Lawrence's Warbler Around The Beehives

With all my travel, I was worried I was going to miss one of my favorite parts of spring: Trillium

But thanks to the cold, wet spring, the wildflowers were late and I did have some quality time among some trillium at Mr. Neil's. I think I have missed the morel window but there's so much to pay attention to in early spring, that missing that edible fungus is negotiable in my mind.

While dealing with beehives yesterday, I couldn't help but mentally note all the birds singing and what warblers were still around. Some breed there like American redstart, common yellowthroat, pine warbler and ovenbird. Others are late movers like Tennessee warbler and blackburnian warbler. There have been blue-winged warblers that have nested there in the past. And then last year, I was surprised to find a Lawrence's warbler where the blue-wings have traditionally nested.

After checking the bees, I was debating about morel hunting or getting shots of birds for my Digiscoping Big Year. Heading down the hill into the woods towards the morel patch, I heard a blue-winged warbler call...only it wasn't a blue-winged was the Lawrence's and it followed us around, making my attention towards morels shaky at best. I decided to plant myself down in the woods to get some photos. Of course, the Lawrence's disappeared, but like anything, if you sit quietly in one spot, if the bird you are after is on territory, it will return.

Common Yellowthroat


The nearby common yellowthroat was very cooperative and I got shots of it with both my Nikon V1 through my scope and with my iPhone 4s through my scope. I love the above--Disapproving Yellowthroat! That was taken with an iPhone 4s through the scope.

common yellowthroat singing


Since the bird was singing and out, I thought I'd experiment and get a video. As I was filming him, I heard the blue-winged warbler call again...

So above you can see and hear the Lawrence's warbler. I'm betting this is the same bird as last year. But without banding it, how can I be certain?  I know Lawrence's is a hybrid of blue-winged and golden-winged warblers but can never remember the actual combo.

lawrence's warbler


Here's the thing...there's a lot we don't know. Blue-winged warblers and golden-winged warblers will hybridize and produce what's called a Brewster's warbler. A Lawrence's is believed to be the result of a Brewster's backcrossing with a blue-winged warbler.  Note that word, "believed?" There's still quite a bit we don't know, golden-wings could still be in the mix somewhere. Given what I know about the birds breeding around Mr. Neil's I think that is likely this bird is the result of the Brewster's and blue-winged warbler pairing. Last year, this bird was singing in the exact spot that the blue-winged warblers have nested and this habitat isn't the best for golden-winged warblers. I've only had one or two golden-wings during migration.

So, now I'm wondering...was there a Brewster's three or four years ago breeding with the blue-winged warbler and I missed it? The blue-wings have become such regulars and I don't like to disturb them where I know they nest. And I get distracted during bee season, I think it is highly likely that I could miss a Brewster's.

However this bird got here, I couldn't help but lay on the (most likely tick infested) ground and listen to this bird make it's rounds on territory while singing--how many crazy nature things went into it being where I was. Assuming it's the same bird as last year: It's survived migrating into South America at least twice. It is the result of its grandparents hybridizing and its hybrid parent backcrossing with a blue-winged (or possible golden-winged warbler). So much I can know about this bird and yet so much I don't.

lawrences warbler singing

I mentioned earlier that I wasn't sure I could count aplomado falcon on my Digiscoping Big Year because it's considered and introduced population and not sustainable on its own. But, it's a species and that bird wasn't banded so it could actually be a wild bird that flew up from Mexico. And this is about getting pictures of birds in the wild, so I counted it. But hybrids are not countable on the ABA list either. They aren't even included as a check in eBird. But I'm counting this bird. I'm not really following ABA guidelines and it was work to digiscope this bird, so Lawrence's warbler is 170 on my Digiscoping Big Year.

If you would like to read more about golden-winged warbler and blue-winged warbler hybrids here are some good articles here and here.


Are You Seeing Tiny Birds with Yellow Spots?

