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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Indigo Bunting, Blue-winged Warbler and other breeding species at Port Huron SGA

[Port Huron SGA. MI. Late May/Early June 2013]

Update: Added Mourning Warbler, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat and new shots of Pine Warbler

Mourning Warbler is a skulking bird rarely seen in migration; however, in early summer when it's breeding, the males are singing and fairly easy to spot.

Male Mourning Warbler

Mourning Warbler is so named because of how it looks (wearing the grey hood appropriate for "funeral wear") and not because of how it sounds (a la Mourning Dove). 

Described by Wilson in 1810, the Mourning Warbler is a distinctive bird with grey hood, black bib, yellow underparts and olive-green upperparts; and, note the pink legs.

While in the area, one couldn't resist seeking out the Pine Warbler:

Pine Warbler seen at Port Huron SGA

This is another warbler described by Wilson; 1 year after he described the Mourning.

The Pine Warbler's name arises from their proclivity for nesting in Pine trees.

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler is known as an early migrant; however, in some areas (such as Florida), they are permanent residents.

White belly and grey wings with two white wing-bars, olive-green upperparts and a bright-yellow throat with faint smudgy streaking, serve as the main identification characteristics of this highly specialized warbler.

And, finally, Common Yellowthroat and Ovenbird:

Common Yellowthroat

And, the very loud Ovenbird -- singing its heart out.

[Original Post]

With the arrival of June, migration's grand spectacle is replaced with its essential purpose. And, the purpose of migration, of course, is propagation of the species. Starting with the males establishing their breeding territories, then pairing and nesting; and finally fledging the young before migrating back to the Southern realms.

Having covered migration at Magee Marsh, it's now over to Port Huron State Game Area (Michigan DNR link). This hotspot hosts several breeding species and is a prime destination to observe a variety of warblers, thrushes, buntings and sparrows.

The color blue appears in scintillating shades in the plumage of birds -- as plain-and-simple "blue" [blue jay] but also "cerulean" [cerulean warbler], "azure" [azure-winged magpie], "turquoise" [turquoise-browed motmot], "lazuli" [lazuli bunting] and "indigo" -- as in bunting.

The indigo bunting is a striking member of the Cardinalidae family; strongly sexually dimorphic, the male is regal in resplendent blue while the female is a dull brown. This bunting is blue not due to the presence of pigment in its feathers but as a result of the refraction of light off its feathers [the same reason the sky is blue].

The Indigo Bunting has a large range in the US in Spring and Summer; mostly in the East; the West belongs to it's cousin, the Lazuli Bunting. Where their ranges overlap, they will sometimes hybridize.

Classified as "Least Concern", the global population of this charismatic bunting is estimated at about 30 million.The trend shows a small decline in numbers.

Now over to the warblers: Hooded Warblers have been extending their range Northward; I hear that 10 years ago they were not regularly seen at Port Huron SGA. Nowadays, they are reliable at this site.

In challenging light, a camera that shoots cleanly at up to ISO 6400 is recommended if camera shake is to be avoided; especially when shooting handheld. Warblers are fast moving birds and seldom pose making tripod use difficult.

This male was sparring with another in apparent territorial contention and then alighted on this branch.The lighting here brings out the lemony yellow of the face and breast in sharp contrast with the black hood.

Male Hooded Warbler Singing

The Hooded Warbler is one of 33 Setophaga warblers -- most of which can be seen in the US. The Blue-winged warbler, on the other hand, belongs to the genus Vermivora -- containing just 3 species of which 1 is mostly likely extinct (Bachman's Warbler).

The Blue-winged Warbler's range has increased to the detriment of the Golden-winged and hybrids occur regularly.

Blue-winged Warbler

The song of the Blue-winged is one of the easiest to remember "Beee Buzzz" although it has alternate songs as well.

With a total population of ~400,000 [one tenth of the Hooded Warbler population], this species is classified as least concern although its numbers do show a decline due to habitat loss.

Black-throated Green Warbler is another breeding species at Port Huron SGA; it is one of the few species that can also be found wintering in the US.

An indefatigable songster, this species is named "green" for the color of its back.

This attractive warbler's population trends are stable.

The pine trees at nearby Ruby Cemetery hold a different assortment of species. Among them, the beautiful Pine warbler:
The trilling song of this warbler can be easily confused with that of the chipping sparrow which is also found in this habitat.

Pine Warbler

The Pine Warbler is the only warbler that, in addition to insects, also feeds on seeds year round. A common songbird in the US, it has a healthy population of 11 million. These warblers are also a wintering species in the US and can be commonly seen in Southwest Florida -- here's an earlier post on them from this blog: Pine Warblers at Corkscrew Swamp.

Chestnut sided warbler is an unmistakeable songbird -- white cheeks outlined with a black brow and mustachial stripe; yellow crown and chestnut sided flanks.
Despite lacking a lot of yellow coloration, they are closely related to the Yellow Warbler.

Chestnut-sided Warbler

This species numbers are thought to be increasing and it is classified as "Least Concern".

Other breeding species observed included:
Red-eyed Vireo

Also, a bright, singing Veery.


Also found were more common species such as American Goldfinch:

Cedar Waxwing:

.. and Rose-breasted Grosbeak:

A visit to Port Huron SGA is always  an enjoyable experience. There are just 2 caveats: the mosquitoes are intolerable; and, being a State Game Area, recreational firearm use is common and widespread.

1 comment:

Bob Pelkey said...

Another remarkable collection, Hemant. I'm reluctant to use insect repellant, but it is sometimes a necessity.