The Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia) is another weirdo in the Parulidae family. It is the only extant member of the genus, Mniotilta, and it definitely stands out against the other wood warblers that we find in Missouri. Whereas other warblers flit about the leaves at ends of branches, through bush or along forest floors, gleaning for arthropods, the Black-and-white Warbler finds another niche. It forages by hugging tree trunks and inner branches, much like a nuthatch or creeper. The interesting genus name apparently comes from another of this bird’s behaviors. This name comes from the Ancient Greek mnion, meaning “seaweed”, and tillo, “to pluck”. Apparently, Black-and-white Warblers strip mosses and reindeer lichens to line their nests, which they make in mature forests across much of eastern and central North America.
With the relatively recent removal of the Yellow-breasted Chat from the Parulidae, the title of the largest new world “wood warbler” may very well go to the Ovenbird, Seiurus aurocapilla. The Ovenbird is somewhat of a misfit itself. Seiurus is a monotypic genus, believed to have derived early in the evolution of the family. This pot-bellied, thrush-like bird nests and forages on the forest floor, getting its common name from its nest that supposedly resembles a Dutch oven.
Although the Ovenbird can be easily heard through much of the summer in any large-track deciduous forest, getting good looks and photographs is easiest by waiting to spot them in a migration trap like Tower Grove Park in St. Louis City where these photos were taken.
There is a singer everyone has heard, Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird, Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again. He says that leaves are old and that for flowers Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten. He says the early petal-fall is past When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers On sunny days a moment overcast; And comes that other fall we name the fall. He says the highway dust is over all. The bird would cease and be as other birds But that he knows in singing not to sing. The question that he frames in all but words Is what to make of a diminished thing.
It looks as though I may get only one opportunity for Tower Grove Park this spring, but it was a good one. I’m glad it was a nice morning for Kathy Duncan’s first visit. We had quite a few cooperative birds at the water feature of the Gaddy Bird Garden where these photos of Chestnut-sided Warblers were taken.
This spring has been flying by. With great cool and wet weather, the spring ephemeral wildflower season has been one of the best I’ve experienced and in the past two weeks the bird diversity has been on the rise. Just today, I had a Wood Thrush, a Cooper’s Hawk and a Barn Swallow from my suburban yard alone! This morning I found a Sedge Wren in the grasses at Beckemeier Conservation Area among about half a dozen warblers.
I hope you are getting out to enjoy some of this action and I want to share a few photos of one of my many favorites, this Worm-eating Warbler that is already setting up territory at Bush Wildlife Conservation Area.
We actually had a couple weeks of a deep freeze, old-fashioned winter during the 2020/2021 season. It was enough to get a lot of ice on our rivers and lakes but it didn’t seem to be quite long enough to bring the eagles into Lock and Dam #24 in big numbers. A couple friends and I tried during the last couple days of the deep freeze and although we had fewer than 12 birds, there were opportunities that made it worth our time. Here are a couple photos of a juvenile eagle (a 1.5 to 2.5 year old bird) that I captured as it came to the water to catch a fish that was stunned following its passage through the dam.
Check back soon as I will be posting more photos of eagles and other birds that were making their living in the open waters beneath Lock and Damn #24.
Although I cannot count it as a new species on my lists, I do believe this bird is worthy of a little attention. The “Brewer’s Duck” has been noticed for centuries, even being painted by J. J. Audubon himself. But, he called it the “Bemaculated Duck”, an apparent misspelling of the descriptor, bimaculated, meaning “marked with two spots.” The Brewer’s Duck is an intergeneric hybrid between a Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and a Gadwall (Mareca strepera).
This bird was originally spotted at Bush Conservation Area on February 23rd by Michelle Davis and reported via eBird and MOBIRDS. These photos were taken on February 24th.
In the above photo, the blue speculum patch can be seen, coming from the Mallard. The fine lines of the Gadwall can be seen on the breast and sides. The head is a mixture of both species. Some green can be seen towards the back of the head, although this could only be seen at just the right angle to the sun. The bill is also a mix of the yellow Mallard’s and the all black Gadwall. In my opinion, the feet are more reminiscent of the color of the Gadwall’s feet.
So far I have been unable to find out much about the Brewer’s Duck from books or internet sources and I have lots of questions. This bird seemed to mostly associate with Gadwalls. Is this common, or does it depend on which species was the mother? Does the parentage have to be directional? Are they fertile? How common are they?
The rut of 2020 turned out pretty well for me. I was able to get to my favorite place for this type of photography five or six times. I tried for a few more days, but weather and flooding caused me to change plans. I didn’t get any high action shots, but I am happy with the portraits I got of some of the larger bucks in this herd.
Tonight I’m finishing off the neighborhood deer photos from 2020. This buck pictured in the first two photos was a bit odd. Not just because of the aberrant antlers, but he also did not mind my close approach or my following him as he browsed.