Songbirds of Fall… Piecing Together the Puzzle!

by Derek Stoner, Education Program Assistant

A Magnolia Warbler flicks its distinctive black-tipped tail, and gives us a glimpse of its yellow belly.
A Magnolia Warbler flicks its distinctive black-tipped tail, and gives us a glimpse of its yellow belly.
Bright flashes of yellow, white, orange, green, black, and white dance through the treetops, like nature’s disco ball turned loose.  Vibrant warblers, vireos, tanagers, orioles, cuckoos, and flycatchers flit through the canopy.  
On many a fall day, the forests are full of active songbirds, feasting on caterpillars to fuel their southward flight.  Look at that skulking Magnolia Warbler above.  He’s too busy searching for insects to show his face! 
A female Scarlet Tanager is a well-camouflaged olive green, blending perfectly into the leafy background.
A female Scarlet Tanager is a well-camouflaged olive green, blending perfectly into the leafy background.
First you glimpse of tip of tail.  Then you see a bit of belly.  Then a fraction of the face is observed.  Piece by piece, like a puzzle, you put together the bird.
Fortunately, with a dose of patience and a bit of luck, you may encounter a beautiful warbler, tanager, or oriole in the wide open.  Perhaps it will preen, pose, and allow long study with “walk-away” looks.   Like this…
A young female Blackpoll Warbler pops out of a hemlock tree for a look at the camera.
A young female Blackpoll Warbler pops out of a hemlock tree.
or this…
A Great-crested Flycatcher peers down from a tree branch.
A Great-crested Flycatcher shows off its yellow belly.
Often the biggest challenge of watching fall songbirds is simply getting a good enough look! 

The Thursday Bird Walks at Ashland are a wonderful way to get acquainted with these fascinating birds, and there are many Delaware Nature Society field trips to nearby preserves that will help you piece together the puzzle! 

Free bird walks are held at Ashland Nature Center on the first and third Thursday of each month as well as every Sunday and Monday at the Bucktoe Creek Preserve.  All start at 8am.  View www.delawarenaturesociety.org for directions.  See the sidebar for additional upcoming programs.

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