2022-09-15 Thursday on the Island

Black-Throated Green Warbler - Setophaga virens
A new bird for me during this fall migration on South Padre Island was this Black-Throated Green Warbler.
Hooded Warbler - Setophaga citrina
The Hooded Warblers I’d been meeting on South Padre Island during the fall migration of 2022, were all female. At last, in mid-September, a bright male showed up to dazzle us.
Northern Parula - Setophaga americana
Northern Parulas seemed to enjoy spending their days at the Sheepshead Bird Sanctuary on South Padre Island.

As my time on South Padre draws near its end, I wish I could stay for months, instead of the weeks available in my time-budget. It is especially hard to think about leaving when a fresh supply of warbler species starts showing up. 

Like most days here on the island, I began my morning at the Sheepshead Bird Sanctuary, where I found parulas and flycatchers, and some distant and shy yellow-ish warblers, that were too far away and dancing through the foliage for me to make any identification with certainty, and impossible to photograph. My secret thoughts on these birds is that they must belong to the Family Obscuradae, so named for their love of hiding from me. (Just kidding, folks! I just made up this word!)

Thursday’s treats were a Black-Throated Green and a Magnolia Warbler, which spent some time roaming the grounds at the Convention Centre. When I arrived, those birders already on the scene mentioned a Black-Throated Green Warbler being seen in the thickets adjacent to the water feature, so I parked myself in a promising spot and crossed my fingers, hoping I might get lucky. 

The morning vigil rolled out a bright male Hooded Warbler for me, and I got some images of him in lovely light that were far better than those I captured earlier in the week. The seemingly ever-present Northern Waterthrushes treated me to some close encounters, and I captured some images of a successful foraging effort from a mere ten feet away.

I consider it good luck when an obviously more experienced birder than me shows up that I can learn a trick-or-two from. Today, it was Brad who broadened my knowledge base. I learned years ago that recognising bird vocalizations is valuable in finding and identifying my feathered quarry. Songs are more distinctive to diagnose, but during migrations, call notes are often all they utter. During the past two weeks, I figured out the call of the Northern Waterthrush. There’s is a loud harsh note that can be heard at a distance, but other birds issue much softer notes. Brad’s ears seemed attuned to some of these subtler sounds, and I picked his brain as best I could. He described the Hooded Warbler’s call note as similar to the waterthrush, but slightly muted. When he walked away from the water feature to explore other places on the property, I stayed and listened to birds unseen. Both the Hooded Warbler and the Northern Waterthrush were bouncing through the nearby understory and issuing their call notes. Eventually, I started to hear the differences.

As mid-day neared, the heat and humidity ramped up, and the sound of nearby thunder rumbled. I thought better of my decision to remain at my station at the water feature. When I was walking out to my RV, I spotted some yellow-ish warblers in a tree near the van. To my delight, I had found the Black-Throated Green Warbler, and it was in the company of a Magnolia Warbler. Of course, they did their best to pay homage to the Family Obscuradae by hiding behind dangling leaves. Despite their tactics, The Black-Throated Green bird gave up one good image, and the Magnolia provided several more.

As this meeting happened while I was in the act of departing the stage, it fit with what my friend Mary would call the Walk Away Renee syndrome. This is when the mere thought of leaving your post, triggers a series of bird meetings you thought were done. I looked out over the lawn and saw birds bouncing around in the trees, similar to what I’d seen on earlier spring visits here on the island. I had to abandon my plan to seek shelter from the oppressive heat, and try my luck a little longer.

Some of the birds I enjoyed on this day were American Redstarts, American White Ibis, Black-and-White Warblers, Black-Throated Green Warblers, Eastern Wood-Pewees, Hooded Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, Mourning Warblers, Northern Parulas, Northern Waterthrushes, and Wilson’s Warblers.

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