Curious Wood-Pewees

Eastern Wood-pewee

On July 10th I took the day off work and went birding. It was another overcast day, and I found myself at Shirley’s Bay to see how bad the damage was to the dyke from the spring flooding. Although I was warned that it was bad in spots, I was allowed to go out birding on the dyke by the DND Range Control. While some areas had been heavily eroded, the part birded by most people – about halfway to the first island – was fine. After that it began to resemble the crumbled path between the first and second islands, with huge chunks of earth torn away. I did not go any further, though I was curious if anything was left between the two islands.

My attention was immediately caught by an adult Bald Eagle perching in a tree right out on the dyke, though it flew off before I could get close to it. I heard a Common Gallinule, two Common Yellowthroats, and several Marsh Wrens in the reeds, and saw an Osprey flying over the water. Two Spotted Sandpipers, a kingfisher, and a Common Tern were also present along the dyke. I didn’t stay long, as there wasn’t much of interest right in the middle of breeding season, and there was no shorebird habitat yet for early migrants heading south.

I headed back into the woods, where a few minutes later I heard a pair of Eastern Wood-pewees calling from the woods close to the path. Without thinking about it I imitated the call, a falling and rising whistle that sounds like someone hailing a cab in slow motion – it is this call (“peeeee-a-weeeee”) that they are named for. To my surprise the two Eastern Wood-pewees flew in closer to me to see who had invaded their territory.

Eastern Wood-pewee

Eastern Wood-pewees are members of the flycatcher family that live in the deep woods where they are more often heard than seen. If you manage to hear one close to you, and it doesn’t respond to an imitation of its call, look for it perching in a small opening in the mid-canopy where it will be waiting for flying insects to pass by. Although they might be confused with the Empidonax flycatchers, pewees are grayer overall, with longer wings, shorter legs, and no eye-rings. I find that the peaked crown is also a good field mark to look for, as this gives their heads a triangular shape.

Eastern Wood-pewee

The second pewee didn’t come as close as the first one. We spent some time watching each other, which thrilled me completely as I had never had a pewee fly in this close to me before.

Eastern Wood-pewee

It was an amazing moment that lasted until I finally continued on my way. I didn’t see anything else as amazing as those two curious Eastern Wood-pewees, but my interaction with them definitely made the trip worthwhile!

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