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American redstart sighting marks fall migration

American redstart
American redstart John Ennis

Yesterday evening I heard the unmistakable “chip” of a warbler in the brush along a small creek in my yard. I have pine warblers here, but this was not one of them. A few seconds later an American redstart popped out into view, danced in the air a bit, then shot back into the thicker foliage.

The species doesn’t nest close by, so it was my first fall migrant of the season. It’s not the first time a redstart has had that distinction; they are pretty common and start moving soon after nesting is over. There will be more redstarts, and more species too, as the weeks wear on into cooler fall weather.

I am hearing reports of dispersing waders at area lakes and reservoirs right now. An immature little blue heron has been at Colonel Francis Beatty Park. If you are there, look for a smaller white heron around the lake. Larger concentrations of waders are gathering at Cane Creek Park in Union County.

Multiple birds including white ibis and little blue herons are in the shallower portions along the lakeshore. An anhinga was even seen there recently. Keep an eye open for conspicuous large herons and ibis at area ponds and lakes right now.

The question of the week is “What’s going on with cardinals? Some of them seem to be going bald!” That is exactly what is happening. Some blue jays, Eastern towhees and common grackles will lose the feathers on their heads in July and August. The condition is associated with a feather molt that is out of synch with the rest of the plumage. It’s not serious, and the feathers grow back fairly quickly. The birds don’t seem any the worse for it. They do give off a prehistoric look while the condition exists, though.

The bluebirds in my small yard are well into their third nesting of the season now. The previous two produced a total of seven fledged young, so it has been a pretty successful season for bluebirds, anyway. The male spends a good part of the day singing and dive-bombing gray squirrels as they prance through the yard. The heat has me doing more window birding than usual right now.

Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com. Check out his blog at piedmontbirding.blogspot.com