Mariton: Unbelievable Birding

May 1, 2011

Carole Mebus and I lead a bird watching group at Mariton this morning.  The group visited us from Peace Valley Nature Center near Doylestown.  I primarily rely on my ears when birding, so I feel pretty lucky to actually see birds during warbler migration.  This spring birds seem to be here a little early, and the trees seem to be leafing out a little late.  It is a perfect combination for the patient birder.

We hadn’t gone very far when we heard the incessant throaty song of the Yellow-throated Vireo.  I think of vireos as being shy, and while it is easy to hear the different species, they are tough to find.  Well with a little patience, someone found the bird and we got a great look at its brilliant yellow throat.

As we walked down the River Lookout Trail to admire wildflowers, a Pileated Woodpecker sounded off.  Carole and I looked at each other wide-eyed, and alerted the group as it flew through the open woods.  It landed on a tree and we watched it search for insects.  Later in the morning, another Pileated flew by the group while we were in the meadow!

Then we saw a Scarlet Tanager.  I am always amazed how difficult it is to see such a brightly colored bird.  Once it was located, everyone helped each other find it on its perch.  The oaks are in blossom, and just about every description of a bird’s location was:  “Look in the tree with the catkins.”

The oak flowers attract insects, and the insects attract birds.  It was in the oak catkins that we saw Black-throated Green Warblers.  There was a small flock, so we got to see both the male and females.  While we were checking out that flock, one of the birders spied a Black-throated Blue warbler.  This is a beautiful blue warbler with a little window of white on its wing.  (And pictures in the guides don’t do this bird justice.)  We also saw Black and White Warblers in the same oak tree.  A Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher was searching for insects among the oak flowers in the treetops.  Carole Mebus took this photo of a Gnatcatcher earlier this week.  The light was perfect, showing off the blue.

In the meadows we saw Baltimore Orioles and Tree Swallows.  We also saw this Eastern Bluebird that perched on a branch for several minutes.   I never tire of seeing Bluebirds.

The Common Yellowthroats (which are not common looking at all)  and the Blue-winged Warblers were singing in the meadow.  I cautioned that both species are tough to see.  The Blue-winged was sighted in a tree, and this Yellowthroat flew up to perch on a power line in full view as it sang.  (So much for being tough to see.)

It was a great morning to wake up and go out with a pair of binoculars.  Our group probably thinks that Carole and I are super guides that can make birds magically appear, and that this always happens when we lead a group.  We work hard at it, but the birds helped out a lot this morning.  (Don’t tell the folks from Peace Valley.)    All photos by Carole Mebus.