It’s Alive!

I had a much more exciting morning at Turkey Creek Sanctuary than I anticipated yesterday (Sunday). Having bemoaned the lack of bird activity in my last post, it seems the birds had to prove me wrong. Which is fine by me!

After a nice “good morning!” song from this Carolina Wren near the main trail-head, I headed off through the relatively new Turkey Oak Trail.

photo carolina-wren.jpg
Nothing could be finer than a Thryothorus ludovicianus in the morning…

I was immediately surrounded by warbler call notes and fluttering activity. Blackpoll Warblers were everywhere. Some were quite curious about me and would momentarily perch just feet away and cock their little heads at me before zooming off.

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Puffball – er, I mean Blackpoll Warbler.

One female was a little more defensive and wary, following me along the path and looking at me as if to say, “I’ve got my eye on you.”

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Several ounces of latent hostility.

I know from experience that some warbler species come in pairs. Usually when there are Blackpoll Warblers there are American Redstarts. Sure enough, there were many of those as well, in all stages of plumage. Pretty much anywhere in the sanctuary I went, there were American Redstarts nearby Blackpoll Warblers. The only exception was one spot near the end of the Turkey Oak Trail where instead of redstarts, the Blackpolls were mingling with Black-throated Blue Warblers. I find American Redstarts somewhat difficult to photograph with my current equpiment. They seen to almost never sit still, and the leap out of frame just as i get my finger on the shutter button.

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This little guy stopped long enough for me to get this shot.

The Black-throated Blues were almost as numerous as the redstarts, but tended to stay lower in the canopy and among the Sabal palms.

Further along the way, I got a good look at a yellow warbler but was having an issue getting a good ID. I manged some photos that showed the facial markings pretty well, and decided to check at home with my Warbler’s Guide to pin down what it was. As it turns out, the Warbler’s Guide led me to conclude it was perhaps a Hooded Warbler – either a female or a male that had yet to molt into its bold head pattern. In the end, I posted the photo to Facebook and asked some of my friends what they thought. Corey Finger immediately IDed it as a Prairie Warbler. Upon another look I can see the distinctive “mustache” facial pattern. So not a FOY bird, but cool none-the-less.

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Prairie Warbler.

The Turkey Oak Trail was uncharacteristically productive for me, as I also cataloged my first of the year (FOY) Scarlet Tanager, heard a Blue-headed Vireo, and a very secretive Ovenbird.

There were also several noisy Great-crested Flycatchers that were more-or-less moving in the same direction as me. They stayed pretty high up in the canopy, but came close enough to harrass me a few times, but never got in a good position for a photo-op.

By the time I got to the boardwalk, I was feeling pretty good. The boardwalk itself was a little quieter, but I did get a quick look at an Indigo Bunting male as well as more Black-throated Blues and American Redstarts.

I scared up a couple of Solitary Sandpipers as I got off the boardwalk on the path toward the jogging trail (I guess they weren’t so “solitary” if they were a pair?).

The biggest question, though, is what kind of thrush did I see as I made my way to the emergency boat ramp? I got a very clear look and I can say it was either a Gray-cheeked Thrush or a Bicknell’s Thrush. These two species are almost impossible to distinguish in the field. There is an accepted but challenged difference in their songs, but neither this bird, nor the one I saw further down the jogging path later, did any singing.

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The only shot of the thrush I was able to get. Anyone see anything diagnostic?

At the weir and canal there were some Spotted Sandpipers, a few Green Herons, Cattle Egrets and a Common Gallinule.

That was about it as I walked back toward the picnic area and saw a few more Black-throated Blue Warblers and heard a few bickering Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.

Here’s the total species list for the outing yesterday morning:

  1. Blackpoll Warbler (FOY)
  2. American Redstart
  3. Black-throated Blue Warbler
  4. Black-and-white Warbler
  5. Northern Parula
  6. Prairie Warbler
  7. Ovenbird
  8. Scarlet Tanager (FOY)
  9. Great-crested Flycatcher
  10. Downy Woodpecker
  11. Red-bellied Woodpecker (♫)
  12. Fish Crow
  13. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  14. Blue-headed Vireo (♫)
  15. Spotted Sandpiper
  16. Green Heron
  17. Cattle Egret
  18. Common Gallinule
  19. Northern Cardinal
  20. Carolina Wren
  21. Common Grackle
  22. White Ibis
  23. Black Vulture
  24. Turkey Vulture
  25. Blue Jay (♫)
  26. Northern Mockingbird
  27. Indigo Bunting
  28. Solitary Sandpiper
  29. Mystery thrush

It was good to see the old place looking more “birdy” this spring. I am wondering if the migration was a bit delayed, given the brutal winter most of eastern North America had this year, but we’ll see.

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