Easter weekend, and I had the weekend free. Like everyone else, I am getting itchy for migration to kick up. We all get a bit of zugenruhe [wikipedia] this time of year. Eastern migrants are on the move but not as plentiful as I had hoped. It is that fabulous time when you can still catch winter birds like kinglets and Winter Wren skulking about the underbrush and then find Pine Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler trilling from the treetops.
With migration on my mind, I headed to Eagle Creek Park on Saturday. I was hoping for warblers. Pine Warbler, Northern Parula, Yellow-throated Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Louisiana Waterthrush are all early migrants. I pulled into the area where I had Pine last weekend and was greeted with the similar call of the Chipping Sparrow. Cute but stubbornly impossible to photograph birds. Speaking of - Eastern Phoebe were also vocal in the area. During their work week, they had built a nest, and I was able to stake the area out for a bit and finally get some photos. What I was not finding was warblers. So, I headed to the Skating Pond. I had Yellow-rumped in several places, but I did not have any that were interested in being photographed. Same went for the Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Winter Wren there. Surely the marina... nope. Although, there were several Yellow-rumped and a single Yellow-throated high in the pines, there. I drove around to various spots and mostly came up empty. I had a cooperative Mallard.... I found a spot where I was sure I was going to get Louisiana Waterthrush shots. The bird was flying back and forth across the road, feeding down in the stream at times. I should have just walked down to the stream and waited, but I was stubborn. For my lack of effort, I got some Yellow-rumped Warbler shots. I was finally calling it a day and heading out of the park when I flushed up a Pine Warbler next to the road. I parked and walked back to the spot. Pishing pulled in a male and female, but they landed directly above my head and then flew off. Further pishing got me some Tufted Titmouse shots. At least it was a beautiful day.
Sunday, I was going to find some of those migrants I had missed out on Saturday. I was going south. If the birds were not going to come to me. I was going to go to them. 5:00 AM, and I was on the road to Brown Co. I got there early and had to wait for the sun to rise. I had also forgot to cool the car down on the way and had to wait for the camera to come to temperature with the outside. A warm lens in cold weather (it was 31 degrees that morning) will give you blurry photos. While waiting, I took some blurry moon shots.
I started the morning at Yellowwood SF. It is a beautiful place, and I have always had luck tracking down migrants there. The campgrounds were packed, and I could not get a parking space in my favorite place to look for Pine Warbler. I drove up and down the road listening and had 4 or 5 different Louisiana Waterthrush singing from various creeks. I managed shots of a couple of them. I also learned the importance of tying your boots when walking muddy creek beds. The mud sucked one of my boots off mid-step, and I put my foot down into the mud. Luckily, it was not as bad as it could have been. Squishily pressing on, I managed to catch a waterthrush on a successful hunt. It appears to have caught a dragonfly nymph and took it to a nearby rock to beat is senseless before gulping it down. Frankly, I would rather stick my foot in the mud again before I ate something like that.
I drove Yellowwood a bit more before giving up. I was not hearing any other warblers. I birded my way around the area, but I did not have much. I heard a couple of Norther Parula. I saw one Yellow-throated Warbler and heard another. I just was not finding them in the numbers I had hoped for. I came across a creek with another waterthrush singing and tried for some more photos. I loved the rock bed of this creek and always look forward to visiting. I got some pics of the bird walking the creek bottom and hunting. It found a few little things while I was there, but nothing as big and gross as the nymph.
From there I headed to look for a fox den my brother and I found last year. Sadly, I did not see any fox in the area. I will have to try later this spring. I pulled into a lot and had a Brown Thrasher skulk into cover. A female Eastern Towhee dove for cover behind some rose thickets. I tried pishing out the thrasher without luck. The towhee was a given but popped up high. While photographing her, I realized I had also pished in a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. It hopped about for a minute and then disappeared. I put the camera down and was getting ready to pull out when I realized it had come back. I pished and snapped a couple more pics before it wandered back off, again. The sun was high, and it was time to call it a day. I put the camera down and started the trek north.
That was my big weekend. Five species of warbler, both kinglets, and gnatcatcher on Saturday. Three species of warbler, one kinglet species, and one gnatcatcher on Sunday. I guess I am just going to have to be a bit more patient for the others to get here - just like every year. I am out of town next weekend. I am sure I will have better luck after I return.
Thanks for reading,