I took advantage of some cooler temperatures last weekend to spend a couple of hours in the field looking for some of the first true migrants of the season. I decided on McAlpine Park off Monroe Road, a locale that has a proven record for attracting a diversity of migrants.
I crossed McAlpine Creek on the iron bridge heading toward the lake. I immediately heard and saw some Carolina chickadees in an overhanging birch tree. Experienced birders know to check out the chickadee flocks during migration because they attract a wide assortment of species. I also love to find a feeding flock in a birch tree because the foliage starts dropping in late summer and is relatively open and thin, making for easier spotting of tiny treetop warblers.
All I could see were the chickadees, tufted titmice, and downy woodpeckers but a few tantalizing “chips” let me know there were some other species up there. Unfortunately the flock moved on before I could spot something better.
The beaver pond proved to be very interesting. I found two great egrets loafing on a fallen log, a belted kingfisher on a dead snag, a green heron along the shore, and a red-shouldered hawk along the woods edge. One true migrant sat motionless on a dead tree – an immature osprey, judging by the light feather tips on the wings. These large fish-eaters can be attracted to surprisingly small bodies of water during migration.
The weedy field edges held several family groups of indigo buntings and blue grosbeaks.
American goldfinches flew in and out of the trees lining the lake, undoubtedly tending nests or young. Chimney swifts, circled the lake, dipping down to grab a sip of water on the wing. No swallows were present that day, but this is a great place to observe mixed swallow flocks.
So it turned out to be slow day for migrants. Most of the birds I saw were probably locals.
That’s OK; it is still very early in the season. The coming weeks hold plenty of promise as another season of waves of warblers, tanagers, flycatchers, and sparrows will gain momentum and lure birders back into the field.