Some host species will lay eggs that have a unique pattern, or “signature” so if they see an egg that doesn’t match they will dispose or destroy it. We did see one at Forsythe recently (while looking for the American Golden-Plover), but it wasn’t in breeding plumage. Even they will eventually be forced to retreat southward as temperatures consistently drop below freezing and the last invertebrates go underground or die off for the winter. We spotted a hawk soaring and wanted to see if we could get a better look. This trip was the first time that I’ve seen Dunlins in their breeding plumage. Others found at the cove were: a Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Northern Rough-winged Swallows , Tree Swallows, and a really big Snapping Turtle. To see the full eBird checklist you can click this link. For the past 4 years, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has held an annual Global Big Day event in May. We were lucky to get a bit of a break from the rain on Saturday, so Dave and I used that opportunity to go to Palmyra Cove Nature Park. Stilts have the second-longest legs in proportion to their bodies of any bird (second to flamingos of course). The drive begins at the Raymond Pool, which has a short Boardwalk Trail and an observation tower. Out in the pool there was a huge flock of Semipalmated Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitchers, a Semipalmated Plover, Dunlins, a Solitary Sandpiper, and the bird I’ve been waiting for: the American Avocet. She starts by building a platform of leaves and grasses then weaves together the cup with sedge and grasses. Like Edwin B. Forsythe NWR, there is a wildlife drive that winds through the marsh and upland habitats. Common Yellowthroat chicks stay dependent on their parents after fledging for longer than most other warbler chicks do. I am still shocked that Dave managed to get a picture of one; Gnatcatcher are super fast. Breep!” A raucous call came from high in the tree over our heads. Females and younger males lack the mask. The raccoon was on the other side of the pool and swam over to our side. It seemed like everyone had the same idea about going to the Point. They tend to forage low in the trees, bushes, and other low vegetation growth. Discover the world of birds at BirdNation! There were at least 60 relaxing on the mudflats. Forages for insects, typically in shrubby, wet areas, including marshes, forest edges, and fallow fields. Dave and I went to Cape May for our big day. Found in reed beds, swamps, briars, streams, overgrown fields, pine forests, and brushy thick areas. I heard that many warblers and other migrants have been flooding into the area, so I wanted to see how many we could spot. Have you ever experienced a brood parasite at work? It is as likely to be found in an extensive prairie wetland in Rock County in southwestern Minnesota as it is to be found in a tiny, low-lying, wet opening in the forested landscape of St. Louis County in northeastern Minnesota. I was on a quest to find warblers, and I was excited when I spotted a life bird in the meadow. We ended up seeing a few male Yellowthroats. Many host birds are discovering these tricks and fighting back. I’ll keep you updated if our Phalarope is confirmed, but it was cool to find a rare bird on vacation. They were busy waddling through the mudflats looking for food. There our Common Yellowthroats join other species, their subtropical cousins: there are about a dozen species of Yellowthroat found in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. At the end of April, Dave and I bought a spotting scope and tested it out at the local yacht club where some Osprey nest nearby. The refuge is mainly tidal salt marshes, but also features freshwater impoundments as well as upland habitats. I found these two by the noise the juvenile cowbird was making. While parasitic birds like the Brown-headed Cowbirds and Cuckoos are continuing to try and trick other species, the hosts are developing new strategies to defend themselves and their broods. We also observed Mallards, a small flock of Great Egrets flying overhead, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher calling, and a Gray Catbird. He didn’t notice us right away, and was pretty surprised when he realized he was being watched. The common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) is a New World warbler. “Breep! He quickly hid once realizing we were stalking him but we were able to catch a glimpse of him a few more times. There are about 100 species of birds that are considered brood parasites. Bombay Hook is a sanctuary and breeding ground for migratory birds as well as a variety of other animals. They have a thin white line across their forehead that contrasts the black mask. These birds are sneaky: they will target females of other species and lay their eggs in that nest instead of creating one of their own. They, like the males, are small, dumpy warblers, olive-green all over except for the eponymous yellow throat. The Yellow Warbler was my dream bird for awhile. They were beautiful to see in person. They are hardier than most warblers; as I’ve explored in a previous blog post , bird migration is more about food availability than avoiding the cold (although the two are interlinked). For example, Common Cuckoos have been known to push their sibling’s eggs right out of the nest to avoid them from ever hatching. Taylor’s Wildlife Preserve is right on the Delaware River and Dredge Harbor. We’ve been curious about Taylor’s for awhile, so we decided to check it out. The Boardwalk Trail looped around a small section of the marsh, and there were Marsh Wrens everywhere. The Common Yellowthroats will return northward in the spring, usually arriving in our neck of the woods in mid-April. While searching for the singing Mockingbird, we discovered a male Orchard Oriole (first of season). We had to walk through the forest area and on the way we saw/heard: Robins, Carolina Wrens, Carolina Chickadees, Northern Flickers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Brown Cowbirds, American Crows, Northern Cardinals, and Song Sparrows. The males arrive first, staking a claim on their territories, and singing their distinctive loud “Wichity Wichity Wichity!” song from within shrubbery, often near water. Common Yellowthroats Lower Down. Sometimes a bird will patiently wait for the host to leave the nest so they can sneak in. Other species form adult lookout groups to catch and attack brood parasites while certain species will design their nest so that the invader gets trapped. We even were able to find a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher nest on our way to the cove. As we walked towards the foot trails we spotted some Northern Cardinals, Eastern Phoebes, and Baltimore Orioles. So far, May has been a pretty busy birding month for us: new life list editions, an owlet, purchasing our first spotting scope, big day events, and rare birds. It was a male Common Yellowthroat. We did pretty well for 2 1/2 hours and overcast conditions: 33 bird species, 2 deer, 3 groundhogs, and turtles galore. They are some of our Winter Waterfowl visitors and I expected them to have migrated already. Today we went to Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve in Woodland Township for the first time. Parasitic birds don’t want the responsibility of raising chicks; they pass that on to other unsuspecting bird species. While hopping about in leaf-litter and undergrowth, Yellowthroats search for insects and spiders to eat. The next part of the loop was the Shearness Pool, which also had a short trail and an observation tower. Adult males have black masks. We also stumbled upon some Great Egrets resting in a tree. Brown-headed Cowbirds are brood parasites. Suddenly we heard a sharp tschat call from the tall grasses and out popped our first warbler of the season: a male Common Yellowthroat! Then it hit me: the Common Yellowthroat was feeding a Brown-headed Cowbird chick! It’ll be a surprise…stay tuned. It was amusing to see a raccoon swimming in the salt marsh in the middle of the day. It’s neck was red, had a clean white belly, a thin bill, grayish-brown upperparts, and a very distinctive black eye patch. At the pond there were also: Canada Geese, Mallards, Tree Swallows, a Green Heron, and a Pied-billed Grebe. Only Fairy Wrens are able to learn it, so if the chick is not including the “password” while calling for food, the host will know who the intruder is. Let us know if you have in the comments. And wish it well on its journey south. The adult male additionally has a Zorro-like black mask, earning him the nickname “brush bandit”. These black-and-white beauties have long, thin red legs. Brood parasites may use different technique in order to invade a nest. For example, Gray Catbirds will puncture any parasitic eggs they discover. They have to jump from one perch to the other in order to catch its prey. The southwestern forms of this bird are the brightest and the yellowest below.
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