Our third annual Spring Songbird Workshop with our partners, Down East Adventures, took place in Portland’s Evergreen Cemetery on the morning of May 15th.
With a large flight of migrants overnight, and the chance of rain or fog by morning, I had high hopes of a lot of birds being around the urban oasis come sunrise. The good news for our comfort was the fog and rain stayed away, but the bad news is that it didn’t concentrate migrants. My own dreams of a fallout were not to be today.
In fact, we only had one definitive “passage migrant” – a bird passing through on its way to somewhere else – a single male Magnolia Warbler (as in the photo above). But that was OK, as there were plenty of birds around to study. In fact, fewer migrants afforded us ample opportunity to focus on specific individuals. Most participants expressed an interest in learning what birds are around us, as well as birdsong, so a huge list was not the mission (it never is on these workshops). Therefore, territorial, locally-breeding birds which offer the chance to listen to them repeatedly and for longer lengths of time, was more helpful.
Other than the Magnolia Warbler, the other 11 species of warblers we encountered all breed here – or very close nearby. Black-and-white Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and especially Yellow Warblers were particularly conspicuous today. Other warblers seen included Ovenbird, Northern Parula, and American Redstart, but everyone also appreciated the oft-disparaged “heard-only” that today included Black-throated Green Warbler, Pine Warbler, Prairie Warbler, and Northern Waterthrush (which could also have been a passage migrant instead of a local breeder).
One of the highlights was a Wood Thrush (total of 5 this morning) that spent nearly an hour singing from the highest, dead-topped tree in the area. No shaded mid-story to sort through to see this one! Watching birds sing is the best way for most people to learn and remember birdsong, so hopefully everyone will remember the Wood Thrushes’ favorite brand of potato chips from here on out.
Red-eyed Vireos (total of 3) have recently arrived, and learning this song now will save you a lot of head- and neck-aches for the rest of the summer. Unfortunately, we never saw the one Scarlet Tanager we heard singing. A Black-crowned Night-Heron was seen flying around near the pond, but the dapper drake Wood Duck was much more cooperative.
Another highlight was the cooperative Blue-gray Gnatcatcher we encountered, which is a very uncommon and local bird, and not one you’ll see on most mornings anywhere in Maine, so that was another of the morning's treats.
For more information about these workshops with our partners at Down East, visit: