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Friday, July 28, 2017

Draining the Swamp: Photographic Highlights from Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

[Corkscrew Swamp. Collier Co. April 2017]

Historically, mosquito populations were kept under control by the periodic draining of swampland. In a political context, however, the phrase "Drain the Swamp" implies something else: it is a metaphor for cleansing the seat of our national government (in Washington DC) from the nefarious forces of corruption. This is a phrase that has gained a lot of publicity (or should we say notoriety) in the recently concluded (and highly acrimonious) presidential campaign. 

Taking facetious liberty with this expression, our goal in this blog post is to drain the available photographic opportunities from the Swamp -- more precisely the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp  and present the choicest avian selections to the reader -- species such as:
  • Northern Parula
  • American Redstart
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • Palm Warbler
  • Northern Waterthrush
  • Carolina Wren
  • Grey Catbird
  • Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
  • White-eyed Vireo
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Painted Bunting
We start with the most colorful resident breeder at this venue:

Northern Paurlas have a huge (though disjointed) North-South breeding range. They are found breeding from Southern Florida to as far North as Canada. 

At Corkscrew, the males start singing in February and by April, it is impossible to walk further than 50 yards without hearing their joyful song of galloping buzzes and chips.

While the male sports a red band on the chest, the female is a duller version and lacks the red band:

American Redstart was also observed in migration:

Black-and-white Warbler is a common winter resident at the swamp and this individual won't be seen here much longer as they head North:

Palm Warbler is one of the most abundant warblers in winter in SW Florida; in April, the rich rusty crown of the males start to show:

The Palm Warbler, curiously, has absolutely no affinity with Palm trees but the name has stuck:

Corkscrew Swamp is a reliable venue for both waterthrushes and on this particular visit, Northern Waterthrush was well observed:

Other songbirds included:
Carolina Wren:

A lovely grey mockingbird known as the Grey Catbird for the sound it makes:

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher:

White-eyed Vireo:

Indigo Bunting:

And the most celebrated finch at this venue -- Painted Bunting:

We shall let the politicians indulge in their puerile games of legislative gridlock; and, while our leaders talk about "draining the swamp" by removing the entrenched elite in Washington; we birders, must see in this overused metaphor a more sanguine interpretation -- that of draining the full potential of observational opportunities at hotspots such as Corkscrew Swamp where a bounty of warblers, vireos and buntings await our eager discovery.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Macomb Marvels: Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler and Common Yellowthroat

[Macomb Co. April/May 2017]

There are many qualities we admire in committed naturalists and devoted birders. One of these, of course, is their unwavering dedication to the motto "We shall not equate abundance with apathy". Surely, a credo for all of us to live by. 

Indeed, the dedicated birder is one whose inquisitive spirit is never dampened even when confronted by the frequent and the familiar. Thus, in celebration of the commonplace and the ordinary, we present a collection of species that while never uncommon are nonetheless uncommonly beautiful (all species observed in Macomb County, Michigan):

  • Warbling Vireo
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • Tree Swallow
It takes uncommon aesthetics to see the lurking beauty in our commoner species and nowhere is this more exemplified than in our first species, the Warbling Vireo:

A delightful songbird, this is an otherwise drab looking vireo that lacks the typical yellows and greens associated with the family. This beautiful specimen was spied at Lake St. Clair Metropark.

While the long and energetic warble of the Warbling Vireo is a powerful force of nature, the Common Yellowthroat's catchy "Wichety, Wichety" rings gently from every brushy corner of our fields in Spring:

This is a striking warbler and one oft wonders if it didn't deserve to be named for its prominent black mask rather than its yellow throat. Seen at Wetzel State Park, this otherwise skulking warbler is more easily observed in the breeding season when the males are perched in song.

Equally vocal is the Yellow Warbler:

This yellow marvel with maroon streaking and its simple "sweet, sweet" song is a common sight even in suburbia (here observed at Lake St. Clair).

Baltimore Oriole were also observed at Lake St. Clair:

Other species included Belted Kingfisher:

A Great Blue Heron in flight at Lake St. Clair:

Pied-billed Grebe:

Rose-breasted Grosbeak:

And, Tree Swallow:

Macomb county harbors many hotspots such as Wetzel SP and Lake St. Clair Metorpark that hold avian marvels such as Warbling Vireo and Common Yellowthroat. And, the inquisitive birder shall never be underwhelmed by their commonality; for, these "ordinary" denizens of our Eastern forests hold charms that have the capacity to enthrall and enthuse even the most jaded of birders.