Mondays Are For The Birds – American Redstart

It is late summer/early autumn and the warblers and other songbirds are moving en masse south to their tropical wintering grounds.  Bring your binoculars to one of several wooded lots in the St. Louis metropolitan area this time of year and you’re almost sure to find one of the birds pictured here, the American Redstart.  I am calling this particular bird a mature female, although it is possible this may be an immature female or first year male.  Females and young males have yellow where adult males are always dressed for Halloween in reddish orange and dark browns.  This observation has prompted many a birder to call these guys the “American Yellowstart” .

This is one of the easiest warblers for new birders to identify, not only for its flashy coloration and pattern but for its particular behaviors as well.  These guys will usually position their wings low and drooped when sitting still and almost always are fanning their flashy tail feathers.  These birds are quite active and display a lot of “flycatching” behavior and will actually hover-preen.  Watching them hunt is a treat and as they catch flying insects you can literally hear these little guys snapping their beaks shut.  They can be quite responsive to pishing.

As mentioned above, this bird is heading south where it will over winter somewhere between northern Mexico and northern South America.  It has an extremely large breeding range, nesting anywhere between the gulf states and Alaska where it can find deciduous or mixed deciduous/coniferous forests.  These guys will also readily nest in secondary woodlands and forests, making them one of the few species who has not been altogether troubled by logging.

I wish this guy the best in her/his long journey south.  I am getting quite addicted to shooting these guys just when they are heading out.  I’m already looking forward to the spring.

“American Yellowstart”

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF400mm f/5.6L USM lens, ISO 640,  f/5.6, 1/100 sec

Sunshine On My Shoulders Makes Me Happy

Hi everyone.  It’s an absolute gorgeous Saturday here in the northern Ozarks.  I hope the weather is to your liking wherever you are reading this.

This post is dedicated to my grandmother, Genny, who is currently recovering from a health crisis.  Sarah and I are so glad you are getting better and we wish you all the best in a speedy recovery.

Today’s post is a result of one of the magical times I spent recently at Ellis Island at Riverlands.  During an evening hike I noticed I was in the middle of a huge mayfly hatch.  There seemed to mayflys in the millions.  This rang the dinner bell for migrating passerines for miles around the confluence!  This was definitely one of the coolest bird experiences ever for me.  The bird pictured below, a Yellow Warbler, was one of near 50 of this species I came across.  Also in huge abundance were Black and White Warblers, Empidonax Flycatchers, Red-eyed Vireo and many others.  Thirteen total warblers, four vireos and a large handful of other species were all gorging on this insect feast.  The swarm, so thick the flies were perching on me, lasted until sunset and unfortunately I had limited opportunities for getting decent lighting for photographs.  That was frustrating, but being able to watch this natural wonder was reward enough.

This is one of those species that I’ll always remember the first time I found.  It was a springtime male perched on a dead branch singing his heart out and touched by the morning sun.  I never truly saw the color yellow until that morning!  The image bellow does that guy no justice.

Enjoy the weekend and remember, in Missouri, dove and teal are in season so hunters will be out there doing their thing.  There are places nature watchers and hunters use in close proximity, so be careful and considerate.

“Sunshine On My Shoulder”

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF400mm f/5.6L USM lens, ISO 400,  f/5.6, 1/800 sec