Sunday, July 9, 2017

Peerless Lapeer: Scarlet Tanager, American Redstart and Chestnut-sided Warbler

[Lapeer SGA. May 2017]

It is somewhat paradoxical that forests set aside for the recreational killing of animals are some of the best areas to observe birdlife. Lapeer State Game Area (SGA) brings together those that would extinguish life with those who would preserve it. 

Of course, the tradition of wild animal slaughter is not unique to North America. However, nowhere, perhaps, has this ugly legacy of killing been as gruesome and as vast as in the US -- which other country can boast of shooting an entire species (the Passenger Pigeon) numbering 6 Billion to extinction in a mere 100 years? (averaging 60 million birds shot annually). It is never wise to underestimate man's insatiability and desire for destruction. A fact recognized by scientists as the Sixth Extinction.

But, in late Spring, these sordid considerations fade into the background as our attention turns to the neotropical stars of the forests, avian gems such as:

  • Scarlet Tanager
  • American Redstart
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • Blue-winged Warbler
  • Cerulean Warbler
  • Ovenbird
  • Red-eyed Vireo
We start with Scarlet Tanager:




An explosion of red-orange against the green foliage -- a striking songbird with a pale bill and satin black wings. 




The male Scarlet Tanager winters in South America and arrives in Spring with its blindingly gorgeous looks and sharp, cheerful song. 




Unlike the Tanager, the American Redstart is found much lower to the ground in bushy tangles:




The male Redstart is an unmistakable warbler and looks striking in its black tux with orange accents. 




This is one of our long-tailed warblers -- a tail that can be fanned to flush out insects. 





An immature male (above) was also sighted -- showing a lot of grey and yellow and singing a more hyperactive version of the Redstart song.

Like the Redstart, Chestnut-sided Warbler can also be found commonly at this venue:





This is also a distinctive warbler with a bright yellow crown, bold chestnut streaks on the flanks, black facial markings and a strongly pattered back on white undersides.




This warbler's "pleased-to-meetcha" song is a common melody of the forests this time of year. 




Contrasting with the warbling song of the American Redstart and Chestnut-sided, the Blue-winged Warbler's buzzy refrain sounds more like an insect:




From bright yellows, blacks and reds, we move on to the Cerulean Warbler:





A scintillating sky-blue and sapphire, this warbler is cherished by all American birders.



While not as drop-dead gorgeous as the Cerulean, the Ovenbird is much more subdued in looks but is a musical force when it comes to song:




Finally, Red-eyed Vireo was also observed at this venue:





The Eastern forests of North America are ours to enjoy. And, there is no better way to celebrate the bounty of birdlife that arrives in Spring than communing with our neotropical visitors such as the Scarlet Tanager and American Redstart at fabled venues such as Lapeer SGA.

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