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Skulker Season

5/22/2023


It is that time of year, again. It is skulker season. Canada, Mourning, and Connecticut Warblers have been moving through the state. I have even seen some great photos. In spite of a lot of effort, I have little to share of any of those species. By Sunday, I decided to move on to easier subjects.


So, what is a "skulker". Honestly, Canada does not even really fit in this category, but I included it anyway. Wilson's surely does, but it is fairly common, by comparison. To skulk is to keep out of sight. That is what these birds do to a tee. They are not typically flighty birds. They prefer to hang out in the thickest parts of the undergrowth. At the least sign of danger, they hit the ground and simply walk/skulk away. I have been within mere feet of a Connecticut (the king of the skulkers) and not seen it. The bird is there and calling one minute. The next, it has disappeared. This is what makes them such a challenge.


I spent a bit of time throughout the week and this last weekend specifically looking for or chasing reports of these birds. I heard a good number of Mourning and Connecticut. I briefly seen two different Mourning Warblers. I pished one Connecticut up out of the brush, but it moved 30 foot up into a tree and then disappeared after singing a couple of times. I was fortunate to pish out a single Canada Warbler on Thursday. That bird is my single victory this season. It was a lot of days going home disappointed. I was out Tuesday or Wednesday evening, Thursday morning, Friday morning, and half a day on Saturday.


Of those, Thursday was my most successful day. I drove an hour down to Thornwood Nature Preserve in Greenfield. There, I photographed a Canada Warbler and briefly saw a Mourning Warbler. Two Connecticut Warblers were calling from different areas of the park, but I never got eyes on either one. At one point, one was within 10 foot of me. A few minutes later, it was singing from behind me. I never saw it. While there, I also stumbled across a pair of nesting Kentucky Warblers. I snapped a couple shots after pishing them up and then quickly moved on.

Saturday was spent at Eagle Creek Park. There, I saw my second Mourning Warbler. It popped out of cover, perched in a small window in the shrubs and sang before hitting cover. I even snapped a couple of shots. They were not good. I headed over to where I had heard a Connecticut the previous morning, and the bird was still present. It just was not interested in showing itself. After waiting around a while, I headed off to bird some other areas of the park. All in all, it was a pretty quiet morning. There were still some singing Tennessee, a few American Redstart, and a Blackburnian. A Wilson's Warbler pished out of cover briefly. I also had a lone Least Flycatcher. Strangely, a Blue-winged Warbler was singing loudly at the marina. On the other side of the park, the deep woodland birds were singing. Hooded, Kentucky, a single Connecticut, some Eastern Wood-Pewee, and Acadian Flycatcher were easily heard. I even found the Acadian low in some trees; singing on territory.


By Saturday night, I had decided to toss in the towel. Sure, there are more migrants to come. Hopefully, at some point, there are a large number of female warblers to come. I have hardly seen any. My lack of success with skulkers had convinced me that it was time for the yearly transition from the woodlands to the grasslands. The species there are easier to shoot anyways. Well, most of them. Some of them. Okay. They can be a pain and entirely uncooperative, too. They are sparrows, though; so, I am more forgiving.


I setoff early Sunday morning to head to Prophetstown SP. There, I hoped for some decent shots of one of my favorite birds - Henslow's Sparrow. I am always on the lookout for Blue Grosbeak, too. They have a way of sneaking up behind me at this park. I will turn around to find one hanging out and watching me. Not quite the same experience this trip. I had just walked an area and returned to my car. As I drove back through, a blue colored bird flew from the edge of the road to a low perch about 30 foot off the road. Yep, Blue Grosbeak. It let me turn the car around and snap a couple shots before flying off. I had a decent number of Henslow's Sparrow. Most were way off the light angle and impossible to shoot; even though they were perched up nicely and singing. Dickcissel numbers seemed low. Lots of Eastern Kingbird; including one building a nest above the aquatic center. The most shocking thing was the Eastern Meadowlark. They were perching up everywhere, and, for once, they did not fly off the minute you glanced at them. They just kept singing. I could hear Ring-necked Pheasant coughing out their call in the grasses. So, when I saw a small brown bird at the edge of the road, my initial assumption was that it was a female pheasant. Turned out there were two birds, and they were Bobwhite! The male was not cooperating for pics. The female let me turn the car around to get a better light angle on her. Then she started running along the edge of the road away from me. She turned back once to look at me. The male ran across to join her, and then they both burst into flight and landed deep in the cover of the grass. As I was heading out, a single Grasshopper Sparrow serenaded me from along the road. It easily pished out of cover and perched up for a few songs. Other than that, it was the usual suspects: Common Yellowthroat, American Goldfinch, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Song Sparrow, Indigo Bunting, and Field Sparrow. I always enjoy my trips up here. This will not be my only one this year.


Thanks for reading,

Mike



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