Migration in Action

Thursday night I slept in Mr. Neil's attic. It's a kind of frightening area since any movement in the whole house creates creaking sounds that make you think someone is walking right outside your room. There's a large ceiling fan that circulates the air very well and is loud enough to block out any sounds of a ghost or axe murderer that might be waiting for you to sleep so you can be properly killed. But, knowing that migration is underway and since the tops of trees are right outside the window, I left the fan off. I really like to wake up by the sounds of birds so I decided to risk scary noises and leave the fan off.

The creaking commenced. Boy, it really didn't sound like one of the many cats that call this place home...some of it certainly did sound like a biped...I could get up to turn on the fan, but I don't want to attract whatever is out there's attention...

Then I heard it, a distinct high pitched chip call note, then another in response--night migrants!

I had heard of people hearing birds migrating at night and I always wondered what it sounded like. I heard it for the first time when working late at the Minnetonka Wild Bird Store years ago. I was shocked , you could hear dozens of high pitched peeping all around above your head--I had always wondered what it sounded like, and I still wasn't prepared. It's a furtive and quiet sound. I've heard it several times since--mostly in the fall in Duluth. It's eerie and sends chills down my spine but I never tire of it.

From the sounds of it, these weren't huge flocks but they were enough to keep my attention off the ghost in the attic. The next morning I drove to Carpenter for banding and here was the first bird I took out of the net:

"I see you lookin' at my rump, my rump, my lovely yellow rump! Check it out!"

If you weren't sure from the first photo or the above obnoxious clue, we have here a butterbutt aka yellow-rumped warbler (a bird named for what it looks like--I'm shocked). Some people also know this bird as a myrtle warbler too--how many names does this bird need? I like listening to chip call these guys make. It sounds like a kiss to me.

As you can see from the oodles of photos of this male, I couldn't get enough of him. Not all fall warblers are so eye catching and again, you don't often get a chance to appreciate these beauties up close--most of us get fleeting glimpses (often without binoculars).

Okay, one final shot of the butterbutt...speaking of yellow rumps, check out another warbler we got in the net:

Not the bright buttery yellow of the above bird, but more of an olive-rumped bird. When it was brought into the station, everyone was trying to confirm the id--it's a fall warbler...then it gave the ultimate clue. It started pumping its tail...

Palm warbler! I wonder what's up with these birds that they have the need to pump their tails up and down like little Beyonces? Waterthrushes and spotted sandpipers do it too. Does it help get food? I wonder how that evolved and came about?

Incidentally, we found a hummingbird in the nets three times on Friday. We did not band them, but got them out and on their way.