s future success after mom stops feeding him is bleak. Photo by Blake Goll.

Birds noted but not banded last week include a dozen or so American Wood Cocks, which we flushed  at dawn’s first light from the fields, and a Common Nighthawk, which flew from its roost at the edge of the woods late one morning as we were closing the nets.

Songbird Banding Schedule

Rushton Banding Station is in operation and open to the public every Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 6am until 11am, unless it rains.  In addition, we will be open to visitors Wednesday morning September 26th, 6am-11am.

Songbird banding runs until mid to late October when we start banding for Northern Saw-whet Owls.  Stay tuned for more info about owl banding.

Young Gray Catbird.  Photo by Justin Thompson.
Young Gray Catbird. Photo by Justin Thompson.
The banding crew including Ellie, the staff pug and new banding mascot.
The banding crew including Ellie, the staff pug and new banding mascot. (Don’t worry-this pug has no interest in birds whatsoever).

Things To Do This Weekend:

Run-A-Muck is TOMORROW September 22!

Come out to support the Willistown Conservation Trust’s land preservation efforts and enjoy a challenging run or leisurely walk through the most scenic trails of rural Willistown, not normally open to the public.  Country supper, live music, wine, beer, movie under the stars, mechanical bull rides, prizes, raffle and more!  Click here to find out more.  Registration is only on a walk-in basis at this point, but you may still purchase raffle tickets online for a chance to win $5,000, even if you are not at the event!!

Hawk Mountain Art Show September 22-23

Check out the hawk watch and then enjoy the dozen talented wildlife artists who will have their artwork on display and for sale in the Visitor Center.  Click here to learn more about the artists.

By the way, on Monday 2,806 migrant monarch butterflies passed by the Hawk Mountain lookout, a one-day record that beats the average SEASON total over the last 21 years of 1,804 monarchs! WOW.

There’s a lot going on out there,

~Blake

Garter Snake waiting for the sun to warm her up.  Photo by Justin Thompson.
Garter Snake waiting for the morning sun to warm her up. Photo by Justin Thompson.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. That was an awesome update, and what a collection of birds to note. I especially loved the poetry 🙂 will try to make it on Thursday- Gloria

    “Be Bold and Mighty forces will come to your aid” -Basil King On Overcoming Fear http://www.the-art-of-the-matter.blogspot.com

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    1. wctbirds says:

      Thanks so much for the compliments! I enjoy writing the Willistown Conservation Trust bird blog when I find the time. It helps to know that it’s useful and informative for people 🙂

      ~Blake Goll

  3. I’m with Fash Acc. Great site, I look at lots of sites like this, but few as well presented. I’m the lead artist for the iBird apps (I hope you have them!) & you’re in my ‘birds’ bookmark folder. (don’t worry, I don’t steal, just learn)

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