Friday, May 13, 2016

Easy Like Summit Morning

Rain rolling in over Montreal
The spot where I saw a Northern Parula a few days ago
Great Crested Flycatcher Myiarchus crinitus

American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla
Blackburnian Warbler Setophaga fusca
Philadelphia Vireo Vireo philadelphicus
  After having birded with a fine batch of chaps in Korea for a decade, I feel like I learned a thing or two about the birds there.  Maybe I earned a sort of 'Master's in Korean Birding', and became the country's 6th best birder (out of six birders, har har).  Back in North America, I'm definitely back in kindergarten when it comes to the birds, bumbling my way through spring. 
  A case in point - this morning at the Westmount Summit, I heard an odd House Sparrow-like chirrup coming from a warbler-shaped bird high in the treetops.  For several minutes, I was only able to get the briefest of glimpses of the undersides.  Viewed during a brief sunny outburst, the belly and chin appeared to have a bright lemony yellow hue, fading to white towards the vent.  I wasn't able to see the face properly.  The mystery bird started to head away towards the road, so I tried to get some record shots before it departed.  I was puzzled by this bird, clearly not a warbler, in spite of...looking like a warbler.  I flicked through my Sibley's, and thought it looked most like a Yellow-throated Vireo, at least from my poor views of the yellowy underparts.  This wasn't a satisfying answer to me, as this species seems to be just out of its range here.  
  Thankfully, I ran into Chuck Kling and another sage fellow, and, after hearing my description and looking at my terrible record shot (which I hadn't yet done!) they helped me ID the bird as a Philadelphia Vireo, which makes much more sense, range-wise.  The white markings around the eye are hinted at in the image, and I noticed that the yellow looked much more subdued than the impression I got when looking at the bird through bins.  Don't always trust the picture in the book...or what you think your eyes are seeing, for that matter!  I'm thankful for the ID help from those veteran birders - it's always fun soaking up new birding tips.
  Gaining so much bird knowledge in a hurry is one of the upsides of being in 'Bird Kindergarten' again, and another is how relatively easy it is to pick up lifers.  Aside from the Philadelphia Vireo, the Great Crested Flycatcher and Blackburnian Warbler I saw were also new, and long-awaited, birds for me. 
  Other warblers encountered on this birdy morning included a pair of Magnolia Warblers, several Black-throated Green Warblers, a female Yellow-rumped Warbler, two Black-and-White Warblers, and two American Redstarts.  
  There was a notable absence of Ruby-crowned Kinglets at the Summit, and the 'hordes' of White-throated Sparrows seen a few days ago seem to have moved on, with only several skulkers remaining.  On the walk home, an uptick in Blue Jay activity and a pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were noted.  Ughhhh my neck hurts from staring up into the treetops.  Here are some more unapologetically terrible record shots from my morning, heh heh.

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