Monday, June 18, 2007

June 14, 2007, Thursday Morning Bird Ramble

The summer doldrums have settled in. Please don’t think that this means, "No more birding till fall!" It may be quiet, but the quiet is just the cover for fascinating nesting birds as well as a little hidden drama.

Jekyll has had some astonishingly high tides lately. The rack line (highest tide line mark) is cutting into the dunes, and the birds are all gathered down at the southwest corner of Jekyll. There are still some lingering shorebirds: four Semipalmated Plovers huddled in with one very tired Semipalmated Sandpiper, along with two Ruddy Turnstones and three Sanderlings. Just over the dunes on the Jekyll River side, a few Laughing Gulls are concealed in the large flock of Forster’s and Royal Terns. There are no signs of Wilson’s Plovers, and I wonder if they even had a chance to nest.

The feeders are empty at Tidelands Center, our next stop. I take my group over to the dock, where they watch the Osprey nest while I fill the feeders. There are two week-old Osprey chicks standing by one very patient parent. This pair of Ospreys wasn't successful last year, so it's gratifying to see these two chicks.

Two of my guests on this rambles, Mark and Helen come around the building just as I finish filling the two feeders. Obviously they aren't the only ones waiting for the feeder to be filled, as within minutes a male Painted Bunting appears! I move back but notice that Mark and Helen are frozen in rapt fascination: this "nonpareil" (a colloquial name for the Painted Bunting) was only about three feet away from them! Betsy, Mark’s wife, tells me later that his day was made with that bird!
Excitement fills the van along with a load of smiles all the way up to the Bird Sanctuary in the campground. It is a nice treat to find a family from Ohio there. Although they are not birders they are fascinated by this little oasis. The children are carefully writing in the sighting book, and the father is snapping pictures of the birds at the feeder. The mother leans over and asks me what the little bird with the red belly and blue head is, and to help, the father shows me the image on his digital camera screen…. it is indeed another Painted Bunting! Not to be outdone, a male Northern Parula puts on a show at the bird drip. But the antics of a Great Crested Flycatcher steal the moment: this bird is in frantic pursuit of every cardinal around, and there are a lot of cardinals…poor flycatcher! It's a thankless task and we leave him to continue.

At the Amphitheater pond the Wood Storks are still tending the nest on the large dead pine. The chicks continue to grow, and the Anhingas are still on the nest. There are sixteen Yellow-crowned Night-herons hanging around the back side of the pond; these birds do not nest in the open but rather back in the underbrush, so are they truly nesting, or just "hanging"?

We are almost back to the van when I remember that we had spotted a pair of White-eyed Vireos building a nest the week before. Were they successful? Yes: there on the side of the path about six feet off the ground is a very well-constructed nest, and looking at us from inside that nest was a very quiet White-eyed Vireo! Summer doldrums perhaps, or maybe it is just quiet drama. Who will raise young and who will not…more drama to come?

With Jekyll’s Birdlife on my mind-good birding!

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