20 May 2024

Archive for May, 2014

Irrational optimism

Saturday, May 31st, 2014
Red-eyed Vireo, Beech Hill Preserve, Rockport, Maine, 31 May 2014.

Red-eyed Vireo.

Ahhh, what a morning. For one thing, the sun came up and the sky was blue—so blue and empty of clouds, in fact, that I got a sort of strange, uncomfortable feeling that I might somehow slip the surly bonds of Earth and float off into the cosmos. But then I forgot about it and hiked Beech Hill with Jack, my dog.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Beech Hill Preserve, Rockport, Maine, 31 May 2014.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Mallards along Rockville Street again. (Weirdos.) Plenty of singing birds, the usual suspects, sans any Black-throated Blue Warblers. Hummingbirds everywhere, what with the highbush blueberries blooming. Another Great Crested Flycatcher. The Red-bellied Woodpecker in the oak grove again. (Love those guys.) And a nice surprise: a Peregrine Falcon flapping over the summit as we approached along the wood-edge.

Forty-four species. Nice. No hawks other than the peregrine. But I got pretty close to a Nashville Warbler (backlit, unfortunately). And—thinking back to yesterday’s Bird Report—I heard four Type II warbler songs today (Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Yellow Warbler, and what I assume was a territorial Ovenbird song that I’d never noticed before, with alternating in higher and lower pitches). Also crickets again.

This afternoon I rode twenty miles on my bicycle. Cool but sunny enough that I didn’t need long sleeves. Felt great, and I heard a bunch of birds.

Just a lovely, lovely day. Every day’s a goddamn blessing. Despite this month being the rainiest May I can remember, I guess I’m just an incurable optimist.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 6:30 a.m., I hiked all trails.

1. Mallard
2. Red-eyed Vireo**
3. Chestnut-sided Warbler**
4. Ovenbird**
5. Eastern Phoebe
6. Tufted Titmouse**
7. Black-throated Green Warbler** (v)
8. Common Yellowthroat**
9. Veery** (v)
10. Black-and-white Warbler
11. Eastern Towhee
12. Rose-breasted Grosbeak (v)
13. Hairy Woodpecker
14. American Goldfinch
15. Mourning Dove*
16. Blue Jay
17. Black-capped Chickadee*
18. American Redstart**
19. Nashville Warbler
20. Gray Catbird**
21. American Robin*
22. Great Crested Flycatcher (v)
23. Alder Flycatcher
24. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
25. American Crow*
26. Hermit Thrush (v)
27. Northern Flicker
28. Peregrine Falcon
29. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (drumming)
30. Song Sparrow**
31. Northern Cardinal* (v)
32. Yellow Warbler**
33. Field Sparrow (v)
34. Cedar Waxwing
35. Chipping Sparrow** (v)
36. Brown-headed Cowbird
37. Red-breasted Nuthatch
38. House Finch* (v)
39. Savannah Sparrow
40. Tree Swallow (v)
41. Black-throated Green Warbler** (v)
42. Scarlet Tanager (v)
43. Red-bellied Woodpecker
44. Pileated Woodpecker (v)


45. Turkey Vulture
46. Herring Gull
47. European Starling
48. Rock Pigeon
49. House Sparrow

v = Voice only
*Also elsewhere
**Voice only elsewhere


American Goldfinch, Beech Hill Preserve, Rockport, Maine, 31 May 2014.

American Goldfinch, Beech Hill Preserve, Rockport, Maine, 31 May 2014.


Friday, May 30th, 2014
Chestnut-sided Warbler, Beech Hill Preserve, Rockport, Maine, 30 May 2014.

Chestnut-sided Warbler.

I love birdsong. Naturally, I suppose, being a bird listener—and a human being with ears that register most species’ vocalizations—but I’m really attuned to birdsong. No, I mean really.

Gray Catbird, Beech Hill Preserve, Rockport, Maine, 30 May 2014.

Gray Catbird.

Which is no doubt the reason I’m so fascinated with even slight variations on the usual themes. I still recall one spring years ago when I heard a White-throated Sparrow whose voice started with the usual “Old Sam Peabody…” and then, instead of continuing on a steady pitch, took off into the stratosphere: “…Peabody, peaBODY, PEABODY!” I also remember three times at Beech Hill when I heard completely unfamiliar songs, chased down the birds, and they were completely familiar birds whose songs had gotten somehow completely confused. (Common Yellowthroat, Black-throated Green Warbler, Eastern Towhee.) No seriously—you would not have recognized them.

Just the other day I was watching/listening to a chickadee singing “Fee-bee!” over and over when, unexpectedly, it sang a “Fee-bee!” about two full steps lower than the ones it had been singing, then, after that aberrant one, went back to its original pitch.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is how certain wood-warbler change their tunes mid-season. Have done some research on this, and apparently the males of these species have an early song—invariably their most distinctive, familiar one—meant to attract females and a later-season song that declares territory. I’ve noticed this in Black-and-white Warblers, Yellow Warblers, and Chestnut-sided Warblers. Another thing these guys do when singing the later-season song (a.k.a., Type II song) is perch in one place to sing it. Contrast this with their flitting about like crazy when singing their early-season love songs.

Today it was a Chestnut-sided Warbler. It sat there as I took its photo, then a video, and sang a sort of rambling, warbling jumble of notes instead of its distinctive “Pleased, pleased, pleased to MEET you!” I.e., its Type II song—or, in this species’ case, its unaccented-ending (UE) song. Here’s the video.

