Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A few fall warblers

The extreme upper end of Alum Creek Reservoir, in Delaware County, Ohio. The beginnings of fall tinge the foliage with bits of color. This spot will look autumnally fantastic in a few weeks.

I was here last Saturday at the crack of dawn to photograph plants. There are some interesting meadow-like openings atop high shale bluffs along the east side of the reservoir. They support the striking combination of Showy Goldenrod, Solidago speciosa var. speciosa, and Smooth Aster, Symphyotrichum laeve. I use the nominate trinomial for the former, as this goldenrod is carved into several distinct varieties. One of these, var. rigidiuscula, also occurs in Ohio. It is very rare and listed as state-endangered. The variety I saw on this day is not much more common and is listed as state-threatened.

A Bay-breasted Warbler peeks from oak foliage. About the time that I was through photographing plants, the sun was cresting the distant tree line and casting solar energy onto the nearby treetops. And in came the warblers.

A mixed feeding flock that included at least these species: Tennessee, Nashville, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Cape May, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, and Black-and-white warblers. I may have missed one or two, as I became fixated on trying to capture imagery of the small active animals. In any case, dozens of birds comprised the flock.

A Tennessee Warbler pauses briefly to survey its surroundings. Note its very fine, sharply tipped bill.

Fall warblers are subtle, and don't exactly draw one's eye. The still dense foliage masks them, and in many species the plumage is somewhat more muted than in spring. No males are singing, but the birds regularly emit soft chip notes that alerts one to their presence.

A Magnolia Warbler flits through the shadows within an Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus virginianus. A few small specimens of this conifer were nearby, and I was surprised at the number of warblers foraging among the needles.

The Black-throated Green Warblers were especially smitten with the cedars. Which makes sense, as they are conifer-breeders over most of their range.

A Black-throated Green Warbler hover-gleans cedar foliage. It tugged out what looked like a Juniper Geometer caterpillar, Patalene olyzonaria. This is very common warbler feeding strategy.

Seemingly as quick as the flurry began, it was over. 

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