Saturday, December 7, 2013

Summer Tanager, Pine and Yellow-throated Warblers at Corkscrew

[Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. SW Florida. November 2013]

The tagline on Florida license plates read "Endless Summer" -- this is a fact that birds know only too well. For in Winter, when other parts of the country are awaiting Snow Buntings, Snowy Owls and Redpolls; Floridians can look forward to wintering warblers and even the odd passage tanager.

Species observed and noted in this article include :
  1. Summer Tanager
  2. Pine Warbler
  3. Northern Parula
  4. Yellow-throated Warbler
  5. Black-and-White warbler
  6. Brown Thrasher
  7. Blue Grey Gnatcatcher
First the tanager: High up in the trees, a brilliant songbird rules the canopy while warblers, flycatchers and gnatcatchers forage below.

Summer Tanager seen at Corkscrew Swamp

Renown as the only all-red-and-nothing-but-red bird in the US, the Summer Tanager is a bee/wasp specialist.


This flamboyant tropical tanager (now classified with the cardinals), has a song that is similar to the American Robin.

Unlike the tanager that is still resplendent, wintering warblers are a drab reflection of their Spring glory; like this  female Pine Warbler:

Pine Warbler seen at Corkscrew Swamp

Male Pine Warbler

The Pine Warbler is an early Spring migrant and unlike our neotropical guests is content to stay with us over the Winter months.


The Pine Warbler is also known as the only warbler that regularly eats seed and berries:


The Northern Parula is much smaller compared to the Pine:

Northern Parula seen at Corkscrew


... and is a committed insectivore.


The next warbler, the Yellow-throated,is also regular at Corkscrew. Its distinctive facial markings, white breast, grey upperparts and striking yellow throat make it unmistakable. It is frequently found in mixed feeding flocks but tends to prefer drier habitat at the Swamp.



This Black and White Warbler was also seen creeping along the limbs of the trees.

Male Black and White Warbler

Unlike the warblers which tend to keep quiet this time of year, one is alerted to the presence of the gnatcatchers by their incessant calling.


Acrobatic feeders, they move expertly across stalks and twigs plucking whatever small grub they can find.

Finally, the thrasher -- the Brown Thrasher is a secretive skulker that is rarely seen:


It is best seen in the tangles of bushes in the Sanctuary's parking lot.

It is those magical moments when the stillness of the Swamp is cut asunder by a wave of foraging birds that remind the observer what an incredible richness of birdlife can exist in prime forest habitat such as Corkscrew Swamp.


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