Friday, April 18, 2008

Warbler Redux

The yellow-rumped warblers I first saw Wednesday evening were back for more fun and frolic in our hackberry trees last night, Thursday evening, and again this morning. I counted 4-6 of them last night and at least four again this morning. They move around quickly so it is hard to get an exact count. They seem to rove about in a little band of mostly males. One or two seem drab compared with the others so maybe they are females. They don't come down to the feeders at all, but stay up in the hackberry trees pecking insects off the budding branches.

Last night I had the idea of taking my binoculars up to our day room and opening the door so I could have a clear view of them from a higher vantage point. It was raining, but the roof overhangs the doorway so I was able to stand in it and look more or less directly at the birds. Two of them stayed in the hackberry for 15 to 20 minutes. They have yellow patches on their sides just by the front of their wings, yellow crowns, and yellow rumps (of course) which I couldn't actually see from the ground looking up but could see from the day room. They also have pronounced white eye rings that are more prominent than what is shown in Sibley. They weren't bothered by the rain at all.

They are strong fliers and acrobatic when foraging for insects, hanging upside down, twisting every which way, and frequently hovering to peck up insects they couldn't reach from a perch. When one takes off, the rest seem to follow. I hope they hang around for a few more days so Elly can see them when she gets home. They have been the most enjoyable group of feathered visitors we have had in our backyard.

I read in Birds in Missouri by Brad Jacobs (which is a wonderful book for Missouri birders that I purchased at the Backyard Bird Center a few weeks ago) that Lincoln's sparrows, while secretive and rarely seen, will show up on occasion if you scatter birdseed on the ground, which we started doing last fall. I guess that is why we were favored with a visit. It was probably attracted by all the birds which frequent our yard. The house sparrows, mourning doves, and other common urban birds are decoys for the less frequent visitors, who hang about in trees on the margins until things slow down a bit and then fly in for quick foraging raids or just stay in the trees if their preference is for insects.

I wonder if the warblers would have been attracted to our hackberries if all the other birds hadn't been present? I know some people go to considerable lengths to avoid feeding more common birds like starlings, house sparrows, etc. It may be possible that by doing so they are limiting their chances to see rare visitors they are eager to view. That would be ironic.

I saw several dark-eyed juncos last night and a few again this morning. We've gone a few days without having any, and I was starting to wonder if we had seen the last of them until fall. They usually head north for their breeding grounds around the middle of April, not returning until the middle of October. I also saw a white-throated sparrow this morning. They stay year-round, but visit our yard less frequently in warmer months when insects, grubs, and other food is plentiful.

No comments: