THE ACCELERATING TRILL OF A WOOD WARBLER is one of the most evocative sounds of spring in East Lancs woodlands but it is sadly all too rare these days with usually only a maximum of 2 or 3 per year. Punctuated occasionally by 'teeoo-teeoo' calls similar to a bullfinch, a hissing trill reverberated through a small patch of birch woodland as I opened the car door at Stocks Reservoir early on Sunday morning. Bam! I was hoping for an interesting shorebird last weekend but this will do nicely instead. Wood Warbler's song is very familiar, having listened to it many times in Clockburn Dene near my home in Gateshead as a child. I've also heard it all over Eastern Europe, where it is happily still very common. It is even on my cumulative garden list, if you can have such a thing, with one singing from a railway embankment behind my flat in Hitchin, Hertfordshire in the early 90s. I have found a few in East Lancs since I moved here in 2005 but I don't see it every year as they have become very scarce across much of their range in England so every one of them is a real delight. Sadly this bird was gone by late morning so maybe just a migrant passing through? Just in case anyone is interested, particularly bearing in mind the attention the Olympus 4/3 set-up is getting, the file info for the photo above is: Canon 1DX, 700mm, ISO3200, f/6.3, 1/200 sec. (handheld).
Viewing entries tagged
CAPE MAY IS SYNONYMOUS WITH VISIBLE MIGRATION IN NORTH AMERICA and it did not disappoint on my recent visit to attend the 67th Autumn Birding Festival there. I feel very lucky this autumn with the timing of my visits to migration hotspots and just like Spurn Point the previous week, conditions for visible migration were again very good. First of all a fast moving cold front in late autumn tells insect-eating birds it is time to move south and associated strong northwesterly winds at night push migratory birds to the coast and ultimately down New Jersey’s Cape May Peninsula. As they run out of land at the tip of the peninsula they put down. At first light these birds start to re-orientate by flying back north along the landward side of the peninsula, on the shore of Delaware Bay. It was Richard Crossley and Paul Holt who ‘discovered’ in the 1980s that this movement could be seen from the dyke at Higbee Beach, where they break cover from the wood lots and cross the Cape May canal, which effectively makes the point an island. There was a great bunch of friends gathered here for what turned out to be the biggest day of the autumn so far with somewhere between 15,000-20,000 Yellow-rumped Warblers alone making the ‘morning flight’ north across the canal. The sky was literally covered with birds for the first couple of hours of light. ‘The counter’ Sam picked out Blackpoll and Tennessee Warblers by call and a few others included Black-throated Blue and Northern Parula. Both kinglets were also well represented and the bushes were alive with sparrows, mostly Chipping and White-throated, however, the other most obvious species were Northern Flickers and Sharp-shinned Hawks as well as Rusty Blackbird, with around 50 seen amongst the flocks of red-wingeds passing over. I have never seen anything close to the scale of this movement of passerines in such a short period of time and after a while I stopped using binoculars and just stood and stared at the jaw-dropping spectacle. In the distance, continuous lines of Black Scoters were moving south in Delaware Bay, several Northern Harriers passed by and a ‘Common-Loon-in-the-moon’ caused some laughter.
DESCRIBED AS THE ‘WORLD’S FRIENDLIEST BIRDING EVENT’, the 2013 MidWest Birding Symposium held at Lakeside Ohio certainly lived up to its billing. Although I was mostly chained to the Birdquest and Wild Images booth and couldn’t take part in many of the numerous events I still got to meet a lot of enthusiastic attendees that also included friends from the US festival circuit as well as some of Ohio’s keenest birders. There was a real buzz around the quaint little former Methodist community of Lakeside as it was taken over by the birders for the event. Gail, a lady staying at the same place as me was so impressed by Alvaro Jaramillo’s talk about gull identification she was busily trying to track him down to book on one of his tours. Anyone who can stimulate such interest in the usually low-key topic of gull id deserves a medal the size of a bin lid! The hotel receptionist, a non-birder, was looking forward to Jen Brumfield’s Lake Eerie pelagics presentation. Even the warblers couldn’t keep away with an amazing circa 15 species seen in the trees around the vendor area at the South Auditorium following a perfectly-timed mini fall out of migrants along the Marblehead Peninsula. A big thank you to Bill Thompson III and his amazing team for making it all happen!
I spent my free time at one of my favourite birding hangouts just along the lakeshore to the west – the World famous Magee Marsh boardwalk, where I was very happy to wander slowly over the boards in search of warblers to point my camera lens at. Catbirds scolded from the shadows and from time to time small feeding flocks of migrant wood warblers would pass by, calling as they went. This was in contrast to their spring behavior when they often seem to stick to a small, almost territorial area of the damp woodland, feeding up before they push on northwards. They were mostly Blackpoll Warblers, feasting on invertebrates amongst the leaves, or stuffing their faces with little dogwood berries but there was also the occasional flash of lime green of a Chestnut-sided or a black-and-white ‘mint humbug’ and I managed a quite respectable 17 species over the course of my stay. First prize went to an ultra smart Golden-winged Warbler that hung around long enough for a few other folks to get some looks at it and a Brown Creeper and one of the first Winter Wrens of the autumn were also of interest to me at least. Any time spent with these precious wood warblers is special for me when I think how far we are prepared to travel for a single one of them back on my own side of the pond!