Birding Notes

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

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Red-eyed Vireo and a Hummingbird Moth

We came home to hot, sunny, humid weather early this week, but thanks to tropical storm Fay, now moving west across north Florida and already influencing our weather, today is cloudy, windy and a little cooler. Birds seem very quiet around the yard and in the neighborhood, though I still heard the calls of an Acadian Flycatcher in the woods on Tuesday. The Bluebird house is empty. Inside it, I found only the nest and one perfect aqua-blue egg that had never hatched. I’ve seen no sign of juveniles or parent Bluebirds since we returned, but hope maybe to see them soon. It’s amazing how much happens in one week. How much things can change, though I’ve been busy and haven’t yet had time to find out much about what’s different, or what’s happening now. Cicadas and grasshoppers still sing vigorously during the day, and it was especially nice to come back to the songs of Katydids at night – our consolation for the warm, humid southern summer nights.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are busy around the feeder, and all around the yard, chasing each other and checking out anything red or pink or orange. Earlier in the week when it was sunny, the butterfly bush out back and the yellow lantana around the mailbox were both full of butterflies – Tiger Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail, Red-spotted Purple, Gulf Fritillary, Cloudless Sulphur, Fiery Skipper, and two lovely, lacy American Painted Ladies. Late Monday afternoon, a Hummingbird Moth was feeding in the lantana – a fascinating, rather plump-bodied moth with a broad, brushy tail and clear, reddish wings that whirr as it visits the flowers, so that it looks almost more like a tiny bird than a moth, and even makes a whirring sound similar to a hummingbird. This is the first one we’ve noticed here in a couple of years. They feed on flowers during the daytime and in twilight.

On a late morning walk, I watched the sky for Kites, but saw no soaring birds at all, except for one Turkey Vulture and one Black Vulture, and heard almost no birds except for Blue Jays and Goldfinches. But at one spot where there’s a thicket of pines, oaks, privet and vines across the road from the edge of a woodland that leads down to a creek, several Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were calling and flitting here and there among the leaves, flashing their long, silvery, white-edged tails, and one Red-eyed Vireo was calling its complaining Nyanh! from somewhere hidden among the foliage. I stopped for several minutes to watch, as Chimney Swifts chattered and swept overhead, and two Carolina Wrens sang nearby.


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