May 8, 2009
After the very "Big Spring Day" last Saturday, the rest of this month will probably be anticlimactic. I went back to Betsy Bell Hill just after noon on Monday, but it was raining and all I saw were a pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, an Ovenbird, and a Wood Thrush. Later on over at Gypsy Hill Park, in a light drizzle, I saw a Yellow warbler and Yellow-rumped warbler, both females, as well as a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and several Northern Rough-winged swallows.
On Wednesday around noon, I stopped at Piney River in Nelson County, and soon spotted my main target species: a Yellow-breasted Chat, which I had seen in the same place about a year earlier. I heard Prairie Warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and White-eyed Vireos, but never saw any. Here are the highlights of what I saw:
Back home later in the afternoon, I noticed an odd smallish bird walking around the mulch under the bushes out back, and soon realized it was a Waterthrush! But which of the two species? After getting a good look at its supercilium ("eyebrow"), I decided it was a Northern Waterthrush, the first of the season for me, and probably the first I have ever seen in this neighborhood. Sometimes when you're too busy to go bird watching, you get lucky and the birds come to you. I had seen a Louisiana Waterthrush at McCormick's Mill in March. Northern Waterthrushes migrate later in the season.
YuLee Larner reported on the 2009 Big Spring Day in her weekly column in the News Leader, and was very kind to mention my name, regarding my good luck in spotting all those warblers. YuLee had a health emergency recently, but she has been well taken care of, and is recovering steadily. All birders from this area and beyond wish her well.
Speaking of birds coming to see you, rather than the other way around, here's something you don't see every day: