Birding Notes

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

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Scene in Early March – Pine Warblers Singing, Rusty Blackbirds in Changing Colors, and Nuthatches Still Around

After traveling for much of the month of February, only back home for a day or two here and there, I’ve felt out of touch with what’s going on here at home. This morning was a perfect time to spend a while outside catching up – a calm, clear, spring-like day with a cloudless blue sky – and lots of birds singing.

The earliest singer was a Cardinal perched in the top of a bare pecan tree, sounding as bright and colorful as the bird itself. Then came the swishing song of a Phoebe sitting on the edge of the back deck, the To-wheee of a Towhee from under the holly bushes, the trilled song of a Pine Warbler on the edge of the woods, and the songs of Titmouse, Chickadee, House Finch, Carolina Wren, Brown Thrasher and Bluebird.

Our large, visiting flock of Red-winged Blackbirds were somewhere near, and their rattles and creaks and conkarees formed a kind of background music. A Red-bellied Woodpecker called its springtime churrrr, a Downy Woodpecker called pink! and flew to one of the feeders, and I even heard the kingfisher-like rattle of a Hairy Woodpecker as it flew over toward the line of woods across the street. Mourning Doves cooed in the distance. Yellow-rumped Warblers darted here and there, chasing each other, flashing silver-gray wings and yellow rumps, and calling repeated cheks! A Chipping Sparrow and a female House Finch flew into the Savannah holly near one of the bird baths – and flew away when they saw me sitting too near. A Turkey Vulture floated low overhead.

Goldfinches crowded and fluttered and hunched on the perches of the finch feeder, stuffing themselves. A Mockingbird lurked in the branches of the wax myrtles, White-throated Sparrows called tseet, kicked up dry leaves, and fed on the edge of the grass, and I heard the low, honking call of a White-breasted Nuthatch. After a while, all three nuthatches, one at a time – White-breasted, Red-breasted and Brown-headed made an appearance at the front-yard feeders, and I was happy to see that they’re still around. A Pine Warbler also is a regular visitor to the feeders, and at least two Pine Warblers sing often around the house all day long.

It was especially nice to see a female Bluebird perching in a low, bare branch not far from the bluebird house. Although there are many Bluebirds in the neighborhood, this winter we haven’t seen them often in our yard – so I’m hoping this is a good sign.

Early this afternoon, dozens of Robins milled over the floor of the woods behind our house, making the brown leaf-litter look alive. A pair of Hairy Woodpeckers – their crisp black and white plumage standing out sharply against the murky gray-brown background – worked on some of the standing dead pines. And a small flock of about three dozen Rusty Blackbirds perched among the green pinetops. At one point, many of them together made a rippling, burbling noise of calls, a chorus of rolling prrrts and churrrrs that was enchanting to hear.

Several solitary male Rusty Blackbirds left the group to feed on the grass or in low branches, and I watched one whose plumage, somewhere between winter and summer colors, was a stunning mix of copper-brown stippling on the back and head and throat, and glossy blue-black wings and tail.


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