Saturday, July 24, 2010

Common Yellowthroat and Yellow Warbler

Black capped chickadees, red-breasted nututhatches, bluejays, goldfinches, white-throated sparrows, mourning doves, robins, and crows are among the easily seen and often heard birds of this upland spot on the island. Less often seen and heard are the phoebe, downy woodpecker, song sparrow, hairy woodpecker, and the purple finch, once numerous but not any more. Often heard but seldom seen are the black-throated green warbler, common yellowthroat, and the hermit thrush. On my walks on the trails behind the house this year I was able to see and photograph a few of the less common birds, particularly those that enjoy a swamp habitat. There is a marshy pond just above the high tide line on an isolated spot of shoreland that I enjoy visiting when I lengthen my walk. Here at different times this spring and summer I was able to photograph the Common Yellowthroat, whose "whichity-whichity-which" song I've heard more often this summer than any previous. 

This is a male Common Yellowthroat, that I photographed on June 15th of this year. His curiosity was aroused by my "psshhh" sounds. He flew from branch to branch as he tried to size up the intruder, and as he did so he uttered his "chhk" alarm call, a typical response to what might have seemed to him an alarm call from me. The Cornell Ornithology website says that the common yellowthroat is a "skulking masked warbler of wet thickets, more frequently heard than seen." He certainly wasn't skulking here, although a little more than a month later I found him skulking about in a nearby thicket.

Now on July 23rd he was hidden, singing his "whichity" song. In response to my "pshhh" sounds he flitted from one branch to another, but this time he was in no mood to come into the open, warily keeping his distance while alternating between the "chhk" alarm call and his "whichity" song. It was very difficult to see him, let alone photograph him; the image at the right is the best I could do. The female Common Yellowthroat is said to be secretive. When I considered its behavior during my return, and before I had a chance to look closely at this photo, I thought the bird might be a female; but looking at the photo I can see the black hood of the male, a feature that is absent from the female. I will look for a nest on one of my next walks in that area. One of these males ventured into the apple orchard behind the house in mid-June, singing away for about ten days, but afterwards the song stopped and he went away, I assumed, without having attracted a mate. If he had done so, I'd have heard the song again in July after they had produced offspring.

I was also able to hear, see and photograph, on May 29, a Yellow Warbler. This was the first time I'd seen this bird on the island, although it is not uncommon according to those birders who keep track of these things. I heard its song as well, "sweet-sweet-sweet, I'm so sweet." This is, again according to Cornell, the most yellow of warblers and it, too, was taking up residence in this marshy area near the ocean. 

It is interesting that while different species of songbirds can reside in the same area, without animosity, two pair of the same species cannot, except for certain birds like the chickadees and nuthatches, that travel in flocks. How different it is with humans, where people of the same ethnic group reside in the same area without upset, but when different ethnic groups live together, sparks sometimes fly.

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