Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hidden Gems of Port Huron SGA: Blue-winged Warbler, Mourning Warbler and Rose-breasted Grosbeak

[Port Huron SGA. May/June 2017]

Every year we await the singular natural history event -- Spring Migration -- that marks the beginning of our helpless seduction by the irresistible forces of avian color and song as our neotropical songbirds arrive to bring our forests to bountiful vivacity.

The emerald of the leaves is now interspersed with the reds of Grosbeaks; the deep blues of Buntings; and, the greens and yellows of our Warblers. A richly hued treasure trove of avian gems awaits the intrepid birder who would venture into our Eastern woods.

This incredible transformation of our forests is a spectacle that demands celebration and, accordingly, we are pleased to bring some of the stars of this transformative miracle to the readers of this blog with species such as:  

  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • Blue-winged Warbler
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • Ovenbird
  • Cerulean Warbler
  • Mourning Warbler
We start with our most colorful grosbeak -- the Rose-breasted:

The male Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a stunning songbird with bold colors and a rich Robin-like song. 

With a "bleeding heart" red bib and a strongly contrasting scheme of black upperparts and white undersides, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak is hard to miss in the forest. White patches on the wings and a pale pink bill complete the picture.

The female (above) is modestly attired in a cryptic pattern of brown and white -- virtually indistinguishable from the female Black-headed Grosbeak of the West.

After the Grosbeak, Blue-winged Warbler seems underwhelming:

Yet, the black eyeline and blue-grey wings with white patches does present a striking image.

The "bee buzz" song of the male is a familiar refrain in Michigan forests.

Compared to the insect-like song of the Blue-winged Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler's song is a musical warble best described as "pleased, pleased, pleased to meetcha".

The Chestnut-sided Warbler is well named -- the bold brown streaks are prominently visible:

Our only warbler named after the shape of its nest, the Ovenbird is a subdued warbler:  

It looks more like a thrush and can be found foraging on the ground when overwintering in S. Florida.

Also seen was Cerulean Warbler:

And, the fabulous Mourning Warbler:

Named for its grey hood (as if in mourning), the Mourning Warbler never fails to bring joy in observation and song:

A renowned skulker, the Mourning Warbler generally keeps low in the undergrowth:

Spring and Summer are not mere seasons, they represent nothing short of a resurrection of our forests into treasure troves of hidden gems such as Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Mourning Warbler.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Marvelous Madera: Elegant Trogon, Hepatic Tanager and Black-capped Gnatcatcher

[Madera Canyon, Pimo Co. AZ. April, 2017]

The driving force behind birding is a passionate thirst that is never slaked; or for others, a beautiful hunger that defies satiety. Indeed, the fuel for our avian quests is the eager prospect of the new; as well as, renewed contentment with the familiar.

The above sentiment resonated strongly with this blogger while on a Spring pilgrimage to Madera Canyon. A trip that yielded a new addition to the Blogger's Life List (aka Lifer) in Black-capped Gnatcatcher while presenting familiar, yet always delightful, species such as Elegant Trogon and Hepatic Tanager. Indeed the full breadth of observations included:

  • Hepatic Tanager
  • Elegant Trogon
  • Black-capped Gnatcatcher
  • Arizona Woodpecker
  • Mexican Jay
  • Bridled Titmouse
  • Grace's Warbler
  • Painted Redstart
  • House Wren
  • Magnificent Hummingbird
  • Brown-crested Flycatcher
  • Dusky-capped Flycatcher
  • Plumbeous Vireo
We start with the Hepatic Tanager:

First impressions bring to attention the grey-brown cheeks, flanks and upperparts against the dominant brick-red hues on the rest of body. The bill is dark as are the eyes. Indeed, it is the brown-red or liver-like color that explains the "Hepatic" (as in Hepatitis) in the bird's moniker.

The Hepatic is our most range-restricted tanager -- found in pine-oak woodlands in the canyons of SEAZ and Western New Mexico. Yet, as a global species, it is widely distributed throughout South and Central America.

Our next species -- Elegant Trogon -- is another specialty bird of SEAZ and a regular breeder at Madera where it prefers Sycamore cavities for nesting.

Over to the Lifer -- Black-capped Gnatcatcher is a Mexican songbird that is an occasional visitor to SEAZ. It has been found nesting at Madera Canyon with surprising regularity.

Of our 4 Gnatcatcher species, this is the most range-restricted but it is the California Gnatcatcher that is the most endangered. 

Arizona Woodpecker -- a lovely brown and white woodpecker of Mexico that barely inches into US territory, also thrives in the canyon:

Other species included:
Mexican Jay:

Bridled Titmouse:

Grace's Warbler:

Painted Redstart:

House Wren -- this common songbird seemingly out of place amidst all the specialty birds!

Magnificent Hummingbird:

Brown-crested Flycatcher:

Dusky-capped Flycatcher:

And, Plumbeous Vireo:

Nothing in Birding is ever guaranteed -- our quests for avian treasure are at best unevenly rewarded; yet, in the 
marvelous milieu of canyon woodlands at Madera Canyon, the opportunity to commune with nature on nature's terms is its own reward.