Birding Notes

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

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Barred Owl in the Morning, Nesting Bluebirds, and a White-eyed Vireo

Today began at first light with the call of a Barred Owl, heard through our open windows. It’s the first time we’ve heard one since late last fall.

Neotropical migrants are gradually returning. Today I heard the chik-perioo-chik! of a White-eyed Vireo in a privet thicket near the entrance to our subdivision.

Two Louisiana Waterthrushes continue to sing near the creek – one up the creek toward the west, the other down the creek toward the east – and there’s been lots of bird activity and birdsong all day from all the usual suspects. It was cool and slightly overcast this morning, but became half-sunny and warmer as the day went on. As I worked in my office with the windows open, I could hear the exuberant songs of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, as well as the songs of Pine Warblers, Phoebes and Goldfinches. Chipping Sparrows seem to be everywhere right now, on the feeders, in the grass, and in the trees. They sing the characteristic long, monotone trill, but also sing shorter, lighter songs that sound less business-like, especially when there are several of them around at once, and I’m fascinated right now with the variety in their singing and spend far too much time listening to them.

A pair of Bluebirds seems to be building a nest in our bluebird house – finally! I had begun to wonder if all the activity from the new house under construction across the street had discouraged them. But both today and yesterday the pair have been making regular trips in and out of the house, and the brilliant blue male sits in the branches around it and sings. Once I saw him singing as he flew – all the way into the birdhouse entrance. He also likes to perch on our mailbox – which is perpetually covered in evidence of its general popularity with the yard birds.

Around 6:30 this evening, a Pileated Woodpecker announced its arrival with a loud, trumpeted call. We haven’t seen or heard them often lately, so I walked outside and found it working on a fallen pine trunk near the edge of the woods, where it stayed for more than half an hour. The sky was cloudy, and the air very humid and warm, but with a slight cool breeze. The Pileated made loud thwacks as it worked on the log. As I stood watching, a Louisiana Waterthrush sang, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher called spee! overhead, and a half-dozen White-throated Sparrows foraged in dry leaves near me. The Pileated Woodpecker used its whole head and snake-like neck as it pounded, twisting it this way and that, and stopping frequently to look around. Because of the way it moved, the white stripes on its neck looked like zig-zags of lightning at times. Its back and tail spread in a broad, dull expanse of black. The full red crest shimmered, even in the cloudy gray light. It hopped along the log, or onto the ground or to another spot, or spread its wings, flashing white, as it half-hopped, half-flew to a low spot on the trunk of a standing dead pine.

So the day began with the call of one old friend and ended with a visit from another.


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