Birding Notes

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

Friday, January 08, 2010

Hermit Thrush, Pine Warblers and Accipiter

Two highlights of a nice long walk through the neighborhood late yesterday morning – the source of my first 2010 eBird report – came in my own front yard just as I started out – a Hermit Thrush perched among the dense green leaves of a lauropetulum bush, and two Pine Warblers, one visiting a feeder and the other singing from nearby. The weather was clear and cold, but clouds were moving in as I walked, and by the time I got home again, quilted clouds covered almost all the sky. Snow and sleet were in the forecast for late in the day.

The Hermit Thrush appeared at first as a pale blob shining among the dark leaves, and when I lifted the binoculars I expected to see a Mockingbird. Instead, there was a cream-white, spotted breast (though the spots looked more like streaks than spots, maybe because of the way it was fluffed up in the cold), and the alert-looking brownish-gray head and face, thin white eye-ring, and slender bill of a Hermit Thrush. Its crown was more brown and its face more gray. Its back and tail were hidden in the shrub, and I watched it for several minutes, hoping it would emerge or fly down to the grass, but it just sat there for a long time, head raised high with the bill pointing slightly up, looking around, and then suddenly flew low across the ground and into some bushes on the edge of the woods, and that was the last I saw of it. I looked for it off and on all day but never saw it again – or heard its soft chup.

The Pine Warblers stayed around later in the day, and seem to have become regular visitors to the feeders.

Toward the end of my walk, around noon, a small hawk, either a Cooper’s Hawk or a Sharp-shinned, flew into a tree in a neighbor’s front yard. I could see its silhouette pretty clearly as it perched for several seconds – long tail, rather flat head, hooked bill – it was certainly an Accipiter, but I couldn’t see it well enough to be sure which it was, even when it flew, dropping down low, gliding swiftly over the ground and up into another stand of trees where it disappeared from view. Either way – Cooper’s Hawk or Sharp-shinned – it’s always special to see one. The Cooper’s Hawk seems to be more common here, but I have seen a Sharp-shinned at least once earlier this winter.

In all, I counted 30 species (reported to eBird with numbers for each): Turkey Vulture, Accipiter species, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Cedar Waxwing, Pine Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, Common Grackle, House Finch, American Goldfinch.

Conspicuously missing: No Eastern Bluebird, Black Vulture, Golden-crowned Kinglet or Song Sparrow.

It’s also interesting that several birds were singing – including the Pine Warbler, Carolina Wren, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, White-throated Sparrow and Northern Cardinal.


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