Sunrise Birding Walk – Sept 26th

29 09 2009

Dawn - Luke Tiller

Dawn - Luke Tiller

As I am currently spending most of the week staying in Greenwich at the Hawk Watch (in order to avoid horror story commute on the Merritt post work) I haven’t had spare moment to do any birding at Allen’s Meadows. It’s almost been painful having to miss out on hitting the spot every morning as I have become accustomed to in fall. Anyway, I always look forward to taking groups to Allen’s and of course one always hopes that it is going to hit the heights of expectation.

We had a couple of new attendees on the walk this week who were new to the world of Wilton’s greatest birding hotspot so I was hoping that it would impress. Although the walk wasn’t kicking off until 7:30am I was too excited to wait until then to go birding so I arrived just before dawn to give the place a quick once over. Nothing jumped out at me in the early morning light apart from a Wilson’s Snipe that skittered away from some short grass screeching – I imagine as a defense mechanism this works pretty well as it certainly flustered me somewhat.

As the group arrived we were soon into the birding action as Cedar Waxwings fluttered overhead feeding heavily on the, what I’ve always assumed were, black cherry trees (perhaps time to shell out on the new Sibley Tree Guide). Joining the throngs were a couple of Red-eyed Vireos and a Black-and-White Warbler that was certainly drawn in more by the activity than the fruit. Yellow-rumped Warblers chipped and a roving flock of Palm Warblers put on a little show as they picked through the paper birches. We also discussed the edibleness of Autumn Olive (who knew!) and I even went as far as digging up from another blog a jam recipe for this slightly tart but quite tasty fruit (here).

As we wandered along the back line of the ball fields we peered into the dense foliage that surrounds the Goetzen Brook and stumbled upon a little feeding frenzy of migrants. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker scooted up a dying tree, and a cinnamon backed Veery showed briefly in the dense tangles of Virginia Creeper that bedecked the trunk along with  its subtler companion, a Swainson’s Thrush. A Rose-breasted Grosbeak with just a mere slash of brilliant pink on it’s breast sat to accommodate scope views and a scattering of warblers were picked off.

Probable highlight of the walk in terms of rarity was a subtle but beautiful Philadelphia Vireo. I think I have had one Philadelphia at Allen’s in the past but I need to double check my records. The vireo had managed to find an exceedingly large and juicy caterpillar and was proceeding to beat its brains out on one of the branches of the tree. Great fun to watch and providing the opportunity to get the bird in the scope for people – a rare treat for a mobile little migrant such as this. We checked the burgeoning sparrow flocks for something apart from the typical Savannah and Song Sparrows but apart from a Field and a couple of Chippings there wasn’t a whole host apart from a couple of drab Indigo Buntings.

Although no spectacular rarities a very nice morning all in all at my favorite site for fall birding anywhere on the globe (how provincial!) The trip was nicely rounded off with a quick flash of a migrating Peregrine as it muscled its way south on less than supportive winds.

Trip species list:

Great Blue Heron, Osprey, Red-tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Cedar Waxwing, House Wren, Carolina Wren, Black-capped Chickadee, American Crow, Blue Jay, Northern Mockingbird, Gray Catbird, American Robin, Swainson’s Thrush, Veery, Philadelphia Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Warblers: Northern Parula, Black-throated Green, Yellow-rumped, Palm, Yellow, Common Yellowthroat, Black-and-White, Black-throated Blue, American Redstart, Northern Cardinal, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, American Goldfinch, House Finch,Sparrows: Field, Chipping, Song, Savannah, Swamp, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, European Starling and House Sparrow.

Sunrise Bird Walk – Saturday Sept 19

21 09 2009
Nashville Warbler - Luke Tiller

Nashville Warbler - Luke Tiller

A wonderful mornings warblering at Greenwich Audubon’s Quaker Ridge site as part of the early festivities for their Hawkwatch Festival weekend. I have been on site for a month now and Saturday was by far and away the most productive morning bird wise. As I chatted to Brian O’Toole in the car park as the sun slowly rose there was an abundance of activity and I started to get that buzz of excitement one feels when you know that a good morning of birding lies ahead.

As I picked up my group, Brian called ahead and said that he had already found an abundance of activity in the orchard area and we hot-footed it in his direction. Along the way though we were soon waylaid as we started to trip over warbler activity. We soon had a Black-and-white Warbler working the trunk of a nearby apple tree and more birds were flitting through the early morning light towards us: brilliantly green (and super cute) Chestnut-sided Warblers flitted, Redstarts – all flashing tails and tumbling aerobatics as well as Black-throated Greens aplenty bedecked the trees.

Then our first ID challenge, a very muted Blackburnian Warbler – no garish orange throat on this bird, but rather a subtle wash the distinctive face pattern the giveaway clue. More birds to be seen and more Blackburnians, a surprising number in fact from fairly brilliant males to the more delicately patterned birds mentioned above. In total we guesstimated that there were probably a half dozen Blackburnians there – probably a high count for me in a days migrant birding anywhere!  There were more ID challenges ahead: a drab first winter female Pine Warbler, almost a colorless dingy brown and then a much sought after Philadelphia Vireo (photographed by Benjamin Van Doren here) along with a closely related but much more pedestrian (in the rareness stakes) Warbling. Here we had a little time to dissect the difference in both structure and plumage. The Philadelphia’s dark lores and distinctly yellow throat both tell tell signs as well as it’s more compact frame (a good article on Vireo ID here).

More birds streamed through: Nashville Warbler, Scarlet Tanagers, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-pewee. The leaders marveling at the amazing abundance of birds as much as the participants. As time rolled on the birds slowly dispersed and by 9:30am just a few individuals lingered – I guess that’s why Gina called the company Sunrise Birding – it’s birding at it’s best!

Bird Species from the Day:

15 Warbler Species comprising 200+ individuals: Tennessee Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, Chestnut-Sided Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Black and White Warbler, Black-Throated Blue Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-Throated Green Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Pine Warbler, Palm Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart.

Other Highlights: Philadelphia Vireo and Red-breasted Nuthatch as well as common neotropical migrants like Scarlet Tanager and Red-eyed Vireo.