Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Kalkaska Kaleidoscope I: Red-breasted Nuthatch, Black-and-white Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler and Ovenbird

[Kalkaska, MI. Late June 2015]

The word Kaleidoscope -- per Wikipedia -- is derived from the Ancient Greek "kalos" meaning "beautiful"; "eidos" meaning "shape or form" and "skopeĊ" meaning "to look at, or, to examine" -- hence putting all 3 words together in "kaleidoscope" therefore means "observation of beautiful forms". What could be a better definition of Birding? And, unlike a mechanical kaleidoscope whose source of beauty is bits of colored glass and contrived symmetrical reflections, Birding offers us the "real deal" -- observation of Nature's pure beauty ensconced in the feathery colors of our avifauna.  

And, in this post (and the subsequent one), we offer to the reader reports of observations of signature species from Kalkaska County in Northern Michigan -- an area of prime importance to neotropical migrants in Summer -- a view through a Kalkaska Kaleidoscope, if you will!

We start with Chestnut-sided Warbler:



The Chestnut-sided Warbler is a dazzling songbird -- pure white undersides, boldly flanked with chestnut streaks, black facial markings, a striking yellow cap and a black back streaked with yellow. Unfairly relegated to the rear of the "birding bus", perhaps on account of its relative common and widespread status, it was historically much more uncommon; and, regardless, deserves every birder's full and keen attention.


Also observed on Sunset Trail in Kalkaska County, was a much more plain looking warbler -- the  Ovenbird:





It is sometimes hard to imagine that this is the same bird that is seen in Winter in Southern Florida as a sedate, largely quiet and terrestrial forager. But in Summer, the Ovenbird is the loudest songster in the woods -- belting out its "teacher, teacher" warble in full volume to all and sundry. It is not difficult to fathom why it was earlier classified with the waterthrushes -- it shares their subdued color scheme of an earth-toned back, white undersides and prominent black streaking.

In contrast, the Black-and-white Warbler's song is much softer:






Like the Ovenbird, this is another warbler whose Summer and Winter ranges partly span the US -- allowing us to enjoy them year-round. The colors of most male warblers fade in the Fall and Winter; however, for the Black-and-white, the colors remain intact. What happens instead is that the male's black throat and cheeks turn white in Winter (compare with a wintering Black-and-white in SW Florida).

Moving on to a couple of non-warblers -- first a nuthatch that cannot escape criticism for having one of the least imaginative songs -- the Red-breasted Nuthatch:





The monotonous beeping of this nuthatch would rival the annoying tones of most alarm clocks. This is a widespreach nuthatch species found coast to coast.

Finally, there is nothing like a Scarlet tanager to cap a day's birding:





The varied hues and colors seen through a "Kalkaska Kaleidoscope" are a scintillating reminder of why those who "have caught the bug" bird the outdoors with gusto -- fully benefitting from the presence of neotropical migrants in our forests.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh, the "real deal." As you often lead me to listen to the calls of birds you highlight, Hemant, I would find the chewk call of an Ovenbird difficult to distinguish from a Northern Cardinal in the field. Thank goodness for the "chattery outbursts" of the Red-breasted Nuthatch. I regrettably find the call of Black-necked Stilt to be incessantly annoying after a modicum of time. Any other species' call (that I'm aware of), even that of the nuthatch, is like music to my ears.

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