Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sunday at CRWA, with Scarlet Tanager

Having heard a report that the cold, rainy weather on Saturday had resulted in a major warbler fallout, stopping migrating birds in large numbers, on Sunday morning we headed to the west branch of the Cannon River Wilderness Area between Northfield and Faribault. While we did not see large numbers of birds, there was a good variety of species to be seen.

Warblers take some patience, because they don't stay still. They are insect-eaters, and they constantly flit to find and follow the insects. You walk slowly and quietly through the woods, listening for bird calls and letting your eyes adjust so that they start to tune into every tiny movement in the leaves, from ground level all the way up to the treetops, and you start to see them. Various species prefer particular levels in the wooded environment.

Here is a view of the trail we took. The slow spring delayed leafing-out, so that the small birds were still relatively visible if you took the time to watch for them. Some years, the trees are fully leafed-out by now and it's almost a hopeless task to try to find these little creatures in the trees.

Woodland trail, Cannon River Wilderness Area

I didn't even try to photograph any of the warblers we saw. They included:
  • Bay-breasted Warbler (absolutely gorgeous with its chestnut, cream and black coloring; a new favorite. Here's a photo from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, though I don't think it does justice to how gorgeous this bird is real life.)
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • Blackburnian Warbler (stunning with its bright orange throat)
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • Blackpoll Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Yellow Warbler
  • American Redstart 
But the highlight of the outing was my first view ever of scarlet tanagers. In the light green environment of the spring woods, it is hard to imagine anything more shiningly brilliant than this lovely bird.


Tom Hayes said...

I think your yellow-rumped warbler may be more formally known as a Myrtle Warbler dendroica coronata which I've seen along the Cannon recently (if it had a white throat) -- or depending on some other features possibly a Magnolia Warbler dendroica magnolia that I've heard can be seen in and around Northfield.

Penelope said...

Hi Tom - Thanks for writing! Your comment led me to look further, and I see that the Myrtle is considered an eastern subspecies of the yellow-rumped, with the Audubon's being the western subspecies, but I've never seen a main field guide listing with those names. The birders I know mainly call it a butter-butt! http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/yellow-rumped_warbler/id.

loveable_homebody said...

I enjoy your passion for nature. This bird is beautiful! Do you know the names of the birds you saw from reading books?

Penelope said...

Hi Loveable_Homebody - Nice to hear from you again. I learn some birds from looking at field guides (the Sibley guides are among our favorites), but I also have a big helper in my husband, who has been birding a lot longer than I have and has taken a few workshops and classes. A bird I recently identified on my own was the Harris's sparrow I wrote a short post about a couple of weeks ago. I could tell it was a sparrow-like bird, and its black face was so distinctive that it was pretty easy to find it in the field guide. It helps when I can take a picture of a new bird so if we don't know it right away we have more time to compare it to the books.