Over 170 different species of birds have been observed at the Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve, including songbirds, ducks, wading birds, and raptors. A large number of migrants pass through the Preserve during the fall and spring migrations.
Record your observations on the CSNP Bird list for the birds spotted at the Preserve.
Migrating Warblers At CSNP
Late summer and on through the fall is an exciting time to be out looking for birds. Migration has begun and now is the time for surprises. As the days get shorter and the food supplies lessen, an inherited genetic urge causes some birds to travel to specific areas where they can once again find the food they need. The Wood Warblers are just one of the many families of birds that migrate and are often sought after by birders.
Of the thirty-five species of warblers found in the preserve so far, only two species regularly nest here: the Pine Warbler and the Common Yellowthroat. Others continue north in the spring, returning again in the fall as they head south for the winter. Many travel great distances, some traveling many thousands of miles each way. A few examples of the warblers found in the preserve during migration are the Hooded Warbler, the American Redstart and the Blackpoll Warbler.
Warblers are small, insect-eating birds with thin pointed bills. Many of them are brightly colored but some have simple patterns black and white or brown. Most warblers lose their brilliant colors in the fall and so become more difficult to identify. The Hooded Warbler and the American Redstart are exceptions to this rule. Both maintain their beautiful plumage and are easily identified.
In preparation for their journey, migrants must store up energy in the form of fat for their long distance travels. Even with that extra layer of fat they weigh very little. About the Blackpoll Warbler, author Scott Weidensaul says, “…you could mail two of them for a single first-class stamp.” One researcher suggested that if a Blackpoll Warbler were burning gasoline instead of body fat, it would be getting about 720,000 miles to the gallon! Think about that when you pull up to the pump!
The Blackpoll, like many songbirds, migrates at night, sometimes reaching an altitude of over 5,000 feet. By its own wing power, it can fly about 20 miles an hour, a speed that is often increased by northerly tailwinds.
These migrating birds have a great many dangers to face. Many will not reach their destination. Storms and other adverse weather conditions, predators, disease and lack of food cause many to die on their long journeys. Some may die by striking windows on tall buildings or by hitting tall towers as they become confused by the flashing lights.
The next time you see a migrating warbler, think about the incredible distance it may have traveled and the many dangers it must have faced in order to reach that tree or bush that stands in front of you. It’s a phenomenon in nature worthy of a great deal of appreciation.
Great Bird Day
Sunday September 8, 2002 was one of the most spectacular birding days ever at CSNP. With the fall migration in full swing, birders Lisa Hurt, Jerry Brunner and Dave Butler saw numerous warblers in the low brush and trees behind the entrance including Tennessee Warblers, American Redstarts, Magnolia Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Pine Warblers, and Black and White Warblers. Also seen were Peewees, Hummingbirds, Catbirds, Cardinals, and a Red-headed Woodpecker.
Moving to the observation platform, we witnessed an incredible scene in The Tree (regular visitors know The Tree; the lone, lightning scarred sweetgum at the edge of the pond). In a span of 30 minutes, 19 species of birds were identified including 5 Baltimore Orioles, a Great Crested Flycatcher, a Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, a Blackburnian Warbler, a Pine Warbler, a Northern Parula, a Yellow Throated Warbler, a White-eyed Vireo, a Scarlet Tanager, several Eastern Bluebirds, 4 species of woodpecker, nuthatches, an Eastern Towhee, a Coopers Hawk, and a Red-tailed Hawk. Birds vied for space on the leafless branches or climbed up and down the trunk. The last to arrive was the red-tailed hawk at which point all other birds promptly disappeared.
For us, it was another of those magic moments at the preserve that proves the value of this wonderful, wild space so close to home.