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May 2011
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Enjoying a Second Spring
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Illinois, Birding "Patches"
Posted by: Ken @ 10:47 am

We were greeted by unusually warm weather upon our arrival in northeastern Illinois. We got out early most mornings and found that, indeed, we had caught up with the spring migrants that are now mostly gone from Florida. This is actually an inaccurate statement, as most of the birds we are seeing up here have almost certainly followed the Mississippi Flyway, an entirely different migration route than the Atlantic Flyway that runs through peninsular Florida up into the northeastern states and provinces. However, individual species, such as the Palm Warbler, may follow unique circular patterns of migration.

The dull “Western” race of Palm Warbler is very common all winter in Florida, and we rarely see the bright “Yellow” eastern form such as this one I photographed this past week here in Illinois:

Palm Warbler 20110504

The Western race of the Palm Warbler is not seen along the East coast in spring, but is found  farther inland during that season. In the fall, these birds depart from breeding grounds in northwest Canada and move almost due east until turning southward along the Atlantic Coast, with much of the population spending the winter in Florida. In spring, they fly more directly northwest to their summer homes. The eastern Yellow Palm Warblers winter more to the west, from northern Florida into east Texas, and their spring migration path actually crosses that of the northbound western race. This is vividly illustrated on this animated eBird Occurrence Map

Spring migration can be full of surprises. Our Illinois front “yard” is actually a disturbed plot that was abandoned by the developer when the company went bankrupt. It contains a small “fluddle” (a common name that local birders give to low spots in the prairie that fill with water from snow-melt and spring rains):

Canada Geese in front yard 20110508

One morning I happened to look out our second-story bedroom window and was amazed to see the white head of a “Blue” morph Snow Goose that was foraging with a small flock of Canada Geese. Its behavior raised an interesting question.

I took this and the above photo through the window pane:

Canada and Snow Goose in front yard 20110508

The Snow Goose tended to associate with one of the Canada geese, and the two spent much of their time apart from the rest of the flock. A couple of weeks ago, a neighbor who lives on the lake at nearby Jones Meadow Park sent me photos of a similar Snow Goose that also was associated with one Canada Goose, suggesting that they may be bonded. The far northern edge of the breeding range of Canada geese overlaps with that of the Snow Goose. The latter species is known for “dumping” its eggs in neighboring nests. Is it possible that this Canada Goose raised this particular bird? I could find no specific references to this on the Internet.

Warblers are the main attraction in the spring. Serendipitously, a Nashville Warbler flew up just as I depressed the shutter. Believing I had captured only an empty branch, imagine my surprise when I viewed my photo on the computer screen and saw what looks like a photo-shopped image of the flying bird “perched on air”:

Nashville Warbler (Vermivora ruficapilla) in flight 20110504

Atypically, this male Common Yellowthroat occupied an open perch from which to sing:

Common Yellowthroat 3-20110513

It was great to see Yellow-rumped Warblers in bright spring plumage:

Yellow-rumped Warbler 20110509

Although this is not a very sharp image, it is my first shot of a Blackburnian Warbler:

Blackburnian Warbler 20110509

This Black-throated Green Warbler had just taken a bath:

Black-throated Green Warbler 20110506

A Magnolia Warbler posed nicely on a flowering tree:

Magnolia Warbler 5-20110510

In Florida, the warblers are usually silent, but this American Redstart at Aurora West Forest Preserve near our Illinois home was singing vigorously:

American Redstart 2-20110511

A female Yellow Warbler was busy gathering nest materials:

Yellow Warbler female 20110511

The male Yellow Warbler watched from a nearby perch:

Yellow Warbler male 20110511

Eastern Kingbirds had just migrated into Nelson Lake/Dick Young Marsh Forest Preserve, one of our favorite birding patches. Three kingbirds were gathered on a small tree in the prairie. Two were fighting while the third looked on. I presume they were two rival males

Eastern Kingbird dust-up 20110810

I have rarely seen an Eastern Kingbird display its usually-hidden red crest stripe, and this was my first opportunity to photograph this feature:

Eastern Kingbird scuffle 20110810

This has to be one of my favorite Northern Cardinal photos. The bird posed nicely in front of a tree trunk, thus cutting out the back light, and it also was a fine specimen with a clean bill:

Northern Cardinal 20110510