It was a busy time for birds. Besides the Red-shouldered Hawks snatching frogs out of the Wetlands, Carolina Chickadees feeding their young in a nest in a Loblolly Pine between Catch the Wind and Explore the Wild, and the Red-bellied Woodpeckers sitting on eggs in another loblolly in front of the Lemur House, many new seasonal arrivals and migrants have been observed.
After a seven-month absence, a Green Heron was back on station on 28 April. As if it had never left the Wetlands, this colorful little heron (it’s very likely the same heron that was here last year) was trying to snag fish and tadpoles from the water while perched on one of the stumps just off the boardwalk in front of the Black Bear Exhibit. Welcome back!
The first Chimney Swifts of the year were seen foraging over Catch the Wind on the 26th of the month. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were seen, first at the Butterfly House April 22nd and in Explore the Wild a few days later.
A Great-crested Flycatcher was heard on 4/23 and thereafter. The first Red-eyed Vireos were seen on 4/27 and, although seen earlier in the month, two Rough-winged Swallows were seen perched on a snag in the Wetlands on the same day.
The first singing House Wren of the season was heard on 25 April. Ruby-crowned Kinglets have been heard singing their rapid, buzzy, whistly songs around the Explore the Wild/Catch the Wind Loop. They often begin singing before departing for points north and their breeding grounds. Wood Thrushes are back (4/25) as are Gray Catbirds, the first squeaky notes of a catbird being heard on April 22nd in the swamp adjacent to the Wetlands Overlook. If you want to see and hear what a Gray catbird looks and sounds like, check out this YouTube video.
Cedar Waxwings are still being seen. A group of 60 or so were seen in the trees above the main entrance to Explore the Wild.
Several singing Northern Parulas, a Black-throated Blue Warbler, and breeding plumaged Yellow-rumped Warblers were all seen on 26 April. Yellow-throated Warblers were first spied on 4/18 along with a single singing Prothonotary Warbler. Although at least one Yellow-throated Warbler remains in the area, the Prothonotary was not heard from again. An Eastern Palm Warbler showed up on the 22nd and a Yellow-breasted Chat was briefly heard on the 26th behind the Ornithopter.
A Rose-breasted Grosbeak was heard and then seen feeding high in the canopy on 26 April.
Like the Ruby-crowned Kinglets above, White-throated Sparrows are tuning up their vocals before leaving our area for their nesting grounds further north. Their sweet, plaintive, whistled songs can be heard from the underbrush or along wooded edges. They often get only half their song out before starting over again or quitting altogether, as if practicing so as to get it just right for their debuts on the breeding grounds. It is a pleasant song.
Common Grackles have been observed flying back and forth from the Wetlands to some uknown location behind the Ornithopter. Their bills are empty on the trip to the Wetlands, full on the way back. A Baltimore Oriole was seen on the same day and in the same tree as the grosbeak above (4/26). The grosbeak and oriole no doubt came in on the same winds.
Pine Siskins are still being seen at the Bird Feeder Exhibit in Catch the Wind.