Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fall Migration

After a few weeks of slow migration, the past two nights have been excellent for bird movement. Although I have not seen a tremendous number of birds in the mornings, I have certainly heard huge numbers of thrushes migrating overhead and seen masses of birds on the radar map. While out birding this morning, Scarlet Tanagers were the most numerous migrant. Over the course of the morning, I saw more tanagers than warblers, which is unusual for this time of year. Of the warblers I did see, Black-throated Blue Warblers are the only real "migrant" species, for Ovenbirds, Black-and-white Warblers, and American Redstarts frequently breed around my property.

 Even the male Scarlet Tanagers are plain this time of year. I managed to photograph this individual as it flew overhead.

While watching tanagers fly from tree to tree, I spotted a bird darting over the yard. As it flew, I recognized the bird as a cuckoo by the long tail and wing shape. The reddish color on the wings and the yellow on the bill identified it as a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. It is unusual to observe this species flying in the open, so I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to watch and to photograph this bird!

 Yellow-billed Cuckoo in flight - note the reddish patches on the wings. This field mark distinguishes this species from the Black-billed Cuckoo.

 If the lighting is good, the yellow on the bill can be very obvious in flight.

Tonight is shaping up to be another great night for migration. A quick look at the NEXRAD map shows a lot of birds moving in the eastern United States, so if you can get out to do some birding tomorrow, there is a good chance there will be migrants around.

Finally, next weekend is Migration Fest at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center. The weekend will be filled with various programs about the annual migrations of our native wildlife, including bird research presentations, Monarch butterfly tagging demonstrations, a hawk identification workshop, and an evening presentation by Pete Dunne. For more information on this event, visit the Lehigh Gap Nature Center website.

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