The urgency to try to get some of the last migrating birds heading north was only increased by the weather forecast for the week: rain every day. It wasn’t supposed to start until 9 AM this morning, so we had a limited window to get out birding. I woke up early to a light spitting from the sky. It was good enough to go. After letting Evan sleep in a little bit, we headed back to Robbins Island. It was cold, but we were dry. We were on the hunt for the Blue-headed Vireo and the Black-throated Green Warbler.
There wasn’t much new this morning. The flycatchers of the Empidonax genus were everywhere. These “Empids” are practically indistinguishable except by voice. There are four or five possible species we could get in our area during migration. Even though we were armed with a limited knowledge of their calls, none of them were making a noise which made it impossible for us to make an identification. Until we can nail one down with certainty, we will refrain from putting it on the life list.
There was one flycatcher that caught my attention as it perched on a branch. From my studying, I immediately recognized the white stripe running down the center of the breast of this guy.
This unbuttoned-vest look is a classic field mark of the Olive-sided Flycatcher. This was a life bird for us and a migrating bird at that. They will not be around in the summer. Shortly after this we found another. It was fun to watch them fly out, grab an insect, and fly right back to the same perch, over and over again.
After awhile, Evan grew tired of being out, so we headed home. After lunch and some down time to play, the kids and I headed back to the park to try one more time for our targets of the Blue-headed Vireo and Black-throated Green Warbler. The forecast had changed to just cloudy for the day, and Melissa needed some peace and quiet to get some papers graded anyway. Both of my little birders were enthusiastic to go, and they each had their own sense of style for dressing for the field.
One thing we had to do was head down to the water again to skip rocks. Along the way I was pleased to find a male Bay-breasted Warbler and a female Blackburnian Warbler. As the kids played by the water, I was able to study the swallows flying over the lake a little more closely. One of them was one we needed – the Northern Rough-winged Swallow. This is a summer resident, but it was still nice to add a life bird.
The kids were great sports as we walked, stopped often, and looked at distant birds. It was time for them to have some fun, so we made our way to the playground. However, one of the birds we stopped for was a new bird and a passer-through: the Philadelphia Vireo.
We didn’t get either of our targets today. As much as I want to see the Blue-headed Vireo and the Black-throated Green Warbler, the thrill of the hunt lives on. Besides, we always find a lot of other good birds (both lifers and familiar ones) that aren’t on our short list. Not only that, but there are two less species that will not pass us by this migration. That itself is a victory.