Sunday, September 13, 2015

Chips & Chatter

"Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself."

― Henry David Thoreau, Walden



I arrived at the creek corridor of Pheasant Branch Conservancy before sunrise so I could take a a few long exposure images of the moving water, rendering that certain silky appearance. This is a fairly popular method of photographing creeks, rivers, streams, waterfalls, etc. Bird-wise, the early part of the past several mornings have been unusually quiet, so it was something fun to do until birds began foraging. While I was photographing the water, a young Great Blue Heron waded right by me.



During this point of summer with cooler mornings, birds tend to wait until the sun warms the foliage before they begin to search through the leaves for insects to eat. As I've previously written, it generally takes chickadee chatter to stir up the other songbirds. Once the chickadees are on the hunt for bugs, listen for the diminutive zeet notes of foraging wood warblers. Some chip notes are fairly easy to recognize. Less familiar ones will prompt further investigation ― if I don't recognize it, it may be something unusual.

I can easily pick out the chip notes of American Redstarts, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Northern Waterthrushes, Ovenbirds, and others. I confess that Nashville Warblers and Tennessee Warblers sound too similar for me to distinguish. My ears are always on alert for the more rapid chwep chwep chwep chip notes of the Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Occasionally during late August and early September, southbound warblers can be heard singing. In fact, this morning a Northern Parula was singing a perfect rendition of its spring song. Other fall singers have included a Black-and-White Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, and American Redstart, though their voices tended to be more of a whisper or considerbly fragmented, sometimes humorously so to the birder's ear.



Late summer's colors are fantastic! Asters are blooming and serve as blue and purple flags of summer's departure. Neotropical bird migration moves into its final few weeks, and then the sparrows will descend upon the prairie and savanna on the north side of the conservancy. Having said that, I haven't observed any Palm or Yellow-rumped Warblers yet. It's not over!


New England Aster

A young Common Yellowthroat becomes alerted and begins to chip as it hears my footsteps approaching. On cool mornings most warblers can be found foraging in the canopy because that's where the sun's rays hit first. The yellowthroats, though, tend to their business closer to the ground. Their quick wren-like movements through the understory can make them difficult to follow, but they'll usually pose on a perch in order to assess an intruder's intention.


Common Yellowthroat

It really hasn't been a good summer for treehoppers and leafhoppers along the creek corridor. This morning I found just one Two-spotted Treehopper and only one Buffalo Treehopper. I do not know enough about their ecology to appreciate if they experience population cycles like other types of insects, or if their scant numbers this year reflect something causal regarding damaged overwintering eggs, issues with host plants, weather patterns, or possible insect parasites. Perhaps I'll make this an aside citizen science project at some juncture.


Buffalo Treehopper Stictocephala bisonia


White Micrathena Micrathena mitrata

I told Dottie to take in what might be her last look at Black-and-White Warblers until next spring. Yesterday several of them came right down to the creek bank along with Chestnut-sided Warblers and American Redstarts to bathe in the shallows. But do you think I had my camera with me? Nope!


Black-and-white Warbler



Pheasant Branch, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Sep 13, 2015 6:30 AM - 9:30 AM
45 species

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Great Blue Heron
Cooper's Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Wren
Swainson's Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing
Ovenbird
Northern Waterthrush
Black-and-white Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2015 Mike McDowell

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