Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, and Magnolia Warbler

Although many migrating songbirds are being reported as they move through this part of Georgia, neotropical migrants so far have been few and far between here in our neighborhood, noticeably fewer than in previous years. This was also true in the spring – so I’m afraid it may be the result of more development and habitat loss – but I’m not really sure. We do still have many wooded areas and creeks and a variety of habitats that might attract migrants. Maybe it’s only my own failure to find them.

This morning – another sunny day with a big, clear, deep-blue September sky – few birds seemed to be around. But in one spot, where sunlight was falling on pecan trees in a large, grassy yard, there was a small flurry of activity, including a few migrating songbirds.

A female Scarlet Tanager – yellow-green with shadow-dark wings – searched the leaves for insects. A Summer Tanager called pik-a-tuk from somewhere hidden among the foliage. A Black-and-white Warbler crept silently over the trunks and larger branches. A Red-eyed Vireo – sleek, creamy white breast, gray back and elegant white stripe over the eye – also searched the leaves for insects. A small bird with a gray head, bright yellow belly, a throat that appeared pale, and two prominent wing-bars emerged from the leaves to sit for a few moments on a branch – a Magnolia Warbler, high enough up in the treetop to show the white and dark-tipped tail from below. Another bird I’m not so sure of – larger, with distinct touches of cinnamon in the edges of the wings and edges of a rather long tail – I think it was a Great Crested Flycatcher, but did not see it well.

Two Brown-headed Nuthatches chattered as they fed in the same trees, and an Eastern Phoebe hunted quietly from low branches, and when it paused to sit and bob its tail, it showed pale, lemon-yellow on the breast, its fall color. A Pine Warbler trilled its song from the woods across the street.

A bit further up the road, several Eastern Bluebirds perched in treetops – in one pecan tree with bare branches sticking up at the top, six bluebirds perched together, all facing the morning sun and preening. One Eastern Wood-pewee called puh-weee.

Northern Mockingbirds were singing this morning in at least three different places, for the first time in a while. A Belted Kingfisher flew over, rattling. A Northern Flicker called a loud kleer! And a Red-shouldered Hawk cried kee-yer from somewhere beyond the trees. A White-eyed Vireo continues to sing, and a Gray Catbird calls a raspy mew in the old field – which looks very bedraggled, withered and dry.

After several cool, fall-like days last week, our weather is warming up again – and still very, very dry. No rain at all, to speak of, since late July, I think. And none in sight. Today the forecast is for low 90s again. The trees and all the vegetation are showing signs of stress from lack of rain, and I can’t help but think that songbirds and other birds must be having a hard time in the hot, dry weather, too.

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