If I have this many field guides…


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Field Guides

… why is it I couldn’t identify the three warblers I saw on my morning walk Saturday at Davidsonville Park? Hmmm…

Actually, I ask the question facetiously because it’s the variability in breeding/non-breeding; male/female; juvenile/adult; and individual plumages that make birding so challenging and fun.

Now, for the first of the confusing fall warblers:

08 24 14 Davidsonville 010

This sweet little bird was one of two or three birds that were flitting about fairly high in some young Sycamore trees along the pond. The face and breast are a lemony-yellow, with faint hints of black markings ringing the top of the breast, and some coloring around the sides of the face and head. The undertail is white with black tips, and although you can’t see much of the wings, they appear to be greyish in color. Unfortunately, the bird never turned it’s back to me, so I only got photos from the front and slightly below. I have yet to figure this one out. Any thoughts?

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Osprey at Blackwater Refuge


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08 23 14 Blackwater 036

This bird was the king of the marsh Saturday morning, sitting perched on a dead snag overlooking Raymond Pond. A stiff breeze was kicking up as a series of showers blew through. In the coming weeks, the Ospreys will begin their southern migration. While Ospreys who breed along the Gulf of Mexico will remain in their breeding grounds through the winter, most North American Ospreys will migrate hundreds or thousands of miles to wintering grounds in Central and South America.

Great Egret at Wooten’s Landing


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08 24 14 Wooten's Landing 031 #2

A Great Egret spent the last hours of sunlight hunting this evening in the marsh pond at Wooten’s Landing. He allowed me to take photographs for quite awhile, at times coming so close that I had to pull back on the full range of the telephoto lens. He posed so nicely that I’m going to include several of this evening’s photos in a gallery.

Cedar Waxwing at Wooten’s Landing


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08 23 14 Blackwater 010

These beautiful birds are found year-round in the Mid-Atlantic states, so as the other beautiful birds fly south in a few weeks, we will still be finding the Waxwings. Two Cedar Waxwings were foraging in a tree along the path at Wooten’s Landing one evening last week. I’d love to be posting photos of fall warblers, but until I can, it was sure a treat to photograph the Waxwings!!

Black-and-White Warbler


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08 16 14 Davidsonville Wooten's Landing 012

At first, I thought it was a Nuthatch hanging upside down from the branches of a locust tree at Davidsonville Park. Then for a split second I thought maybe it was a Black-and-White Crowned Sparrow, because it’s chest and breast had a buffy coloring to it.

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But then, she turned her back to me. No doubt. She was a Black-and-White Warbler. But, why the buffy coloring?

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For all questions regarding fall warblers, I turn to ‘The Warbler Guide’. It turns out this pretty girl is a first-year fall female. The females are ‘less contrasty’ than the males. The diagnostic feature for these beautiful juvenile female Black-and-White Warblers? They have black ‘arrowhead’ spots on their undertail coverts, visible in the photo below.

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I want to thank this beautiful young lady for posing in so many different views!

American Goldfinch at Bombay Hook


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08 17 14 Bombay Hook 157

It’s been quite awhile since I have highlighted American Goldfinches here on ‘Flights of Wonder’. But several Goldfinches posed so beautifully in the late afternoon sun at Bombay Hook that I had to include their photos.

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American Goldfinches are the vegans of the avian world. Their diet is comprised exclusively of seeds, among them sunflowers, thistles, milkweed, grasses and trees. Though they are common at birdfeeders, in their natural habitat they prefer overgrown but mostly open fields and floodplains that have some shrubs and saplings for nesting.

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American Goldfinches breed much later than other songbirds, waiting for plants such as milkweed and thistle to produce their seedpods, which the Goldfinches use for both food and for constructing their nests. Their late breeding habits explains why the Goldfinches are still in full breeding plumage while so many other bird species are losing their brilliant breeding colors.

Those Confusing Fall Warblers Have Arrived!


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08 16 14 Davidsonville Wooten's Landing 004 #2

This beautiful warbler was flitting about along the pond at Davidsonville Park this morning. The olive-green/yellowish head and back immediately indicated warbler, but of course the question is, which warbler? Time to look for clues. This bird has very distinctive white eyerings, an almost neon yellowish/green head cap, and a clean whitish/grey neck, chest and belly.

08 16 14 Davidsonville Wooten's Landing 002

Ah, here’s another good view. Two very distinctive white/yellowish wingbars. Boy, the eyerings really stand out. And the yellowish-green seems to extend down the back. What other pose do we have?

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This photo taken as the warbler was flitting from branch to branch isn’t great, but it definitely shows the lime-green extending down the back.

So, let’s figure out the name of this warbler. I’ll start with the bold, double wingbars. Many warblers have double-wingbars, but several of them have yellow breasts, so we can eliminate the Yellow, Prairie, Magnolia, Northern Parula, Blackburnian and Pine Warblers. Other warblers with double-wingbars have whitish breasts, but they are streaked on or along their breasts, so that eliminates the Palm,  Yellow-Rumped, Cape May and Blackpoll Warblers.

We’re down to just a few possibilities: an immature Pine Warbler, a Bay-Breasted Warbler, a Chestnut-Sided Warbler or possibly a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. Let’s eliminate some more. The immature Pine Warbler has a supercillium (eyebrows), a faint eyering, and a much grayer back. The Bay-Breasted Warbler has white wingbars rather than the yellowish wingbars and faint eye-arcs-eyeline rather than clear, distinctive eyerings. Let’s check the Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. The Kinglet has a gray back and head rather than the yellowish-green/lime green cap and back, and it’s smaller and just shaped differently (plumper and almost neckless in appearance). So basically, we’ve eliminated all but one species: the Chestnut-Sided Warbler.

Now, let’s get into ‘The Warbler Guide’  to confirm our detective work. ‘The Warbler Guide’ identifies the following diagnostic characteristics: the striking white eyering, the plain gray face with the lime-green ‘cap’, the lime-green upperparts and cap. Check, check, check.

There we have it. This morning’s warbler is a Chestnut-Sided Warbler – a lifer for me!

08 16 14 Davidsonville Wooten's Landing 001 #2

Diamondback Terrapin



08 09 14 Bombay 167

As the tide went out to sea, several turtles sunned themselves in the mud along the edge of the marsh. The black squiggly marks on it’s body and head and it’s coloration were the signs that let me know that these turtles were Diamondback Terrapins. Though I saw them at Bombay Hook NWR on the Delaware Bay, the Terrapin is the Maryland State reptile.

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The Terrapin is indigenous to the brackish waters along the Atlantic Ocean from Cape Cod to the Florida Keys. Historically, it was found as far west along the gulf coast as Texas. The Terrapins were once so abundant and easy to catch that they were used as a staple in the diets of slaves and indentured servants during colonial times. By the 1800’s, however, Terrapin meat was considered a gourmet food, and the turtles were heavily harvested throughout the 1800’s. In 1891, over 89,000 pounds of turtle meat were harvested. Terrapin populations became so depleted that by 1920, only 823 pounds of Terrapin meat was harvested.

In addition to overhunting, the Terrapin is threatened by the loss of habitat. Terrapins inhabit a very narrow strip of land along the coast, in brackish marshes that are often destroyed when lands along the ocean are developed for human use.


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