Migration Commences!

After returning from southern Ontario I was eager to go birding and see if songbird migration had started yet. The Magnolia and Canada Warblers had whetted my appetite, so the day after my return I headed out to see what was around. A stop at Sarsaparilla Trail netted 23 species, including a pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets, a Gray Catbird calling at the edge of the marsh (it’s not often I observe these birds here), a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and a Black-and-white Warbler right near the parking lot. There wasn’t much around the pond, though a Double-crested Cormorant flying over was a bit of a surprise….I’ve never seen one on the pond before.

From there I went to Mud Lake. I spent 3.5 hours there and doubled the number of species seen at Sarsparilla Trail. I was hoping to find some flycatchers, particularly the Yellow-bellied or Olive-sided Flycatchers, and parked at Rowatt Street so I could check the scrubby field west of the lake. There I found a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and an Empidonax Flycatcher that flew off too fast for me to ID.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

I followed the trail from the Rowatt Street entrance to Cassels Street, finding the area near the temporary pond the best spot for warblers. Nashville Warblers, Bay-breasted Warblers, Cape May Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, and a few American Redstarts were all present. I also saw a Baltimore Oriole and a large flock of Cedar Waxwings in this area. From there I proceeded south through the woods, following the shore of Mud Lake. I saw a Common Yellowthroat skulking near the water, a single Great Blue Heron and the usual waterfowl on the lake, and two Belted Kingfishers chasing each other around.

There wasn’t much to see at the turtle bridge; however, a Fragile Forktail sitting on a lily pad was a pleasant surprise – this is only the second one I’ve seen at Mud Lake.

Fragile Forktail

Fragile Forktail

I headed to the scrubby area south of the lake as I was hoping to find some flycatchers there. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird was an unexpected find, and I did indeed see some flycatchers – three of them, in fact! They kept chasing each other and were vocal enough that I recognized the “whit, whit” calls of a Least Flycatcher.

Least Flycatcher

Least Flycatcher

I decided to continue walking all the way around the lake, as I suspect few birders do so and there are lots of great habitats where something rare might be lurking. Although I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, I was happy to find a Black-and-white Warbler, a Chestnut-sided Warbler, several Gray Catbirds, and quite a few American Redstarts still singing on territory. At Britannia Point I saw a couple of Great Egrets roosting in the trees across the river, a Hooded Merganser in the channel, and four Spotted Sandpipers along the shore – each on a different rock.

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

I checked the ridge and found a singing Warbling Vireo, as well as many of the same warbler species I had earlier. I returned to the sumac field west of the lake, intending to leave, and came across a yellow, fall-plumage Scarlet Tanager perching high in a tree and a couple of Empidonax Flycatchers chasing each other about. The flycatchers made a snappy sound that fell somewhere in between the calls of a Least Flycatcher and a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, but they did not seem to have yellow underparts. I recorded them as “Empid sp.” on my checklist as their calls didn’t sound abrupt enough for Least Flycatcher. Then again, a lot of birds don’t sound quite like themselves right now, singing partial songs that are feeble and uncertain and bear little resemblance to the full spring song.

Altogether I ended up with 46 species, including 11 warbler species. The beginning of fall migration is always a fabulous time: the weather is still very summery, and there are just so many birds to look at! Enjoy them while they are still here, for like the swallows, they will soon be gone.

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