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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Lapeer SGA: Red-eyed Vireo, American Redstart and Eastern Towhee

[Lapeer SGA. Late May 2015]

Two Juncos and two Vireos. Four in all. A number whose significance, as the reader will soon learn, surpasses mere fascination with trivia -- representing as it does the sum of all songbird species in the US named on account of their eyes. 

The purpose of this post, then, modest though in ambition -- is to profile a full 25% of these songbird species! -- namely, the Red-eyed Vireo; plus, a number of other delightful songbirds recently observed at Lapeer State Game Area, such as:
  • American Redstart
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • Blue-winged Warbler
We start with the Red-eyed Vireo:

As seen from the two photographs above, the red-color of the eye of this Vireo is not readily apparent from afar. What is apparent, however, is the grey crown, olive back, dark eyeline, and white undersides.

However, a closer approach shows the red-eye clearly:

This is our most widespread vireo and its song -- a series of Robin-like notes rendered as if in haste -- alternatively ascending and descending in quick succession; sounding as it the Vireo were engaged in Q&A (question-and-answer) with itself! 

Disambiguation with our other vireo species is straightforward with all except perhaps the Black-whiskered Vireo. But, the latter is highly range-restricted to South Florida and will show, of course, two black throat-stripes or whiskers.

The American Redstart, on the other hand, offers no scope for misidentification even to the most callously negligent of observers. Especially, when dealing with a male in dazzling breeding plumage:

This warbler was spied in the vicinity of an Eastern Towhee. This plump and colorful sparrow manages to combine visual elements from both the Redstart and the Vireo -- showing the red-eye from the Vireo while possessing a color combination of black and reddish-brown that is reminiscent of the Redstart:

Also observed was a Chestnut-sided Warbler -- briefly visible with its striking yellow crown, black facial markings and white cheeks -- somewhat underrated as warblers go, the Chestnut-sided was sighted only once by John J Audubon in his travels. A fact that perhaps implies it was once much rarer that it is today.

The most numerous warbler of the area at this time of year, excepting the Yellow, is the Blue-winged Warbler -- with observers reporting up to 10 sightings a day in e-bird:

This distinctive yellow warbler with pale grey wings, white wing-bars and a prominent black eye-line is always heard before it is seen -- it's insect-like buzzy song is unmistakeable.

In the pristine forests of Northern Michigan, having left the "urban jungle" of concrete monstrosities behind, oases of nature may still be found -- harboring signature species of the American woods such as the vireos and warblers profiled here.

1 comment:

Bob Pelkey said...

Imagine a Chestnut-sided Warbler being sighted by John Audubon, and then his never observing it again. What a forlorn history to contemplate, Hemant.

Your reference of Eastern Towhee had me consider the "red eyed" in the north, while the "white eyed" is here in the southeast.

You've reminded me of the difficulty in observing the captivating red eye of of the aforementioned vireo.