On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
Looks like Albatrossity all be sharing a few surprises from flyover country, and then we spend the rest of the week with way2blue as we finish out the Kenya trip! I am always sad when these sets end.
The following week we have a 3-day trip and two other posts, and that’s the end of OTR posts that are currently in the queue. So if you’ve been meaning to send something in, this would be the time to do it.
Some of the birds in this week’s batch are regular and expected sights in Flyover Country, but one of them is not. Surprises are always nice!
We’ll start with some images of birds that emphasize how much late summer is molting time for many North American birds. This female Northern Parula (Setophaga americana) is mostly done molting, but looks a little raggedy due to those pinfeathers that are still growing in around her head. Click here for larger image.
Bell’s Vireos (Vireo bellii) are pretty nondescript birds, but in late summer, after molting into a whole new suit for the season, they can look pretty spiffy. Look at those nice clean edges on this bird’s wing feather! It’s ready to fly to the west coast of Mexico and Central America for the winter months. Click here for larger image.
Another of our resident vireos, the Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus), is notorious for its ability to sing constantly, even at high noon on hot summer days. And some of them even continue to sing as we move into September. Interestingly, the Birds of The World monograph for this species (Cimprich, D. A., F. R. Moore, and M. P. Guilfoyle (2020). Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA) says that “singing ends in August”, but the authors of that account never met this bird, I guess. Click here for larger image.
This bird looks like it might be singing, but it was actually just scolding the photographer. In my part of Flyover Country, House Wrens (Troglodytes aedon) sing lustily from the time that they arrive in April until late summer, and then they shut up completelym except when they need to scold someone. In late summer the Carolina Wrens start to sing again, however, so there is no shortage of wren song here. Click here for larger image.
Now we’ll check out some black and white birds. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea), one of the cutest birds on the planet, doing its best cocked-tail wren imitation. If you watch them foraging, you soon discover that they actively flick that tail up and down, as well as flaring it out quickly, which often startles insects from the foliage so that they can be devoured. Click here for larger image.
Another cutie, the Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) moving in on the bird feeder. There are four feeding ports on the feeder it was eying, but all four were occupied, so it had to wait a bit. Click here for larger image.
Late August is the time when herons and egrets disperse from their breeding colonies into the more watery parts of Flyover Country. Local ponds and reservoirs can host large flocks of Great Egrets (Ardea alba). I shot this image in color, but the black and white version emphasizes the texture of the log pile a bit more, I think. Click here for larger image.
Lest we forget about the raptors, here’s a subadult Bald Eagle (Haliaetus leucocephalus), a species which has become increasingly common in Flyover Country as well as the rest of the continent. This bird is very likely a Kansas native; it was flying around in an area that has had an active and productive eagle nest for the last dozen years or so. Click here for larger image.
This raptor, the Mississippi Kite (Ictinia missippiensis) is a deadly threat to cicadas, as you can see here. They have a habit of dive-bombing people or critters who get too close to their nests, and I regularly get questions from folks who are concerned about the safety of their dog or cat. I have to tell them that unless their dog or cat is in the same weight class as a cicada, they probably have nothing to worry about. Click here for larger image.
Finally, the surprise. I was sitting in my car, ready to head home after a morning of photography, when this bird sauntered out of the woods right in front of me. It’s a Limpkin (Aranus guarauna), which is very familiar to Betty in her watery Florida haunts, but wildly out of place in Flyover Country. Prior to 2022 there were no records of this species for the state of Kansas. In June a Limpkin was sighted in southeast KS, and there were others in other parts of the state during the rest of the summer. By the time I saw this one in late August, there had been 8 or 9 sightings in the state. This one stayed for a couple of days; lots of local birders got to see it (and I got video) the next day. And Kansas was not unique; there were 2022 sightings in NE, IA, IN, IL, MI, WI and OH as well. The summer 2022 explosion of this species from its normal swampy environs into the dry flatlands of the Midwest is a mystery, and I look forward to somebody explaining it to me sometime! Click here for larger image.