Falling into Migration

When word came over the FLORIDABIRDS-L mailing list that a Canada Warbler was seen in Turkey Creek Sanctuary, it was clear that the first migrants have arrived in the area. When a rare bird alert goes out like that, it’s exciting enough, but to be at the local park I am most familiar with was even better.

I headed to the Sanctuary on Sunday with modest goals. I wasn’t expecting to see a Canada Warbler, but I figured some increased activity might bode well for the historically heavier migration month of October. As followers of this blog might remember, the past couple of years have been really bad as far as birding during migration.

Early on in the walk I saw what I thought were owl pellets (I even photographed them) but upon closer inspection I think they were some sort of scat (if you don’t know what that means, go ask your parents).

I ended up having a modest morning of it, all told. The most exciting bird encounters were a Wood Thrush (FOY) which I initially mistook for a Brown Thrasher and several warbler species. While none of the warblers were as rare as a Canada Warbler, they were a good indication that the migration is under way.

The most numerous warblers were by far the American Redstarts. There was a mix of what seemed to be immature and mature males. It’s possible some were females, but all had some amount of black or duskiness about them.

photo am-redstart.jpg
Ready for launch! American Redstarts are hyperactive, even for warblers.

While there have been Blue-grey Gnatcatchers in the Sanctuary all year, there was a definite increase in numbers and activity.

photo bgg.jpg
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher contemplating its next move.

At the end of the Floodplain Trail I got a very brief glimpse of a Worm-eating Warbler, then watched as three species of woodpecker bickered and chased each other around some trees. There was a Pileated Woodpecker really knocking things around and it eventually ousted a pair of Downy Woodpeckers and at least one Red-bellied Woodpecker. I assumed it was a youngster, it was so clumsy and spastic.

photo pileated.jpg
I think this Pileated Woodpecker sort of looks like Kramer from Seinfeld.

I ran into two area birders, both active on FLORIDABIRDS-L, and they were both hoping to catch a Canada Warbler. Mark Eden was on his way out and had seen a lot of activity by the Canoe Deck (activity which had sadly abated by the time I got there) and Jim Armstrong, whom I walked with for a time before we went our separate ways. Normally I tend to shy away from sharing my experiences while birding, even when perhaps I shouldn’t (hence my blog title). But this weekend it seemed natural to want to collaborate, and I hope Mark and Jim got something out of our mutual encounters as well.

The species list for the morning:

  • Yellow-throated Warbler
  • Wood Thrush (FOY)
  • Common Ground Dove
  • Prairie Warbler
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Carolina Wren
  • Northern Parula
  • American Redstart
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Blue Jay
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Worm-eating Warbler (FOY)
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Palm Warbler
  • Fish Crow

Since yesterday I’ve seen more cautiously encouraging reports out of Turkey Creek Sanctuary, so here’s to hoping for a good Fall Migration.

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