A birding interlude

Pine Warbler

I’ve been very busy this week, it feels like I’ve barely been home. I returned to my parents’ on Monday, and remained there till Wednesday morning, whereupon I headed out for a dentist appointment. Fortunately this was just to have some routine x-rays done and a couple other similarly benign procedures, so it wasn’t a terrible trip. Then yesterday Blackburnian and I headed off to his mom’s place for the afternoon and stayed overnight to do some mothing. We returned home late this morning, and I’ve spent most of the morning photographing and subsequently editing the photos of the moths we got. I’ll have some catching up to do this weekend on various projects, tasks and chores that were put on hold while I’ve been away this week.

I’ve been trying to contribute to I and the Bird on a regular basis, but realized when the deadline came up for this edition that I hadn’t actually posted anything about birds since before the previous edition (which are semi-monthly). This is a little strange considering how birds are my primary interest, but I suspect part of it has just been a lack of good photos or notable observations. I haven’t had a lot of chance to just go out and stalk some birds – either the weather’s been not-so-hot or I’ve been busy trying to complete a survey and couldn’t dawdle with the camera.

However, while at my parents’ this week I decided to take my camera and go out to track down a couple of warblers I’ve heard singing for a while, despite the rather overcast skies that makes getting good photos near impossible. I headed up to the woodsy area behind the barn where the birds have been singing for a couple weeks. I gave a few good pishes and the birds came right in. The first one to give me a good look was the above Pine Warbler, which flew right to the open branches above my head and, after a minute or two of checking me out, began to sing. He’s an annual resident there, the first warbler to arrive in spring, his musical trill a constant from the huge White Pines in the forest behind the house.

Mourning Warbler

The other warbler was this Mourning Warbler, who was much more reluctant to come forward and be seen. This is the first time I can recall a Mourning being at my parents’. They do breed throughout southern Ontario, but I’ve never encountered them there before. Most of my breeding Mourning experiences date back to when I worked for the Toronto Zoo some eight years ago. Mournings are among my favourite warblers, so I was very pleased to discover that the bird I’d heard last week was still hanging about the same spot this week. I’d expected he was likely just a migrant, present for a few days while he fueled up, but he seems to have actually set up shop back there. I wonder if he has a girl.

Common Yellowthroat

After the dentist appointment I was feeling ravenous, and decided to stop by Tim Horton’s on my way home to grab some lunch. The Tim’s store isn’t a very exciting place to eat, though, so I thought I’d find a spot out on one of the backroads in the countryside somewhere where I could pull over and listen to the birds. The spot I chose was a little dead-end road not far off the highway (I could still hear the roar of the highway traffic, though it was muffled by a lot of trees), where they’d run the end of the road through a small, thick swamp. I parked the car and opened the door, and the first bird I heard was this bright male Common Yellowthroat singing virtually right beside the car. I grabbed my camera and snuck over to where he was singing and pished him in. Like the Pine Warbler, as soon as he’d determined that there was nothing to worry about (which didn’t take him long) he returned to singing from within the thicket, his head thrown back and his chest all puffed out, hormones raging, I’m sure.

Baltimore Oriole

Another colourful bird to come in when I pished was this striking Baltimore Oriole. I don’t often get orioles to show much interest in me, so that was interesting. I also don’t tend to associate orioles with swamps, although they are often in riparian areas. They’re fairly common around here, but are more often heard than seen. It’s funny that such a brilliantly-coloured bird can be so difficult to spot. While at my parents’ I don’t see the male all that often, except when he comes to the oriole nectar feeder my mom has out.

American Goldfinch

And finally, a yellow bird. There were a couple of Yellow Warblers in the swamp with the oriole and yellowthroat, but I wasn’t able to get one to come down close enough for a decent shot. I did, however, get this other yellow bird, a sunny American Goldfinch. There seemed to be a small flock of goldfinches in the area, and they’d always respond when I pished at various points along the road. Goldfinches are late breeders, waiting for the thistles and other plants to go to seed and using the fluff to line their nests and the seeds to feed their young. They often won’t start building nests till late June or early July, when many other birds have already raised and fledged broods of young. So this group of birds I encountered were all still just hanging about, not having established territories yet (although two or three pairs may also nest in the same general area, in a loose colony).

It was nice to do a bit of visual birding where I wasn’t making tallies for each species (as I am for the surveys I’m doing). I find when I’m at my parents’ I’m often caught up in other things and tend to bird by ear, identifying what’s around based on what I’m hearing, but not actually going out to look for the singers.