Not Just Chickadees

The dog wants a walk (what’s new?) and it’s a humid fall Vermont afternoon so why not — perhaps we’ll see some birds in our woods.  So off we go, the Vizsla running here and there as I look and listen for birds.  The trees are still foliage-laden although the soft maples are starting to turn color and drop a leaf now and then.  The falling leaves catch your eye like a moving bird would.

A Yellow-rumped Warbler in today’s poor lighting

A quarter-mile down the trail, I hear a bunch of chickadees calling.  They are almost impossible to see high in the leaves with a grey sky above — but there’s more than Chickadees there — I just saw a flash of yellow — yes, there’s a warbler with yellow on the back — and there he goes.  Not sure what that was.  Another Chickadee, then … hey, that’s a Golden-crowned Kinglet.  More cooperative, it stays around for a good look.  There’s a brownish bird, hard to see other than as a silhouette.  Wait, a flash of yellow — it’s a “butter butt” — a Yellow-rumped Warbler.  But the birds are all moving — high in the trees — and soon the woods are quiet — the whole gang has moved on.  The dog, who’s hung around waiting, gives me one of these, “Can we get moving, Dad?” looks.

I am reminded of a discussion we had on a recent North Branch Nature Center bird walk — where I posed the question about seeing other birds mixed in with Chickadees.  We wondered whether migrants “go to school” on local birds, like the Chickadees, since the residents know the territory food-wise.  It sounded like a decent theory and this little flurry of activity seemed to support it.

We worked our way around our loops in our woods, spotting a couple of Hermit Thrushes and a few other local birds but as we returned to the house, I again heard a bunch of Chickadees, this time high up in the red pines.  It was neck-craning time, with birds directly overhead, moving every which way.  Some were fly-catching: I saw both Yellow-rumps and some sort of flycatcher.  It was tough — terrible light, glasses fogging due to the humidity, birds way up high but it was fun.  It was also 100 yards from home.

Fall migration is not easy — birds are not singing, their color is pretty drab, and the trees still have too much foliage.  Yet, I’m going to continue to listen to my black and white feathered friends because often, it’s not just Chickadees in that tree.

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