Today, I had a co-worker ask me, "Is it possible that I saw a bird called a dick-shizzle?" I don't think they were using Snoop Dog speak to talk birds, I think he mean dickcissel.  It is possible to see them, but it's a bit early, but in migration anything can happen.  He said that it had yellow on either side of its chest and yellow on top.  I knew exactly what he saw:

A yellow-rumped warlber. These early arriving warblers have already passed through the southern US but they're hitting Minnesota hard as they work they way north to their breeding grounds.  This is the time of year that I would expect them, but because we've had a cold snap with rain and snow, they are having a challenging time finding food, part of the risk of an early return.  They eat insects, but they are scarce, they'll go for seeds, buds and fruit.  You might even see them flitting around the bird feeder going for suet or sunflower seeds.

This bird has a couple of different names, one is "Butter Butt" because it looks like there's a pat of butter on their rumps, the other is "Myrtle Warbler" because there are two different types of yellow rumps, an eastern version (the Myrtle) and a western version (the Auduobn's).

They're very noticeable as they dart around tree branches and flit around on the ground flashing periodic patches of yellow.  Their call note in flocks almost sounds like a kiss, you may have noticed it while walking around your neighborhood.

Yellow-rumps are the last warblers to leave in the fall and the first to arrive in spring.  These tiny, hardy birds are the warning that all those crazy colored warblers that birders go ga ga for are about to arrive.  Enjoy them while they last.


Wild Flowers And Blue-winged Warblers

Last fall, I went on a tear to get rid of some buckthorn and start replenishing the woods with bee and bird friendly plants (with mostly native plants) in Mr. Neil's woods. I've tried to make a sincere effort to learn my wildflowers and if I've learned anything, it's that if I find a flower very attractive, it's non-native.

I got some large-flowering trillium last fall and planted that on the slope where the big fallen oak has been hosting sparrows all winter. Alas, it does not appear to be popping up. As I was feeling sorry for myself and wondering what I could do differently, I noticed this, mere feet from where I planted the trillium:

Nodding trillium! Growing all on its own, without me planting it! Has it always been growing on this hill and since I'm always bird watching that I have just never noticed it? That's quite possible--really, the only wildflower I knew before this was Dutchman's breeches and Jack-In-The-Pulpit (which we have a ginormous amount of Jack's this year). Refreshed and excited, I decided to head into the woods to see what other flowers might be popping up and to try and get some warbler shots. I head to the spot where a major buckthorn removal had taken place and found:

A butt load of garlic mustard. One of the reasons I have never bothered to learn my plants is that I didn't want to know too much. Once you know what the invasive species are and how quickly they spread and how hard they are to get rid of--you begin to see it everywhere and feel a sort of powerlessness about it. This area floods every spring. So if we begin a garlic mustard removal plan, more will just be flooded in. As I was thinking in my head about what I'd read on the Internet regarding garlic mustard removal, I noticed higher up on a hill, a patch of flowers surrounded by garlic mustard...

It was a large patch of native wildflowers including large-flowered trillium and some rue anemone (and if I misidentify any flowers, please someone correct me, I'm still learning and need all the help I can get). I also found spring beauties, wild geranium, phlox, and something I cannot identify in my books and online:

Does anyone know what this is? I have a feeling it's non-native since I find them so pretty. Here's a shot so you can see the leaves:

So, even though there is still buckthorn and now oodles of garlic mustard, there is still some hope in the woods with some native flowers and our bees out there using them for nectar.

After I finished inspecting the wildflower situation, I headed towards the spot where we find giant puffballs because blue-winged warblers have nested there since I have been coming to Mr. Neil's. I heard one singing right away, found a spot with some open areas so I could aim my digiscoping equipment and waited. It wasn't long before a pair of blue-winged warblers were out and foraging. The birds seemed to have a circuit that they would follow from tree to tree, searching for tiny insects. By watching the circuit a few times, I got a sense of their route and could kind of follow along with the scope and digiscope some photos.

The blue-winged warblers were not bothered by my presence whatsoever and a few times foraged for insects about two feet above my head. Blue-wings are an interesting species. They hybridize with golden-winged warblers and may be contributing to the decline of the golden-wing. When blue-winged warblers move into the same range as the golden-wing--the pure golden-wings disappear to hybrids and eventually all become golden-wings. You can read more about it (and maybe even participate in a study) at Cornell's Golden-winged Warbler Atlas Project.

What a pleasant way to enjoy the evening sun with a blue-winged warbler. I even managed to get a video of the warbler singing his buzzy "bluuuuuuuuuuuuuue wing" song and foraging--enjoy!

Two Different Witchities

We birded Glendalough State Park during the Detroit Lakes Bird Festival. There were common yellowthroats singing on territory all over. I even managed to get video of them through my spotting scope and digital camera. They are usually described as having a song that says, "witchety, witchety, witchety" but sometimes they can be a little different. Here are two different common yellowthroats singing, the first is the usual call and the second is just a little different (you can go directly to YouTube and watch them in high definition if you want):

What Goes Around My Home During the Day

I am so amazed at my body's ability to sleep with whatever virus has taken hold. I can take a couple of DayQuils and a giant mug of coffee and still fall fast asleep on the couch! How is this happening?

And maybe this is the DayQuil speaking but Chris Eccleston is hot, hot, HOT! Non Birding Bill has introduced me to the Dr. Who series (the old series), so being sick at home I thought I would turn on the tv and I discovered a Dr. Who marathon (the new series) on the Sci Fi channel today. Oh, gone are the days of the lanky man with bushy hair and a long scarf--hallo sexy, dark, broody, well dressed (and did I mention sexy?) Chris Eccleston. Unfortunately, Mr. Eccleston didn't continue the series and ended up regenerating himself at the end of season one (something time lords do to evade death) and the Dr. is now played by David Tennant--a little cheekier, not as broody, but he'll have to do.

Meanwhile when not watching daleks run amok, I watched the warblers that still have the trees in my neighborhood under siege. I assumed my chair at the window and watched the parade of kinglets, palm warblers, butter butts, Nashvilles and Tennessees. Some of them even flew over towards my window and hopped about in my flower boxes. However, I am so slow on the uptake that I couldn't get a photo. Then, an odd looking squirrel caught my attention. My apartment faces the ally and it is common to see squirrels raiding the dumpsters. Then it occurred to me that this squirrel was moving strangely and the tail wasn't bushy, then horrid realization set in:

A rat! In broad daylight, a rat checking out all the dumpsters! I know rats are everywhere and they are not new to me. I've seen them in New York, I dealt with them when I managed a bird store and goodness knows I have hacked up my fair share as hawk chow at The Raptor Center, but it still threw me for a loop seeing it right down below.

"Rats! I don't approve of rats! Keep them away from my food."

Yeah, Cinnamon, I don't care for them myself. It was interesting watching the rat systematically test out the building across the way for openings to get inside. It really didn't seem to be too distressed at being out and about in broad daylight. For some reason I always thought of them as being nocturnal.

The rat then made its way around the corner to a stick pile in my noisy neighbor's yard. I went to the bathroom window to watch and it came face to face with a squirrel. Look at the rat in relation to the gray squirrel in the above photo--I mean really, apart from the bushy tail, it's about the same size! The squirrel kept a healthy distance from the rat. It didn't leave but worked to keep the brush pile between it and the rat. The rat on the other hand just seemed to try and get as close to the squirrel as it could perhaps out of curiosity or maybe just trying to show that it wasn't going to be intimidated. The rat eventually moved on to another area of the noisy neighbor's yard. I was surprised that it didn't make a beeline for the area under my bird feeders, but there's probably tastier pickins in the dumpsters.

I think we need something cleansing after a rat. Happily, a warbler delivered. I could hear some warblers outside my bathroom window, so I quietly pished and low and behold:

This is not digiscoped, as if on cue this yellow-rumped warbler just popped down to check out the pishing coming from the bathroom window. So cute!