Birding Notes

Reflections on birds and other wildlife on the edge of a southern woodland

Monday, August 13, 2007

Another Hot day . . . Red Admiral, Blue Grosbeaks and Red-eyed Vireos

A Red Admiral butterfly continues to visit the butterfly bush beside our back deck, along with the Tiger Swallowtails and Silver-spotted Skippers that are almost always there. The Red Admiral is dwarfed by the big, floating, flamboyant Tiger Swallowtails, and it moves differently, fluttering swiftly in, almost furtive, settling in one spot for several seconds with wings outspread, lying low, somehow inconspicuous despite its brilliant coloring, then suddenly fluttering off again, as if frightened away.

It looks like we’re in for another week of 100-plus degree weather, with no rain in sight. I’ve begun to worry about our trees, especially the two young red maples and three river birches that we planted in the front yard five years ago. They’ve grown strong, tall and healthy, and every day it makes me smile just to see them; the maples sturdy and thick with full shapes of deep green leaves; the river birches graceful and slender, with pale, peeling bark and small leaves that shimmer in the slightest breeze. I’ll do what I can, starting this evening to water them with a dripping hose on the two days a week when outdoor watering is still allowed. They’re well mulched, and should be strong enough to take a lot of stress, but this prolonged period of heat and no rain is harsh, and the effects are beginning to become apparent in many trees and other vegetation. One small water oak at the edge of our woods has turned brown in the past few days.

Despite the hot, dry weather, birds seemed more active early this morning than they have been for a while. Two Red-eyed Vireos sang from the edge of the woods, sounding especially sweet and clear in the soft, early light. As I walked through the neighborhood, I also heard a Black and White Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, a White-eyed Vireo, lots of Bluebirds, Titmice and Chickadees, a Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Wrens, and the Tow-heee calls of Eastern Towhees, not to mention the usual complaints of Blue Jays and Crows. Two Phoebes hunted quietly from low branches, Goldfinches called potato-chip as they passed overhead, and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird hovered around a tall bush.

But the best part of my morning walk was a pair of Blue Grosbeaks near the edge of the Old Field. The male, looking deep, dark blue, sat on a wire and sang, switching his tail and calling plink! between songs. The tawny-colored female, just below him, flew actively from one tall weed stem to another and another, flashing her wings and calling back plink!


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