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Volume 14, Issue 21 ~ May 25 - May 31, 2006

Earth Journal by Gary Pendleton

The Birdy Month of May

From post-storm fall-outs to backyard residents

Friday, May 12: 8:15am at

Jug Bay Wetland Sanctuary

That was the best 20 feet of birding I’ve enjoyed in at least 10 years. Three of us were looking for and listening to spring migrants on the Otter Creek Trail. I have heard of what birders call a fall-out, maybe I had even witnessed a few, but not like this. Weather conditions: a big rain the night before; in the morning clear. Migrating song birds travel at night, and storms cause them to take refuge on the ground, so when the sun comes out, areas along the storm front experience a fall-out of higher than normal bird activity.

It was a beautiful, sparkling wet but sunny day in the woods in May, and there were birds — flying, singing and calling from all directions.

Red-eyed vireos were exhorting from every other tree, it seemed. Wood thrushes sang from the four corners. Parula warblers’ song zipped up and down from high in the trees. Ovenbirds sounded loud from the forest floor. While we were trying to get an angle on a rare Blackburnian warbler, scarlet tanagers kept forcing themselves on us. Then we heard a cuckoo. There was so much activity — sounds, movements, water dripping off twigs and leaves — it was hard to focus on one thing.

Black-throated blue warblers were well represented. We got a good look at the black-and-white warbler. We heard the occasional Acadian flycatcher. At the end of the walk, we finally encountered a redstart.

Note: the Blackburnian warbler was named for a man named Blackburn. But if you will check your field guide you’ll see that they could have been named for the lick of orange on their throat and the charcoal black marks scorched on their white breast. I call it rare, but that book says they are occasionally seen in these parts.

Saturday, May 13: 9:15am

in North Beach backyard

Another beautiful day but so different from the day before: overcast and cool. While working in the garden, I thought I heard a scarlet tanager. That would have been a first for my backyard list. With binoculars, I scanned the trees behind Second Street for scarlet, but I saw no flash of red. So it might have been a robin with a cold I heard; plenty of them around. A flock of cormorants was flying high.

Yellow warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, a flock of nuthatches, great-crested fly catcher and cedar waxwings: All singing. The house wrens were building a nest in the bird house, also singing loudly. Now and then, the louder Carolina wren outdid the little house wrens.

A pair of brown thrashers and a pair of catbirds are also nesting nearby, the latter making extensive use of the bird bath. Chipping sparrows were hanging out. A blackpoll warbler periodically sang its squeaky-brake song from behind a leafy twig.

Sunday May, 14:

All day in North Beach backyard

Weather like yesterday but cooler. I spent the morning and afternoon gardening.

Bird activity has slowed a degree. Taking time now to notice the more typical yard birds: grackles, cardinals, robins, goldfinches. In the afternoon, a ruby-throated hummingbird finally visited the feeder.

Relaxing on the garden bench in the evening, we watched osprey circling above. Then a great blue heron came into view. Flying west, it was following the course of the marsh on the south end of town, presumably toward a place to roost.

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