Yellow-throated Vireo and Chestnut-sided Warbler

Highlights from a walk in the State Botanical Garden in Athens this morning included the sunny song of a Yellow-throated Vireo; the brilliant crimson, white and black of a Red-headed Woodpecker; a glimpse of a Chestnut-sided Warbler among leaves; and a Chipping Sparrow, a female Blue Grosbeak, and a Swainson’s Thrush feeding together in a patch of weeds.

The day was very warm and bright with a clear blue sky and hardly a cloud. The trees and shrubs almost all are still deep, dark green, with hints of crusty brown and yellow.

The Yellow-throated Vireo was singing in a tall pine near the parking lot when I first arrived. I stood for several minutes below, listening to its song and hoping to see the bird, but couldn’t find it until it suddenly left the top of the pine and flew away to trees in the distance – where it continued to sing. After I heard Yellow-throated Vireos singing several more times during the morning, without ever seeing one, it became the bird of the day for me.

The colorful but elusive vireo – with yellow throat and breast, yellow-green head and back, yellow spectacles, clean white belly, and two white wingbars – all of which I could see only in my imagination – seems a good parting image as this summer of few birds nears an end.

Better luck came when I was watching three Eastern Bluebirds in a sweet gum tree when a gorgeous Red-headed Woodpecker flew into the top of the tree. Its ink-black back, broad patches of white in the wings, and blood-red head were brilliant as it clung to the trunk in clear view for two or three minutes, before flying again.

A little further on, a rustle in the lower leaves of an oak on the edge of the woods drew attention to a small warbler with two yellowish wingbars, a green back, and gray face with a white eye-ring – a first-fall female Chestnut-sided Warbler. It moved in a quick, light way through the leaves, searching for insects. This was the only warbler I found during the morning, except for Pine Warblers, which trilled their musical songs from the woods. But I also heard the sharp chick-brrrr calls of a Scarlet Tanager and the song of a Red-eyed Vireo, and though this was fewer migrants than I had hoped for, it was a beautiful morning, with lots of other bird activity, and a good way to enjoy one of the last days of summer.

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