Migration around the Millponds

By Jason Beale, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center Manager

Photos by Chuck Fullmer

The weekly Abbott’s Mill Nature Center walk yielded some great birds last Wednesday morning as we close in on the magic month of May.  With chilly winds and the sun playing peek-a-boo, we started our walk at the Lindale Tract.  This woodlot borders Abbott’s Pond and features both swamp and upland forest, making it a great spot to find birds.  A pair of drake Wood Ducks swam near an observation deck and two Eastern Kingbirds chattered as they flew along the pond edge.  Yellow-rumped Warblers were abundant and we were able to find a secretive Pileated Woodpecker.

We took a short drive over the Blair’s Pond Preserve access and scanned with our eyes and ears for the yet to arrive Baltimore Orioles.  Last year’s nest is still visible, dangling from a tulip tree.  Indeed, they have yet to arrive.  However, the trails yielded a great many birds and blooms to enjoy.

 Photo by Chuck Fullmer

Ovenbirds, which breed in the preserve, were well represented with a singing male never out of earshot.  Despite this, they can be rather difficult to see, even from exposed perches.  Along the Paw Paw Trail a few Hermit Thrush revealed themselves amongst shadows in the holly trees with quiet “chuck” calls.  Slowly, they characteristically raised and lowered their tails.   As we hiked the Savage Trail back to the Post Oak Trail, a familiar, sweet warbling song with a slightly burry edge could be heard through the trees.  It was our first Summer Tanager of the year.   The single male was perched low in the understory in a flowering dogwood.  He remained perched for sometime and offered great looks.  After a few minutes, he flew away uttering his “picky-tuck” call.

Photo by Chuck Fullmer

The Scarlet Tanager with its black wings also breeds in the preserve, but has yet to make an appearance.  The Post Oak Trail hosted several singing Palm Warblers.  These habitual tail-bobbers are one of the earliest warbler migrants in the spring and a few have even wintered at Abbott’s Mill for the past two years.   Sassafras trees are currently in bloom and their yellow-green flower clusters coupled with the creamy white flowering dogwoods added another reminder of spring’s momentum.

Photo by Chuck Fullmer

We made our way back to the parking lot, but before we crossed the boardwalk, were heard a tail-bobbing Louisiana Waterthrush and a Northern Parula singing – two more for our warbler list.  Our tail-bobbing bird encounters were not yet finished as we spied a small shorebird flying over the pond in a strange arc-winged glide.  Upon landing, the Spotted Sandpiper worked the pond edge as he bounced his rump.  Just for good measure, we drove back to Abbott’s Mill via Griffith Lake and were rewarded with a Northern Rough-winged Swallow, fairly uncommon in the area.

The excitement of returning birds will continue to build over the next few weeks, making this one of my favorite times of the year.  If you’re interested, stop by Abbott’s Mill and the Milford Millponds Nature Preserve or join us on our weekly Wednesday walk.

Abbott’s Mill Nature Center Weekly Walk

Wednesdays, 8:00-9:30am

Free to the public

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