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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Assorted Migrants at Lake St. Clair

[Lake St. Clair Metropark, Sept. 2014]

A walk through woodland habitat at Lake St. Clair Metropark brought into view many species expected during Fall migration -- including warblers, flycatchers, vireos and grosbeaks.

However, the warblers, at this time of year -- neither in sweet song nor in nuptial bloom -- presented a drab and faded show of their erstwhile Spring brilliance.

The full set of species observed included:
  • Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
  • Northern Flicker
  • Hermit thrush
  • Swainson's thrush
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • American Redstart
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird
The Yellow-bellied Flycatcher's breeding range lies mainly in Canada; and, with its wintering grounds in Central America, the majority of the American birding population is likely to see this flycatcher only in migration; and that too, only in the Eastern half of the country in a flyway that bypasses SW Florida.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher seen at Lake St. Clair Metropark (Meadow loop trail)

Like other Empidonax flycatchers, the Yellow-bellied is a small, greenish flycatcher; but, distinctively, it also exhibits yellow on the breast. The big, round head and two yellow wing-bars are also useful identification characteristics.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher seen at Lake St. Clair Metropark (Meadow loop trail)

The forces responsible for the naming of avian species have historically harbored a penchant for belly color -- and half a dozen species in our area are described in this manner.

Thus, we have bellies in black (a whistling duck and a plover), buff (as in hummingbird), red (a woodpecker), sulphur (a flycatcher), and yellow (a sapsucker and the flycatcher in question).

Unlike the Plover who is wont to sport its belly black only seasonally; or the woodpecker with the alleged (but decidedly dubious) red belly; the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher is convincingly blessed with a belly that's indisputably and permanently yellow.

Next, an ant-specialist woodpecker --the Northern Flicker:

 Northern Flicker seen at Lake St. Clair Metropark

The Western subspecies will show "red shafts" instead of yellow -- the only other Flicker species the Northern could possibly be confused with is the Gilded Flicker; however, the Gilded's range is restricted to the Sonoran Desert of the Southwest.

Thrushes observed were Hermit and Swainson's:

Hermit Thrush seen at Lake St. Clair Metropark

Swainson's Thrush seen at Lake St. Clair Metropark

A juvenile Rose-breasted Grosbeak was observed perched high up:

Warblers included American Redstart:

Chestnut-sided Warbler:

Common Yellowthroat:

and Magnolia Warbler:

We end with a vireo and a hummingbird.

Red-eyed Vireo seen at Lake St. Clair Metropark (Meadow loop trail)

And the hummer:

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

As winter approaches, this migration bonanza will pass and our woods will become eerily quiet while those of tropical America will be proportionately livelier thus completing a cycle that richly rewards the birding community bi-annually.

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