Mornings at Rushton this week were humid with water dripping from every leaf and berry. As the sun ignited the fog, the water rose like smoke from the spicebush hedgerows and the cedar roof of the banding shelter. It reminded me of a jungle sunrise— the forest visibly exhaling and enormous marbled orb-weavers retreating from their ubiquitous webs.
A new tinkling call from the north woods entered the soundscape. It was the unmistakable chip note of the White-throated Sparrow. Sure enough, we caught our first White-throat of the fall season on Tuesday, which marks the transition from a catbird- heavy catch to one dominated by sparrows. Many of these White-throats will continue south, but some may stay to overwinter at Rushton Farm.
Wednesday was a bountiful day of 30 birds of 17 species, including more White-throats and the guest of honor, a bright male Connecticut Warbler! Adult male Connecticuts are large, stunning warblers with easter egg-yellow bodies and elegant gray hoods. Breeding in northern spruce and tamarack bogs, this is a relatively uncommon bird to see during migration and one that gets birders flocking. According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this is a bird that is of conservation concern, meaning it is at risk of extinction without significant conservation action to reverse declines.
Abington Friends second graders enjoyed their visit to the banding station on Wednesday. However, the muddy woodland might have rivaled the excitement of the birds. These children will always remember the simple thrill of their shoes getting stuck in the deep mud and creating forest art from found objects. And when they see birds at school or home, we hope they will experience a deeper emotion thanks to their time at Rushton.
According to radar and nocturnal flight call analyses, Wednesday night saw some fairly heavy migration activity in our region. Consequently, Thursday’s catch produced 35 birds: a good bunch of Swainson’s Thrushes, Wood Thrush, American Redstarts, Black-throated Blues, a Field Sparrow, and American Robins. We also caught a few residents including a Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, and White-breasted Nuthatch. Our Connecticut Warbler from Wednesday decided to stay at Rushton another night to continue bulking up fat stores. He’s trying to figure out which net he likes best.
Last but not least, a teeny tiny Winter Wren delighted us all. Do yourself a big favor and listen to the video below from Garth McElroy.
There’s a lot going on in the woods,