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Blue and Gold at Mason Farm

June 14, 2010
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Summer birding is certainly not as exciting as birding in spring, the migrants that make every morning in the field a wonderful crap-shoot have moved on.  By the second week in June, even the late possibilities, the Oporornis warblers or any weird Empids are outside of the realm of possibility.  What’s left is, depending on where you live, the same 35 to 40 species that are likely to fill out a field checklist from here until late August when landbirds start trickling back the other direction.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth getting in the field, quite the contrary in fact.  Not only is going out birding worth it for it’s own sake (and summer is often a fallow time for eBird checklists at several hotspots so it’s important to work them even in the off seasons), but birders willing to brave the heat and the bugs will likely have their spirits buoyed by evidence of their favorite birds successfully breeding a new generation, so it’s appropriate perhaps that I decided to take my own little new generation out with me.  Noah was, no matter what others may say, a excellent baby birder, when he wasn’t sleeping of course.

The trip list peaked out at 41 species, not a bad day at all for June when it’s all said and done.  Highlights included strong evidence of nesting Prothonotary Warbler success, which was definitely a treat.  I’ve had my eye on one make singing on territory all spring, and I was pleasantly surprised to see adults being chased back and forth across the path by at least two begging fledglings.  Even better was the male in the parking lot, not a regular spot at all, who responded to my pathetic and half-hearted pishing by putting my head in his crosshairs.  I don’t remember the last time I had a Prothonotary so aggressively responsive.

When Noah is with me I rarely figure I have the opportunity to take photos unless the bird is right in front of me.  This individual most definitely was.  These birds absolutely glow, I imagine the yellow was about to burn a Protonotaria shape into my camera’s sensor.

If I had to choose colors for a regular day at Mason Farm they’d undoubtedly be yellow and blue.  Not only are the Prothonotary Warblers evident, but Yellow-breasted Chats and Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Yellow-throated Vireos and plain old Yellowthroats.  Nearly every brightly colored bird is saffron and gold and blonde.

And those that aren’t are most likely to be blue.  Jays and Grosbeaks and nesting Eastern Bluebirds and the odd Great Heron.  But the most common species at this particular place are probably the Indigo Buntings, who once again have put the capper on a stellar year, with so many baby Buntings that some of the adults have freely volunteered to turn out a handful of Brown-headed Cowbirds, which is really quite generous of them.

Sure I won’t likely see anything different on any subsequent trip to Mason Farm for the next couple months at least, but summer isn’t so bad after all, even if it generally only comes in two hues.  Might as well make the best of it.

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4 Comments
  1. June 14, 2010 8:16 am

    I would like a Prothonotary that close. Please send one to New York posthaste. Thanks.

  2. June 14, 2010 12:22 pm

    I birded Mason Farm this morning, and the Prothonotaries were sure out in force! Not much unusual bird-wise other than some super aggressive Ovenbirds and good looks at Cuckoos and Chats, but I did manage a Marsh Rabbit early in the morning, my first look at one ever! I may go back again sometime this summer… but the heat and mosquitoes don’t make it so worth it.

  3. June 15, 2010 7:23 am

    It’s been three years since I saw a Prothonotary but spending some time in a nearby provincial park with the purpose of ticking Indigo Bunting produced positive results.

    Nice captures of the blue and gold. A hint you may be cheering for Uruguay?

  4. Nate permalink*
    June 16, 2010 12:23 pm

    @Corey- Done. COD of course.

    @Robert- Heat and mosquitos are rough at Mason Farm, which is why is seriously underbirded in the summer. But it’s usually worth it.

    @Bob- I’m fairly indifferent to Uruguay and most of the South American teams, though Chile looks to surprise.

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