Birding Notes

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

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Chestnut-sided Warbler and Brown-headed Nuthatch

After a rainy late September, the first of October arrived on a bright sunny day, with deep blue sky and small white drifting clouds, still little fall color in the foliage, and not a great deal of bird activity. The days have been peaceful and rather quiet, with a feeling of pause in the air – still a few last lingering birds of the summer – a Hummingbird in some flowers, two Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in the trees, six Chimney Swifts flying over – watching for migrants moving through and seeing very few.

By today clouds began to return, and more heavy rain is expected tonight. Late this morning Chickadees, Titmice, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Carolina Wrens were active in the front yard, while a half dozen squirrels hustled around in the branches of the pecan trees, gathering up the nuts before they could fall, and sometimes sat and rasped in awful, grating voices. A very pretty male Chestnut-sided Warbler hunted for insects in the pecan trees, and a Phoebe with a faint yellow flush over its breast perched on the mailbox and bobbed its tail and flew from there to low branches around the yard. Two Mockingbirds sang brief pieces of song back and forth, sounding casual and easy, like whistling a tune now and then.

A pair of Brown-headed Nuthatches arrived, squeaking, and made several trips to the hanging bird feeder. Feisty little birds with brown caps and gray bodies, and a pale white spot on the nape of the neck, they are not intimidated by much larger Titmice or even by a relatively huge Mockingbird that now and then tries to claim the feeder. The determined little Nuthatches lunge at the bigger birds aggressively and usually win the confrontation, chasing the big guys away, at least temporarily.

A Red-shouldered Hawk cried from far in the distance. A lone Brown Thrasher moved nervously from spot to spot under low-growing, bushy wax myrtles. A single Mourning Dove returned, and a chipmunk smacked loudly. A sulphur butterfly drifted by. One Mockingbird perched in a little pecan tree in the center of our cul de sac and sang, while two other Mockingbirds chased each other, squawking loudly, in and out of the river birches. A Pileated Woodpecker gave its traveling call down in the woods.

By early evening the sky had become thickly clouded. There’s a full moon tonight, but we won’t be able to see it – so I’m glad that last night we went out, when the near-full moon shined high and bright and silvery in the east. It hung in a soft black sky, as if still warm from summer, with moon-white clouds, a sprinkling of stars, and one brilliant, burning star high in the southeast, not far from the moon. A few katydids sang, and lots of crickets chirped.


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