Sunday, December 1, 2013

Looking back on a quiet fall migration

Prevailing winds made this autumn a rather disappointing one for the southeastern part of the Florida peninsula. Southbound birds were either driven towards the west coast or simply overflew us. When conditions were favorable they can make it from the northern part of the state to Cuba in a single flight. 

As if to compensate for the lack of migrants, our local pair of Bald Eagles began loitering at their nest site during September, earlier than usual. This is the female:

Bald Eagle female 2-20131019

Here, she stands guard at the nest. Their eggs are usually laid in December or early January.

Bald Eagle female at nest 20131015

By the middle of October the eagles were adding sticks to their nest. If we have a cold snap it is possible that it will trigger early egg-laying.

Bald Eagle female at nest 03-20131019

Prairie Warbler numbers increased early in the season:

Prairie Warbler 3-20131018

Brown Thrashers, which may breed here in small numbers, also came in early:

Brown Thrasher 20131014

Painted Buntings appeared. This was the best shot I could get of a male:

Painted Bunting male 20131008

This female bunting was more cooperative:

Painted Bunting female 07-20131011

Ovenbirds and waterthrushes were welcome arrivals. Ovenbird:

Ovenbird 2-20130919

Northern Waterthrush:

Northern Waterthrush 03-20131009

Northern Waterthrush in flight:

Northern Waterthrush in flight 20130929

The local population of Loggerhead Shrikes was supplemented by southbound migrants, many of which stay in our neighborhood all winter.

Loggerhead Shrike 20130919

Gray Catbirds appeared in droves during the latter part of September:

Gray Catbird 20131020

Northern Parulas, one of my favorite warbler species, soon followed...

Northern Parula 20130920 did Red-eyed Vireos:

Red-eyed Vireo 4-20130920

Generally, when we did see warblers, they were few in number. Worm-eating Warblers are rather uncommon migrants in our wetland preserve:

Worm-eating Warbler 3-20130922

Black-and-white Warblers can show up any time in the fall:

Black-and-white Warbler 4-20131017

Palm Warblers became abundant in early October. Many will remain here for the winter season, becoming the most abundant dooryard bird, sometimes called "Florida Sparrows."

Palm Warbler 20131014

Cattle Egrets were flocking...

Cattle Egrets 20131009

...and Black Vultures congregated in huge numbers:

Black Vulture Gathering 20131015

Belted Kingfishers arrived to protect their winter feeding territories along the canal. This is a female; the male lacks the red belly-band:

Belted Kingfisher female 20131017

This female Blue Grosbeak was the first I have seen on our local patch:

Blue Grosbeak cooler 4300K plus 2 stops 20131011

The last time I photographed a Blue Grosbeak was back in the 1990s, through the window of our New Mexico home, digiscoped using a pocket camera and my Kowa spotting scope. This is a male:

Blue Grobsbeak

A single day in late October provided the best warblers of the season. Suddenly their numbers increased and we saw a couple of new species. The Bay-breasted Warbler is quite large-- when I first saw it from a distance I thought it was an oriole or tanager.

Bay-breasted Warbler 20131023

Several Cape May Warblers appeared...

Cape May Warbler 8-20131023

Cape May Warbler 6-20131023

...along with another of my favorites, the Black-throated Blue Warbler.

Black-throated Blue Warbler 2-20131023

Finally, in mid-November the arrival of the Yellow-rumped Warblers signaled the end of warbler migration.

Yellow-rumped Warbler FOS 20131117

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