Another dreary, drippy morning on Tuesday surprisingly produced a season record of 54 birds spanning a dazzling 20 species. Highlights included Gray-cheeked Thrushes, another prized Connecticut Warbler, the first Yellow-rumped Warbler of the season, and an increase in numbers of individuals of several species as compared to previous years—including Black-throated Blue Warblers, Indigo Buntings, and Eastern Towhees. The grande finale was a glorious Yellow-breasted Chat, the second ever for Rushton!
The Yellow-breasted Chat is a large, chunky warbler with an atypical song that is more similar to the varied, staccato songs of catbirds and mockingbirds than to its more refined sounding relatives in the warbler family. Dining mostly on spiders and insects in dense thickets, it also feasts on berries as evidenced by the traces of wild grapes on this chat’s bill.
Although this was undoubtedly a migrant, chats could theoretically breed at Rushton; we have everything a chat could ever want like dense shrubbery of blackberry bushes, sumac, multiflora rose, and honeysuckle. Perhaps on its way back north from winter in the tropics, it will remember Rushton and decide to start a family here. Never mind those pushy jewelers peddling their silver bracelets from the shady shack in the hedgerow.
Students from Strath Haven High School experienced nature like never before as they crowded around the banding table in their pajamas (they mumbled something about homecoming school spirit week). They were touched by these creatures as they guessed how many nickels a Common Yellowthroat weighed and learned of their arduous journeys to Central America.
The nets were still on fire on Wednesday with 42 new birds, 7 recaps, and a total of 14 species. As I opened the woodland nets in the dawn haze, I got chills as high-pitched “weep” calls echoed from every corner of the dark woods. It was as if I was surrounded by spring peepers in a second spring. They were the distinct contact calls of Swainson’s Thrush, reserved specifically for migration. These were birds that probably just touched down after a long night of travel and were checking in with each other before breakfast as the sun came up.
White-throated Sparrows are now outnumbering Gray Catbirds as the fall migration plays out. Rain kept us from banding on Thursday, but we will be back again next week, and the next and the next. If you have been meaning to stop by to see us, you have three more weeks: every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 6:30-11 am.
There’s a lot going on in the woods,
As a reminder to email subscribers, click on the title of the blog post to be redirected to the website where things often display better than in your email. Thanks!