Roana and I went atlassing one last time to wrap up the majority of "safe dates" for most of the breeding birds in our state. We drove through a block in Havice Valley this time, to try to get as many birds as possible for this year's reports. I didn't take my camera, as the battery was almost dead--I really regret that because I saw some great birds!
The block was beautiful, featuring mostly wooded areas with a few small clearings and some Amish farms. We saw 50 different species, but the most notable for me were Blackburnian warbler, magnolia warbler, and a ruby-throated hummingbird just hanging out on a snag and then an electrical wire. I finally got to see the Blackburnian and magnolia, both at once; the Blackburnian was just going about his business, hawking for insects and enjoying the morning sun, but the magnolia was displaying some morning grumpiness. As a result, neither was too hard to spot, and we got some great views. Oh, what I would've given for my scope and camera! The Blackburnian was as beautiful as I'd imagined he'd be, displaying what the Stokeses call his "fiery orange throat," and the magnolia's pronounced black breast striping showed him to be a male as well. We watched them for a while, hardly believing our luck.
I continued my quest to actually SEE a common yellowthroat, but I was unsuccessful; I did see a striking indigo bunting, a beautiful male Eastern towhee, and a giant great blue heron who had perched on a snag near Penns Creek. For a July atlassing trip, we did pretty well, according to Roana, so I was very pleased.
Another thing I've been noticing lately is the changing behavior of the birds. I've been seeing great flocks of them, flying in long chains, all over the valley. I read somewhere, maybe on the Stokes' blog?, that these flocks gather to prepare for the upcoming fall migration.
Seeing those flocks, and listening to Roana say things like, "we'll have to remember this spot for next year," made me feel like the spring and summer have flown by. It doesn't seem like that long ago that I was taking photos of winter birds around my feeders in the snow. I was looking forward to the spring migration, the Oil Creek birding festival, and seeing tons of warblers. Now, after watching that spring migration's beautiful fallouts of warblers at Oil Creek and elsewhere, I'm seeing most of the birds around here watching their young take flight on their own paths, wrapping up all that breeding behavior until next year and putting on the fat stores that will sustain them on their flight southward. The cycle of the seasons continues, never stopping to let me catch my breath.