Hooded Warbler and Other Fall Migrants – Missing a Lot

One warm mid morning in late September, the trees in our front yard seemed lively with little birds. A Pine Warbler sang, an Eastern Phoebe hunted from low branches, a pair of Eastern Bluebirds swept down to the grass for insects and back up into an oak, and an Eastern Wood-Pewee repeatedly flew off and returned to a high bare branch in a pecan tree. A Carolina Wren fussed and trilled and came to the birdbath for a drink. Two Chipping Sparrows chased each other through the wax myrtles and river birches. Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers called.

With a flash of bright yellow, a small bird flew down from the branches of a water oak onto the ground a few yards away from where I stood. It snapped up something from the mulch, took a quick look around and flew back up into the tree – a female Hooded Warbler, with brilliant yellow face, throat and breast, dramatically framed by a smooth, dark-olive hood and back.

This brief, colorful view of a Hooded Warbler was one of the few migrants I’ve seen this fall season, mainly because of traveling and other commitments. I know I’ve missed a lot. But despite being often away or distracted, there still have been some other nice highlights.

Chestnut-sided, Magnolia and Black-and-white Warblers, American Redstart, and Eastern Wood-Pewees have passed through. The Eastern Wood-Pewees stayed around for two weeks or more, hunting from high open perches and giving soft puh-wee calls. I’ve come across a good number of Red-eyed Vireos, Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, and Yellow-billed Cuckoos – some probably migrants, as well as those that spent the summer here. But so far I haven’t seen a single spotted thrush – Wood Thrush, Swainson’s, Gray-cheeked, Hermit – one September not so long ago, I found all four in one big dogwood tree at the edge of the woods, eating red berries.

But each year is different, and the habitat around the neighborhood and around our own yard changes from year to year. We’ve lost a good many pines near the edge of the woods, opening up some new scrubby habitat, although there still are some large pines and plenty of oaks, tulip poplars, sweet gums, dogwoods and other hardwoods.

Acorns shower down from the white oaks all day and all night – sounding like hailstones as they land on the deck outside our bedroom windows. The pecans don’t fall because the squirrels get most of them first. Almost every day we see several white-tailed deer grazing in the yard – does, young fawns, and young bucks, and I hope they’re mostly eating acorns, though they also munch on just about anything green along the way.

One female Ruby-throated Hummingbird was still visiting our feeder toward the end of last week, but I haven’t seen her in two or three days now, and I haven’t heard a White-eyed Vireo sing or a Gray Catbird mew in the old field for about a week, so I think they’ve gone. Most active in the field are dozens of Northern Mockingbirds. Fiery orange Gulf Fritillary butterflies flicker like tiny flames over the grasses and dense stands of yellow goldenrod and ragweed. The Red-tailed Hawks that used to sit on the utility poles have drifted away to spend most of their days in some other territory. Instead, two or three Black Vultures often are perched on the poles or soaring.

In more wooded areas, the cries of Red-shouldered Hawks have become more common, I’m not sure why. One morning recently, a Red-shouldered Hawk flew low across the road in front of me as I walked through a wooded section, out of pecan trees scattered around a large grassy yard and into deeper woods. The kleer! calls of Northern Flickers also have become more common, as more Flickers drift in here for the season.

And very welcome cooler weather has arrived. Temperatures dipped into the 40s last night for the first time, and all day today has been beautifully chilly and breezy. Barred Owls called several times during the night.

Leave a Reply