Saturday, April 26, 2014

Migration Madness

American Avocets - digiscoped
A few weeks ago, I noticed I wasn't receiving notices from the KY Bird List. Inquiries revealed that it's dropping people randomly, and I should just re-subscribe. Good thing, or I would have missed the notice about Willets and American Avocets at the Falls of the Ohio. A cold front moved through the night before, and all sorts of birds were showing up. The Avocets breed in the northern plains area and winter in the Southwest. Every few years, however, some show up in the shallow water below the dam at the Falls of the Ohio. My friend was there with his good scope and had already located them (which I would have had trouble doing on my own) and we saw about eight of them yesterday afternoon. By evening, another birder said she also found a flotilla of 58 more birds swimming in the deeper water behind the dam! You just never know what's going to turn up at the Falls! But it takes time and persistence to find something good, because there's no predicting what will show up while you stand there.
Willets - digiscoped
I'm used to seeing Willets when we go to the beach, but I think it's the first time they have shown up here. They too breed in the northern plain-southern Canada area, wintering along the Gulf and Atlantic shores. Again, they were all perched on the same rock, at least half a mile away from our observation point. If Tom hadn't found them first, I might have missed them altogether. Would you have know what they were without someone telling you? Granted, the scope alone gives a better view.
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
Then I wandered down the Woodland Trail, since Tom's wife was down there with the warblers coming through on migration. The Falls of the Ohio State Park does not have a lot of acres, but it is the only patch of woods and shallow water for far around. I call it a green oasis in a jungle of asphalt. As I joined her, we were surrounded by more birds calling than I have ever heard there! Hooded Warblers, Yellow Warblers, Yellow Throated Warblers, Northern Parulas, Gnatcatchers, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, and may I didn't recognize at all. We played the call for the Yellow Warbler who was certainly perched just above our heads from the sound of him, but could not entice him to come down and play. Same for the Parula. The buzzy little Gnatcatchers were so busy hunting caterpillars, it was hard to focus on them before they jumped to the next branch.
Summer Tanager
I got lucky with an otherwise silent Summer Tanager. Cardinals are very common at the Falls, and I had to look two or three times to be sure this was my nemesis bird, and it was. Hooray!
Warbling Vireo
One other bird came briefly into view, a little larger than many of the others. Colleen confirmed this as a Warbling Vireo, a life bird for me. Hooray again! But no more than 10 minutes after entering migration heaven, the sun came out, the clouds blew off, and it got real quiet in the woods. The Yellow Warbler and Parula still called, but the large variety of song stopped.
Bald Eagle Nest - Shippingport Island - digiscoped
Well, since I'm here anyway, might as well run down to see if I can find the Eagle nest on Shippingport Island. The island is in the middle of the river, and the nest must be close to a mile away from shore. When I first looked, I got lucky, since the male was sitting on a branch nearby, and I spotted him and the nest. Another birder says he's seen two little fuzzy heads a couple times. but he has telescopic eyeballs as well as a good scope! By the time I got my phone lined up for a photo through the scope, the male had moved off. Can you see the nest? That dark blob in the middle? In a few more days, the leaves will cover it entirely. The first year or two that this pair tried to nest, they failed, but I never heard any guesses why. This must be the third successful nesting at least. Pretty cool to have them right in the urban area.

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