Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday 2011

It is a sunny Easter that is going to get a bit muggy and quite warm by this afternoon. The birding this past week has been steady here on our land, and by today we now have almost all of our summer breeding birds back with us. The only ones missing are yellow-billed cuckoo and summer tanager now that chimney swift, eastern wood pewee, indigo bunting, acadian flycatcher and wood thrush have made an appearance.

We also are seeing a few of the migrants that stop off to feed on the way to their breeding grounds. The top photo is of a northern waterthrush--note the streaking on the throat--that I was able to photograph yesterday at Mason Farm which is part of the NC Botanical Garden (click on any photo to enlarge). I spent a couple of hours there yesterday to see how the migration was progressing at a good nearby birding spot. I heard but did not see ovenbird, northern parula, hooded, worm-eating, blue-winged and black-throated blue warblers. I also saw summer tanagers, indigo buntings, American redstarts, palm and yellow-rumped warblers, a yellow-breasted chat, brown thrashers, red-eyed vireos, swamp and white-throated sparrows, tufted tits, Carolina chickadees and wrens, and eastern bluebirds. A barred owl called often while I was birding, and I also got the bottom photo above of a female eastern towhee.

This morning on our land I found a northern waterthrush along Morgan Creek. We now have several pairs of red-eyed vireos and ovenbirds on territory, 3 pairs of La waterthrush, 2 scarlet tanagers, and a green heron on the pond. The middle photo above is of one of our black snakes that we are now seeing regularly with the warmer weather. During the week I saw both male and female black-throated blue warblers, and a swainson's thrush for the first time this year. 2 different days I came across some lingering pine siskins. I also saw one of our barred owls which we hear often but rarely see. Over the next couple of weeks we should see a few more migrating warbler species plus rose-breasted grosbeaks. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday April 17th--More Spring Update

It has been a very nice spring week--mostly sunny coolish days, but some rain too including a major downpour yesterday afternoon. So far the migration is still bringing us mainly our summer breeding birds. Of the 9 warblers that we normally have breeding each year on our land, 7 migrants now have arrived (common yellowthroat, n. parula, hooded, prairie, yellow-breasted chat, La waterthrush--middle photo above--and ovenbird--top photo above). We have pine warblers year round. So I am still waiting for a yellow-throated warbler. My sister said she heard one calling at her house but I have not seen or heard one yet myself. We also have yellow-rumps passing thru.

Other birds of note this week include the first of the season ruby-throated hummer, scarlet tanagers, and yellow-throated and red-eyed vireos. The sightings for the week also include swamp, white-throated and chipping sparrows; robins, hermit thrushes and blue jays; belted kingfisher; cooper's, red-shouldered and red-tailed hawks; barred owl; blue-gray gnatcatchers, brown-headed nuthatches, tufted tits, and Carolina chickadees; downy, red-bellied and pileated woodpeckers; house and gold finches; brown-headed cowbirds and American crows; black and turkey vultures; eastern towhees, phoebes and bluebirds; and mourning doves and Canada geese.

The bottom photo above is of our native azalea that blooms here in early April. You can click on any photo to enlarge it. This week depending on the weather fronts may bring us our first migratory warblers such as black-throated blues. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday April 10th--spring in progress

Spring here in Chapel Hill continues to build with leaves beginning to be quite visible on most trees. The dogwoods and redbuds are still the dominant spring colors but they will begin to decline this week. We have had some thunderstorms the past 2 days that have provided some much needed moisture. Temps will fall into the 30's some nites, but temps are already getting as high as the mid 80's some days.

Two days ago I did another circuit walk of the property to see how the bird migration was doing. The Louisiana waterthrushes were all staking out territory. 3 ovenbirds were also busily vocalizing for the first time this spring. Blue-gray gnatcatchers, tufted tits, Carolina chickadees, robins and cardinals were all about. I found one of our breeding parulas high up in a tree. A late in the season red-breasted nuthatch came by the feeders.

The highlight of the walk was hearing "sweet, sweet, sweet" and then finding a lovely prothonotary warbler (bottom photo) working its way down Morgan creek (top photo--remember to click on any photo to enlarge). This warbler breeds in many places in the Triangle, but this is only the 3rd one that I have ever seen on our property. It is not clear why they don't breed along Morgan Creek, but for some reason they do not. This bird had probably come up the creek from University Lake where they are more easily seen.

We have 9 warbler species that usually breed on the land here--pine, La waterthrush, ovenbird, northern parula, common yellowthroat, prairie, hooded, yellow-throated, and yellow-breasted chat--so there are still some more breeders that have not yet shown up. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A beautiful Spring Day at Home

I have been living outside of Chapel Hill, NC on a large tract of land since June 2000. The total acreage is 230 acres, and we have 4-5 miles of walking trails. We also have a major stream--Morgan Creek--plus a secondary stream called Tilley's Branch. There are 2 ponds and some seasonal drainages. Most of the land is covered in hard woods with some pine mixed in. Except for 2004 when were living in Italy, and last year when I was doing my big year, every other spring since 2001 I have regularly birded our land beginning in late March and continuing into mid May. As a result I have a pretty good idea of how the spring migration progresses here, plus when our summer breeding birds return.

As I mentioned in my last post, we have year round resident barred owls, but rarely have I heard or seen great horned owls. But last week we heard a great horned owl calling at dusk one evening, and then the next day I saw one being mobbed by some crows. I could not get a photo, so instead I have posted above a picture of a great horned that I took last year in AZ. Three days ago from about 5-6 in the afternoon I heard 2 great horned owls behind my house conversing. I have my fingers crossed that maybe it is a pair trying to set up an breeding territory.

This morning and Friday morning I took my usual spring bird walk to see what was about. Today was sunny and in the 50's. I heard or saw the first of the year blue-gray gnatcatcher and northern parula. A pair of wood ducks flushed off of Morgan Creek. There were 2 Louisiana waterthrushes staking out their territory. I heard red-bellied, hairy and pileated woodpeckers. A lingering ruby-crowned kinglet, hermit thrush, brown creeper and winter wren all showed up. Pine warblers were singing along with loads of tufted titmice and Carolina chickadees. I flushed a red shouldered hawk (bottom photo above). Black and turkey vultures circled in the sky. Lots of robins were moving thru the woods. Eastern towhee and blue jay also made an appearance. Downy woodpeckers, mourning doves, brown-headed cowbirds, chipping sparrows, goldfinches, slate colored juncos and house finches were at the feeders. A Carolina wren called over and over from under the porch.

Changing gears, over the past 2 days 2 rare Mexican warblers have been found in the US, and reported on Narba. The first was a golden crowned warbler that was seen in a park in Corpus Christi, TX. The second was a crescent-chested warbler that was found at Arivaca Cienega south of Tucson, AZ. I have seen both of these vagrant warblers in the past but neither made an appearance in 2010 during my big year.

I will continue my routine of birding my property to track the spring migration here. Stay tuned!