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.
It’s Albatrossity Monday, but
we’re not in Kansas anymore. Actually, that was supposed to reference the Wizard of Oz, but that reference doesn’t work very well because Albatrossity actually lives in Kansas. Oh well. In any case, we are hopping Out of Africa (another film reference) to catch some birds in flyover country, but we’ll be back in Africa next week.
For the rest of the week, we have further adventures with frosty, Uncle Eb, and Dagaetch, with some special Milky Way arches courtesy of BillinGlendaleCA in between.
Getting out of Africa for a week so that I can share images of some of the birds that wandered in front of my camera during spring migration and early summer. We’ll go back to the Serengeti next week; stay tuned!
Warblers are rara avis here in my patch of Flyover Country; some of them might be damn near mythical, actually. But every year we get a few on their way north, and this year was pretty good in that regard. This colorful cutie is a Chestnut-Sided Warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica), a very familiar sight to many birders in the Northeast and the Appalachians. This is one of a very few warblers whose population has grown since the continent was overrun by European settlers, since they prefer scrubby second-growth and forest edges as nesting habitat. Click here for larger image.
Another warbler that regularly brightens my binoculars here is the American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla). This is a female, more subdued in coloration comparted to the make, but a flashy little number nonetheless. Again, this is a common and familiar summer sight for many birders in the eastern half of the continent, and it even is a regular breeding species along the far eastern edge of Kansas. I keep hoping to find a pair here in the summer, but so far that has not been a successful quest. Click here for larger image.
Magnolia Warblers (Setophaga magnolia) are not seen by me in my local haunts every year; I think I saw more of these during a week in March in the Yucatan than I have ever seen in Kansas. So this gorgeous alternate-plumage male was a welcome sight! It also needs to be pointed out that our lack of magnolia trees is not the reason for the scarcity of this species here. This guy was on his way to the boreal forests of the north, where he and his mate would choose a spruce or hemlock tree for a nesting site. Click here for larger image.
Heading even further north, to the taiga and forest/tundra transition zone, this male Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga striata) is apparently doing his little happy dance and showing off his golden booties. This species is expected here and elsewhere in eastern North America in the spring migration, but in the fall migration they are only found on the eastern seaboard, where they take off and fly 3000 km over open ocean to the Caribbean and northern South America. They nest across Canada and all the way to the west coast of Alaska, but even those birds migrate across the continent to New England before they head south over the ocean. Click here for larger image.
Besides warblers, one of the other colorful birds that we await here is spring would be the Baltimore Orioles (Icterus galbula). A bright orange bird that can completely disappear into a green leafy tree! And in recent years, with the advent of jelly and orange feeders, these are a popular backyard fixture in the spring. Here’s an adult (after-second-year) male, looking pretty fine. Click here for larger image.
Female Baltimore Orioles are not as flashy as the males, but are still one of our more colorful summer residents. This one was gathering nesting material in our backyard. Click here for larger image.
Orchard Orioles (Icterus spurius) are another elegant summer resident here, and this year they seem to be almost as common as Baltimore Orioles. You have to live east of the Rockies to be in their summer range, but within that range their cheerful whistled calls make a summer day even better. Here’s an adult (after-second-year) male cocking his tail and trying to convince me that he is actually a wren. Click here for larger image.
Female Orchard Orioles are lemon-yellow, and that is one way that they can be distinguished from female Baltimores, which usually have an orangish cast. This one is interesting because it shows some breast feathers that are the rusty red-orange color of the adult male. It is likely that this female is older; lots of older female birds start to show hints of male plumage characteristics, which become even more obvious as they age. Just as is the case with older human females (who might start to sprout a mustache in their later years), this is likely due to age-dependent changes in the estrogen/testosterone ratio. I think she wears it well. Click here for larger image.
Less colorful but more vocal summer visitors here include the Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceous). As it gets hotter these will usually still be singing (even at midday) in the woods, when all of the other birds have shut up. This one is from our back yard, and he (or one of his competitors) was still singing this morning! Click here for larger image.
And I would be remiss if I did not include a grassland bird with all of these forest-dwellers. Lark Sparrows (Chondestes grammacus), one of the larger and more colorful sparrows in North America, inhabit the grasslands and former grasslands of the western two-thirds of the country each summer, and their buzzy trills are a constant accompaniment to the louder meadowlarks and Dickcissels who share that habitat with them. Click here for larger image.
And don’t forget to send in your pics for the Every Picture Tells A Story theme; if you are a first-time OTR contributor, you (and four other first-time contributors) will get a free 2024 Albatrossity photo calendar later in the year. Don’t delay!