My Nature Journal – March 2022
American Goldfinch! I mean Blue-wing!
I went birding in a group for the first time since the Pandemic started. It felt so good in the sunshine, the light breezes, and walking on trails through the woods with fellow birders.
Several of the birders hadn’t been to the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education before, they were delighted with the land and the successful birding.
We saw several species of birds. The day’s highlight for me were, the just returned, Blue-wing Warblers.
I am the first to admit, I am terrible at identifying warblers. To me most of them are little yellow birds that move quickly through the trees, and usually in deep shade. On a birding walk, let the warbler ‘experts’ tell me what bird I’m looking at. This trip was no different.
The flash of yellow on the platform feeder at the bird blind, lead me to confidently state, “Goldfinch”. The other birders said, “Blue-winged Warbler”. I whipped out my Sibley’s folding guide to Warblers of Eastern North America. It still didn’t look like a Blue-winged to me. I kept seeing black streaks on the side of the breast, where there weren’t any. Why, Donna, why?
I just gave up and said, “Blue-winged Warbler”!
Cooper’s Hawk and Love is in the Air
We disturbed them. A pair of Cooper’s Hawk were mating or just about to mate. A group of twenty onlookers, staring at them through binoculars, made them fly off. Hawks have extremely good eyesight. No matter where we stood, the birds would have seen us. We knew they would return once we moved off. We were so excited to see them.
Cooper’s are year-round residents in the Philadelphia area. The hawks I most often see around here are Red-tails (there are a lot of Red-tails), Sharpies (Sharp-shinned Hawks), and Cooper’s.
Sharpies (Accipiter striatus) are smaller than Cooper’s (Accipiter cooperii). And the tails are a key to identification. Sharpie tails are slightly notched or square when folded. Cooper’s tails are is well rounded even when folded. And the Cooper’s tail has more white at the tip than a Sharpie.
What Other Birds Were Spotted?
We saw the usual residents: Turkey Vultures, Robins, Crows, Blue Jays, Canada Geese, Goldfinches, Carolina Chickadees, and a few other species.
Dark-eyed Juncos are still here in southeastern Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia area. Juncos winter here and live year-round in the forests farther north in Pennsylvania and beyond.
In Color Birding
The group I went birding with is a new organization in Philly, In Color Birding. It’s a birding group for BIPOC folks. BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. The group is open to BIPOC and their allies, meaning non-BIPOC folks can come along, too.
The group exists because often BIPOC folks are subject to micro-aggressions to make them feel unwelcome when they bird with mainstream birding groups. The microaggressions aren’t made by everyone in birding groups. Generally there is that one person who has to let you know that you don’t “belong”. In BIPOC groups all are made to feel welcome. We had a great time. In Color Birding can be found on the Internet at https://www.incolorbirding.org/
The Blue-winged Warbler Returns
When I returned home I did a little research on the bird that tripped me up. The Blue-wings we saw must have recently returned from Central America. The species breeds here in the East and winters in Mexico to Panama. And we found them just where they are supposed to be: in a woodland openings, field edges, undergrowth, and bushy edges.
The species eats mainly insects. I wasn’t sure what it was eating or just looking at the bird feeding platform. The platform usually has just seeds. Maybe there were some grubs or dried insects included in the mix.
The call is described as a buzzy, “beeee-bzzz” as if inhaled and exhaled, and sounds like a deep sigh. The call is a sharp dry ‘snik’ or ‘chik’.
I’ll know this bird the next time I see it. One warbler identified, and 52 warblers to go!
More Nature Journal March 2022 Highlights
I snapped a photo of a Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) peeking its head out of a cavity nest in a dead Norway Maple snag near my back garden. Starlings make their nests out of grass in abandoned woodpecker holes, natural cavities or nest boxes.
The House Sparrows are building their nests in the neighbor’s holly bush. I put out a variety of broken lavender twigs, dried lavender springs, and string on a platform feeder near the holly bush. I could tell they did use some of the materials. See the post Put Out Nesting Materials – March 1.
- The flies and gnats are out and about.
- The bees are buzzing around.
- The turtles were out sunning at the water catchment pond at the Schuylkill Center.
- Daffodils are in full bloom.
- My peach and cherry trees are in bud.
- And the spring ephemerals, Virginia Bluebells leaves are above ground. They’ll be blooming soon.
That’s my nature journal wrap up for March 2022. I’ve split the nature almanac into a seperate post. Including my nature journal and the nature almanac was making for one long blog post.
What’s going on it your neck of the woods?
More Spring Articles
Spring Ephemerals – Early Bloomers for Your Backyard Habitat
Robins, Worms, and Rain – How the Three are Connected