Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fall Warblers and #300

Fall has officially started in terms of migration.  The air over North Carolina is slowly losing its stifling humidity - and although highs are still in the upper 80s, I can actually bear being outside.  Every so often, a pleasant breeze reminds me that beautiful October air is only one month away.

I thought I would try my luck at Bass Lake in Holly Springs right after school earlier this week.  The birds were few and far between - even the usual suspects weren't showing.  The first interesting bird was a Great Horned Owl calling in broad daylight.  I've never heard a Great Horned doing this before, though I have heard Barred Owls "haw"ing in the late afternoon.  The owl was a new bird for Bass Lake.  I also spotted a second "location bird" - a Yellow-billed Cuckoo near a small creek.

In a wooded area, I came upon a flock of chickadees and titmice and began pishing pretty hard (after looking over my shoulder and making sure no one was around - I always feel awkward going "shppshh-shppshh-shppshh" loudly in front of strangers).  The titmice began responding to my calling, and I started to bring a pretty good-sized flock of birds in around me.  Something in particular caught my eye - I raised my binoculars to see a dull fall warbler bouncing around in a Sweetgum.  A Tennessee Warbler, a life bird and - wait - number 300 for the year!  I was pretty excited, and it certainly made up for the lackluster birding beforehand.

A few days later, I headed to Mason Farm 35 minutes away in Chapel Hill to do a little more warbler-hunting.  Again, it started out dull, but things picked up after spotting a Barred Owl and several White-eyed Vireos.  I am always amazed at how silently Barred Owls fly - one could fly right over your head and you wouldn't even know it was there.  This adaptation makes them lethal nocturnal hunters.

Barred Owl at Mason Farm

Soon we were seeing Redstarts, Parulas, and several Red-eyed Vireos.  In the final wooded area along the path, we began actively pishing and trying in a last-ditch effort to bring in some migrants.  Sure enough, we caught a glimpse of a Magnolia Warbler, a new state bird for me.  Magnolias are particularly beautiful warblers, even in their fall plumage. They have a striking black, white, and yellow pattern that makes them relatively easy to identify.

I honestly can't wait for cooler weather - 65 and sunny is just about as good as it gets, in my opinion.  I'm ready for the gulls and ducks to return to my area, but for now I have some nice fall migrants to fulfill my avian ambitions.

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