Interesting and/or entertaining sightings today included an upside-down Red-bellied Woodpecker, three Canada Geese flying over in the fog, a random Common Grackle in the fog, a pair of silent Common Ravens in the fog, and hummingbirds flitting all about the wood-fringes where the high-bush blueberries are blooming.

Oh, and I also heard my first crickets of the year.

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Beech Hill Preserve, Rockport, Maine, 30 May 2014.

Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Cold today still, but I imagine it’ll finally warm up at some point, as the warblers sing their B-sides.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 6 a.m., I hiked all trails.

1. Chestnut-sided Warbler**
2. Red-eyed Vireo** (v)
3. Ovenbird
4. American Robin*
5. Black-throated Green Warbler (v)
6. Eastern Towhee
7. Common Yellowthroat**
8. Black-and-white Warbler**
9. Hairy Woodpecker
10. American Crow*
11. American Redstart**
12. Gray Catbird
13. American Goldfinch
14. Mourning Dove*
15. Great Crested Flycatcher (v)
16. Nashville Warbler (v)
17. Alder Flycatcher
18. Veery (v)
19. White-throated Sparrow (v)
20. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
21. Black-capped Chickadee
22. Canada Goose
23. Song Sparrow**
24. Yellow Warbler**
25. Field Sparrow (v)
26. Tree Swallow (v)
27. Pileated Woodpecker (v)
28. Wood Thrush (v)
29. Eastern Phoebe
30. Common Raven
31. Chipping Sparrow (v)
32. Common Grackle
33. Scarlet Tanager (v)
34. Cedar Waxwing (v)
35. Red-bellied Woodpecker
36. Osprey


37. Herring Gull
38. European Starling

v = Voice only
*Also elsewhere
**Voice only elsewhere
†First-of-year bird


Blueberry blossoms, Beech Hill Preserve, Rockport, Maine, 30 May 2014.

Blueberry blossoms.


Thursday, May 29th, 2014
Scarlet Tanager (female), Beech hill Preserve, Rockport, Maine, 29 May 2014.

Scarlet Tanager (female).

Ah, respite from the rain. My unconscious was so thrilled to see the sun at dawn that I awoke even earlier than usual, just as our star rose above the horizon. Then I put on several layers of clothes, since the temperature was about 40 degrees (F). Still: bright light, calm morning, birdsong….

Scarlet Tanager, Beech hill Preserve, Rockport, Maine, 29 May 2014.

Scarlet Tanager.

No wacky species this morning, but a few nice sightings of good-looking birds—including a pair of Scarlet Tanagers just below the fields on the lower wooded trail. I’ve been hearing at least one (often two) singing tanagers in that area for the past week or two (along with Black-throated Blue Warblers, which I did not hear today), but this day I was angling to photograph a vocal Eastern Wood-pewee. That early, you have to account for the angle of the sun, so I had walked slowly under the bird to where the morning sun was at my back when I saw a flash of red in the green. Tanager.

This one was not singing. It was perched low in the canopy. I took a few rather distant photos, and then the bird flitted up close—but on a branch behind a trunk from us. About that point Jack decided to lunge at black flies and/or mosquitos, jingling his tags, but the tanager didn’t flee. In fact, when I looked up again I caught movement in a nearby oak tree which right away I figured was the female. And it was.

Got a couple great shots of her.

But I never did get a good video—which was what I was angling for—of the pewee. They’re everywhere, though, so I remain hopeful. Also Red-eyed Vireos. And Ovenbirds, which are just now racing and chasing all over the place. A lot has changed these past couple days, actually: at the fields, Savannah Sparrows are laying low; Yellow Warblers are pairing up, as are Alder Flycatchers; Veeries are singing, while Hermit Thrushes have gone quiet.

Yellow Warbler, Beech hill Preserve, Rockport, Maine, 29 May 2014.

Yellow Warbler.

Blame it on our planet’s tilt. Migrating birds migrate. Deciduous trees leaf out quickly then lose their leaves then go dormant, only to leave out again.

To everything there is a season.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 6 a.m., I hiked all trails.

1. Red-eyed vireo
2. Chestnut-sided Warbler
3. Ovenbird
4. American Robin*
5. Eastern Phoebe**
6. Scarlet Tanager
7. Eastern Towhee
8. Rose-breasted Grosbeak (v)
9. American Crow*
10. Tufted Titmouse (v)
11. Black-capped Chickadee
12. Veery (v)
13. Mourning Dove*
14. America Redstart (v)
15. Alder Flycatcher
16. American Goldfinch
17. Northern Flicker
18. Gray Catbird**
19. Hermit Thrush (v)
20. White-throated Sparrow (v)
21. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
22. Blue Jay (v)
23. Song Sparrow**
24. Tree Swallow (v)
25. Field Sparrow (v)
26. Yellow Warbler**
27. Savannah Sparrow
28. Black-and-white Warbler (v)
29. Black-throated Green Warbler (v)
30. Chipping Sparrow (v)
31. Osprey
32. Common Grackle
33. Eastern Wood-pewee
34. Nashville Warbler (v)
35. Yell0w-bellied Sapsucker (drumming)
36. White-breasted Nuthatch


37. Herring Gull

v = Voice only
*Also elsewhere
**Voice only elsewhere


Bird Report is a (sometimes intermittent) record of the birds I encounter while hiking, see while driving, or spy outside my window. —Brian Willson

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