April Remembered

About three months ago Steve and I made a trip to southern Missouri in perfect time to catch the songbird migration near its peak.  Our primary areas of focus were the two largest springs in Missouri – Big Spring and Greer Spring, two areas located within Ozark Scenic National Riverways.  This National Park contains some of the best habitat in Missouri for newly arriving nesting birds as well as good stopping grounds for those birds heading to more northerly destinations.

I was very fortunate in being able to take first photos of several new species during this trip, one of which was this amazing Broad-winged Hawk – a species whose diagnostic vocalization is often heard among the treetops in densely wooded areas but is less frequently seen.

Broad-winged Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk

Another species that I finally captured on camera was this Yellow-throated Vireo.  This species advertising song is quite similar to the Red-eyed Vireo.  The difference being that the Yellow-throated will give you a chance to answer his questions, whereas the Red-eyed won’t shut up long enough for you to respond!  😉

IMG_0427
Yellow-throated Vireo

Next up is a species that was just passing through, on its way to nest in northern Canada or Alaska.  The Grey-cheeked Thrush is the least studies of North American Catharus species.

Grey-cheeked Thrush
Grey-cheeked Thrush

Greer Spring is always a place of great beauty, although usually stingy with pleasing compositions.  On this visit we took the plunge into the first deep boil immediately outside the cave opening.  An unforgettable experience!

Greer Spring in Bloom
Greer Spring in Bloom

At the trail-head on the way down to the spring, Steve found this Pheobe nest with mom on eggs.  She patiently sat while I took a few photos.

A Step Back In Time
A Step Back In Time

Probably the most exciting find and photographs for us was this resident Swainson’s Warbler.  This warbler is likely the least common of Missouri’s nesting songbirds and is considered endangered in the state.  Loss of its preferred habitat of thick shrubby understory within flood plain forests has caused this species to decline across its entire breeding range.  The boat dock at Greer Spring is one of the few locations that this species can be expected to be found every spring in Missouri.

Swainson's Warbler
Swainson’s Warbler
Swainson's Song
Swainson’s Song

This last image, which may be my favorite of the trip, shows a singing Ovenbird, a species of the understory within high-quality hardwood or hardwood/conifer forests.  It’s song, often described as teacher, teacher, teacher, can be confused with the similar sounding song of the Kentucky Warbler.  We have noticed the difference of habitat preference between the two species, which may aid the novice birder.  The Ovenbird is most often observed in dry upland areas with sparse vegetation, whereas the Kentucky Warbler prefers lower, wet areas with dense undergrowth.

IMG_9261
The Ovenbird

In my opinion, one has not experienced anything in the Missouri Ozarks until having spent a sunrise on an April morning listening to the newly arrived nesting songbirds and those just passing through.

There could not possibly be enough Aprils in a lifetime.

An April Morning
An April Morning
Advertisements

Bald Eagle Nest – Week Nine

As I slowly get images processed and posted here, the chicks have been out of the nest for over a month.  The chicks were active and exercising a lot during this visit.

Week Nine
Week Nine
Week Nine
Week Nine
Week Nine
Week Nine
Week Nine
Week Nine
Week Nine
Week Nine

IMG_3842

Bald Eagle Parent
Bald Eagle Parent
Bald Eagle Parent
Bald Eagle Parent

Nesting Birds of Missouri – Grasshopper Sparrow

Sarah helped me nab this shot of a singing Grasshopper Sparrow recently at Confluence State Park.  It was interesting to me that out of such a large area of potential habitat, the only two birds we had singing this day were right on top of each other.

IMG_4703

A Spring Day at Victoria Glades

Following up a Saturday morning spent at the Eagle’s nest, Steve and I traveled to Victoria Glades to finish up the day during the perfect season to spend time on Missouri Ozark Glades.  We decided to focus on the MDC side of things as we explored The Nature Conservancy holding about the same time the previous year.  My primary goal of the day was to get some acceptable shots of a Prairie Warbler while performing his song.  I had no idea how relatively easy this would be.  We were able to find this male almost immediately along the trail as he patrolled his territory – focusing on trees isolated within the glade habitat.

Prairie Warbler in Song
Prairie Warbler in Song
Prairie Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Prairie Warbler

Lovers of the treetops and focused more on trees that make up the forest edge border with the glade, the Yellow-breasted Chat is a bird I have wanted to get photos of for quite some time.  Not perfect, but acceptable.  Steve and I watched and listened as neighboring males carefully partitioned the area into well established boundaries that they seemed to know so well.

Yellow-breasted Chat
Yellow-breasted Chat

 

What’s that?  Getting bored with yellow?  Okay, let’s change things up a little and look at this Scarlet Tanager male that we found within the forest canopy.  With a song similar to the Summer Tanager, the chip-burr call note of the Scarlet Tanager is most diagnostic.  We were somewhat surprised to find a couple of Summer Tanagers singing in the open areas of the glade near sunset later this evening.

Scarlet Tanager
Scarlet Tanager

 

And now for something downright plain.  Well, at least from the front, which is not the Field Sparrow’s best side.  This female was definitely not interested in us as we got these close looks of her trying to feed on insects and seed at the same time.  We watched her and listened to her mate advertise his rights to their home with his dropping ping-pong ball like song.

Field Sparrow
Field Sparrow

Just when you thought we were done with the yellow…  Along with the Chat, these were my first photographs of a Blue-Winged Warbler as well.  After we discovered what the hell was going on, Steve and I discovered and learned the dawn song of this feisty bird.

Blue-Winged Warbler
Blue-Winged Warbler

On our travels through the glades we couldn’t help but take note of this truly magnificent Post Oak, surrounded by blooming prairie/glade forbs such as Fremont’s Leather Flower and Lance-leaved Coreopsis.  Mostly secluded on a low hill, this was the spot to wait and see if the sunset would turn into anything special.  As we watched the progression of dusk we were most fortunate in hearing a special symphony composed of Woodcock, Whippoorwill, Chuck-Will’s Widow and Barred Owl.  Twas quite the memorable day and it goes without saying, I can’t wait to get back.

IMG_0531_2_3_4_tonemapped Final