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WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2018
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Wednesday October 10, 2018   |
A drake Ring-necked Duck might better be named “ring-billed duck.”
Canvasbacks are the largest and fastest American ducks with a distinctive sloped head.
The large Harris’s Sparrows are favorites of Paul’s during fall and spring migrations.

Peter started the discussion this week: Hey Paul, lightening does strike twice, at least with regard to new yard birds! Just a couple weeks ago I shared that the immature male Baltimore Oriole that appeared at my hummingbird feeder was yard bird #124, according to the list that I’ve accumulated on eBird. If I can add one new species a year to my yard list here in South Carolina, I’m thrilled. So, that made this week’s yard bird #125 even more exciting. My wife and I were enjoying breakfast on the deck, where I have a full view of our feeders. There was a lot of bird activity: Cardinals, House Finches and American Goldfinches, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice and Brown-headed Nuthatches were very active.

I caught a flash of yellow and spotted an American Redstart in the oak behind the feeders. As you know, fall warblers often travel in mixed species flocks, so the redstart put me on alert. A couple minutes later I heard a chip call, but couldn’t quite figure out what it was. I grabbed my binocular (I never eat on the deck without binoculars handy!) and moved toward the sound, which was coming from shrubs by the house.

A bolt of black and yellow burst from the hedge beneath our bedroom window – a male Hooded Warbler! Now I recognized the chip call. I had trouble recalling the “chip” because it was out of context. The oak-pine habitat in our yard isn’t right for this species, which is more commonly encountered near wooded wetlands. This male Hooded lingered for much of the day; I heard it calling off-and-on from different spots in the yard.

If you asked me at breakfast to guess the next 10 species I would most likely see in our yard, Hooded Warbler wouldn’t have made the list. During migration, birds can be found outside of their normal and expected habitats. I think this warbler was attracted to the small artificial stream that I built, which is surrounded by thick vegetation. The small patches of habitat that we create in our yards, on school grounds, office parks or golf courses can be important habitat for birds as they migrate. Being surprised by new birds, even in territory as familiar as my yard, is one of my favorite parts to birding.

Paul countered with a surprise weather report: Lucky you Peter, especially since I’m still waiting to find my first Hooded Warbler! Far from any Hooded Warbler’s range, last week the weather took a bad turn in Dakota with almost daily light rain and cooling temperatures, culminating with ice filling my birdbath Thursday morning. That afternoon huge flakes of snow began to fall until the entire landscape was covered in white – Yikes! An early taste of things to come.

To begin the week, similar to the waves of birds that moved through my yard some days during the previous week, Sunday a mixed flock of Orange-crowned and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Hermit Thrushes, American Robins, White-throated and Chipping Sparrows, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Ruby-crowned Kinglets – with the new fall additions of Harris’s Sparrows and, among the Dark-eyed Juncos, an adult Oregon race junco.

By last Monday, as expected, all Swainson’s Hawks had evacuated the region to begin their long migration south to Pampas of Argentina. It was a very obvious and immediate retreat from the Northland considering several Swainson’s were in the area the last couple days of September. It’s good to see that there are many young Red-tailed Hawks and Northern Harriers among the raptors migrating through this area. It’s interesting to note that two of the three fledgling Red-tails I monitored during late summer are still active within a half-mile of their nest site.

As for my hot-chili suet feeder, visitors were limited to Downy Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches and a female Hairy Woodpecker. Thursday, a Fox Squirrel stopped by and sampled the hot suet, but didn’t linger after making some disgusted faces – I doubt it will be back. Your (Peter’s) hot-chili suet suggestion appears to be an excellent one if you don’t want squirrels dominating your feeding station.

Saturday’s October Big Day was a poor day for birding, but I tallied 33 species and several hundred birds in the area, mostly a variety of ducks. It was fun to see a couple nice flocks of Canvasbacks and Ring-necked Ducks, but the outstanding bird was a big female dark-morph Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawk that was colored chocolate-brown with a mostly white tail. She was the first Harlan’s of fall, but I usually see a few during October. Also, a new fall species visited my feeding station Saturday – a colorful male Purple Finch. I see a couple each winter, but hopefully this is the first of many during the projected winter irruption of northern finches. No Hooded Warblers here though; lucky you Peter!

Photographs by Paul Konrad

Paul Konrad and Peter Stangel are the editors of The Birding Wire; share your sightings or photos at editorstbw2@gmail.com

 


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