Last Thursday, I found myself on an expedition to look for birds in Mohican State Forest. We are near the height of passage for many songbirds, such as warblers. At one point, we were in an opening in an upland oak-hickory forest when we encountered a large mixed flock. The Red-eyed Vireos caught our attention first. In all, we tallied three dozen or more, all visible at once. They were joined by a Yellow-throated Vireo and a smattering of warblers: Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Blackburnian, Black-throated Green, Chestnut-sided.
The vireos, especially, are complete caterpillar-hawks. Neotropical songbirds such as those listed above move south from the breeding grounds at the peak of caterpillar abundance, and that's no coincidence. Caterpillars are BY FAR the largest group of herbivores in the eastern deciduous forest, and long-distance migrant songbirds snap them up by the billions, collectively.
During lulls in the birding, we turned our eyes to the foliage and were able to find several of our more interesting caterpillars.
Caterpillars of Eastern North America. Brown-hooded owlets shun trees, and should be sought feeding on goldenrods or asters. This one was found on gray goldenrod, Solidago nemoralis.