7/5 Spring is a Birdy Memory

 

P1010147
Young male Indigo bunting in a grapevine tangle

It was a glorious spring, long and cool as it rarely is in the Ohio valley. The woods were filled with singing birds and families with nothing else to do. Warblers, thrushes and other neotropical travelers rested and foraged, affording a rare chance to see the many birds that don’t nest here.

P1010220

IMG_3430

In May, masses of golden flowered Butterweed (Packera glabella) crowded the sunny wet spots, surrounded by dense young growth of Virginia wild rye. Except for the random dead stump, it’s hard to remember that sites like the ones above were dominated by Bush honeysuckle and little else just ten years ago.

P1010198

Fluffy cottonwood seeds drifted down and settled on the wetlands, making for an eerily lit scene at dusk. For all the millions of seeds produced I almost never see a young tree; the understory has become shadier than this pioneer species can tolerate.

P1010121

Spring is the time for stinkhorns, often smelled before they are seen. This Dog stinkhorn’s nauseous odor comes from the sticky brown spore layer known as the “gleba”. It smells great to flies, who alight and then carry off spores on their feet.

P1010091
Bay breasted warbler foraging under Box elder leaves

Every few days it seemed, a new wave of avian migrants arrived. Many frustrating hours were spent trying to photograph warblers as they flitted about high in the canopy.

P1010081
Swainson’s thrush fluffing after a dip in the stream

Thushes were more accommodating, being somewhat sedentary by nature.

P1010093

This spring I learned that big-eyed Acadian flycatchers nest here, their explosive “piz-za” call ringing from the treetops…

P1010022

As well as the familiar Eastern Wood-peewee, who conveniently sings its name.

P1010196

Indigo buntings seemed to be singing from every tall snag, as this forest increasingly becomes a sunny open woodland. Something else I learned this spring – younger male Indigo buntings look all patchy, quite different from the saturated hues of adult males.

P1010449

P1010394

But I’m still flummoxed at times by the muted brown females – with their stout beak and streaked breast they’re vaguely sparrow/finch-like. Usually the males are close by, which clinches the ID.

P1010223

This fledgling Carolina chickadee had no tail feathers yet, and sported adorable little tufts of baby fluff on its head.

P1010225

Having landed near the ground, it didn’t have the flying skills to rejoin its parents, who were calling from above. Instead, it hopped on a stout grapevine and hitched its way, woodpecker style, back up to them.

P1010118
Black rat snake basking in the sun.

With so many nesting birds there are opportunities for reptiles that like to hang out in bushes and trees. Black rat snakes are abundant here; in spring they’re often spotted sunning by the trail, to some hikers dismay!

P1010189

Now the heat and humidity have settled in along with the mosquitos, and dense summer growth fills the understory. Most of the birds have gotten quieter, busy with the summer grind of parenting. Almost nobody is out walking the trails, which makes it very peaceful. Life goes on in this little bit of forest.

P1010436

 

10 thoughts on “7/5 Spring is a Birdy Memory

  1. shoreacres

    Your juvenile bunting reminds me of cardinals when they go splotchy. That’s a fine snake, too. I just walk talking with someone about how odd it was when I lived in Liberia to have to accustom myself to arboreal snakes. For me, ‘snake’ and ‘ground’ were firmly joined — now I know that’s not always so.

    We’ve moved into hot and humid, too, and things are growing quiet. The mallards are seeking shade now, and when that happens, we know that full summer has arrived.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. oneforestfragment

      Wow, I looked up arboreal snakes of Liberia and learned they were not just dangling above you but venomous as well! I have heard Black rat snakes vibrate their tails in dry leaves, and it sounds like a rattlesnake.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s