Along with finding the typical rarities that everyone looks for during spring migration, I will not count spring as arriving until I lay eyes on a male Blackburnian Warbler. This past Saturday, not only did Miguel and I find my prize at Carondelet Park, but I got my best photos to date of this tree-top dwelling, piece of greased lighting.
With a throat this bright and luminous, a song that is so high-pitch that dogs aren’t safe for blocks and a never resting habit, more than one birder has assumed these guys must be powered by a battery. Seriously, there’s a reason these guys eat all day long. They have to!
Well, hopefully I might have another before the season has completed springing. If not, I’ll always have something to look forward to next year.
Before we get to a few birds from this spring… Why do people like Adobe Lightroom so much? I know it definitely helps in cataloging my images and I am better off than what I was before, but the hassle and bugs I have to deal with… Just yesterday, we lost power during the storms and then next time I was able to load up LR, all my settings went back to default! I guess I should be thankful that all of my images appear to be in the right spot. Computers…
Such a silent bird. Whenever I am lucky enough to cross its path, it is almost always found by eyesight. This guy patiently hung out with me for a bit.
Pretty much a staple in the pond at my working location. Sometimes I don’t seem to bother them, while others I cause them to flush.
I have seen these guys all over the place this spring. Always one of my favorites, it has been a real treat to seem them so regularly the past two weeks.
Perhaps the most appropriately named warbler, this special bird is said to nest almost exclusively in pine trees and is one of the earliest nesting warblers within it’s range. These special birds were a thrill for us to find and watch. Closeup images of the male bird were taken at Big Spring State Park, while the nest was located in a Short-leaf Pine located on a parking lot within Shaw Nature Reserve.
The chicks were adorable and near-helpless, only able to open their gigantic craws at anticipation of a juicy insect meal.
During the time Steve and I strained our necks watching the child care from ~50 ft below, we were able to observe that when dad visited the nest he always approached from the side of the nest facing us as seen in the image below. Mom always visited on the opposite side, affording us poor looks. It was interesting to observe that both parents approached the nest in a slow and indirect manner, usually starting low in the nest tree or an adjacent neighbor. They would then hop from branch to branch, often in a spiral up the tree to reach the nest. I do not remember watching either parent make a direct flight to the nest.
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.
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! 😉
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have driven past signs for Sutton Bluff Rec. Area dozens of times speeding past on Highway 21, but had not visited until recently. Located in Reynolds County about five miles or so from Centerville, it is quite a drive over hilly and windy roads to this creation of the Black River as it bends its way across this hill. This is a view on top of the bluff following a quick mile or two hike that is on an OZT spur. Unfortunately, this is about as scenic a view you’ll find from here as the blacktop-covered recreation area covers the majority of this valley. The rec. area is nice and clean, one of the nicest camp sites of this type I have seen. I spoke briefly with one of the camp hosts and he was very helpful with some information and maps. If this type of place is your scene, then it looks to be top notch. It seems to me the best time to visit here would be in full autumn colors and the best compositions will likely be from the riverbanks below shooting up at the tree covered bluffs.
“Sutton Bluff Recreation Area″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 67mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1/30 sec