A big push of neotropical migrants returned to our area last weekend as temperatures rose into the low 80s. The southerly breezes were perfect for bringing in the birds, unimpeded by cold fronts or unsettled weather.
Most of the new arrivals are species that will nest in or near our area, while the northern breeders that just pass through will be more numerous in a couple of weeks. I ventured out last Monday to check Six Mile Creek Greenway to see what had arrived, especially hoping for some brightly colored warblers, tanagers or grosbeaks.
I chose Six Mile Creek because it has proven year after year to attract a diverse mix of breeders and migrants. It’s one of the best walks in the county to find Southeastern warblers.
It soon became evident that I would have to wade through myriad white-eyed vireos and blue-gray gnatcatchers to find other goodies. They were everywhere, it seemed. Finally I was able to locate singing worm-eating warblers and a singing orange-crowned warbler. Not the brightest colored of the warbler clan to be sure, but nice birds to find just the same. An ovenbird, a ground-dwelling warbler, sang from a thicket close by. Again, not a feathered jewel, but I was glad to see my first one of the season.
A loud “tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet” immediately drew me to some creekside brush to locate the singer. It was a brilliant male prothonotary warbler, a species that almost seems to glow bright golden yellow in the swampy shadows. Another movement in the same thicket turned out to be a male hooded warbler, a species almost as brilliant as the prothonotary. It is a more accomplished songster with its interesting “sweet, sweet, sweet tea-o.” A buzzy yet musical song from the treetops let me know that the northern parulas had arrived, too. They are another tiny, brightly colored bird. You have to get lucky to find one low in some trees to get the visual benefit.
So the spring show is underway and will accelerate daily for the next two weeks or so. Grab your binoculars and try to get in on it. It only happens once a year.
Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com
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