We’re halfway through September, and fall migration has brought some interesting birds my way, including some new additions for my year list.
Before leaving for work on Friday, Sept. 6, I paused a bit to observe all the bird activity in the yard. I found four species of warblers, but I am sure a few slipped past me. I saw Black-and-white Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler (male and female), Black-throated Green Warbler (female) and a male Prairie Warbler. The Prairie Warbler was also a new bird for my year list, becoming Bird No. 178.
I also saw Gray Catbirds, Blue Jays, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, American Goldfinches and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the yard.
On Saturday, Sept. 7, I visited Boone Dam and the Holston River along Netherland Inn Road in Kingsport. At Boone Dam, I found three Black-crowned Night-herons and a Great Blue Heron. Along the Holston River, I observed several Double-crested Cormorants and Wood Ducks.
My year list inched up Saturday, Sept. 7, when I added Tennessee Warbler as Bird No. 179 and Cape May Warbler as Bird No. 180 while my mom and I watched for warblers and other migrants in my yard.
We also saw Magnolia Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Eastern Phoebe, Northern Cardinal, Downy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, American Goldfinch, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Blue Jay, American Crow and Broad-winged Hawk.
My mom and I enjoyed more lawn chair birding on Sunday, Sept. 8. We tallied up a total of six warblers, as well as some other migrants. We didn’t find any new birds for my year list, but an Eastern Wood-Pewee and two Blackburnian Warblers were new for our fall list. The other warblers we saw included several Tennessee and Chestnut-sided Warblers, a female Black-throated Blue Warbler, a Cape May Warbler and a female American Redstart. We also had a Gray Catbird, Eastern Phoebe, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, Ruby-throated Hummingbird and White-breasted Nuthatch.
We had a very good evening watching for migrants in the yard on Tuesday, Sept. 10. One of the best sightings of the evening happened when I focused on a bird that I first thought was a Red-eyed Vireo. With a more careful study, I identified the bird as a Philadelphia Vireo and Bird No. 181 on my year list.
I now have all the vireos on my list that I am likely to get for the year. The Philadelphia Vireo only migrates through the region, but the other vireos — Red-eyed, Blue-headed, Warbling, Yellow-throated and White-eyed — nest throughout Northeast Tennessee during the summer months.
I also got a new “first” for my yard. I had a Brewster’s Warbler foraging in the hawthorn and willow trees this evening. I only saw my first Brewster’s earlier this year at Hampton Creek Cove in Roan Mountain, and I never expected to see one in my yard. The Brewster’s Warbler is a hybrid of a Blue-winged Warbler and Golden-winged Warbler.
Several other warblers put in an appearance that same evening, including Northern Waterthrush, Blackburnian Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Magnolia Warbler and American Redstart.
We also observed a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, three Eastern Phoebes, Gray Catbird, Eastern Towhee, Downy Woodpecker, Mourning Dove, American Crows, Northern Cardinals, Song Sparrows, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatch and American Goldfinches.
Common Nighthawks were also present overhead in a flock of about 20 individuals. These are the first nighthawks I have seen at home this year, although I have been seeing them at other locations over the past month or so.
On Wednesday, Sept. 11, our evening of lawn chair birding wasn’t too hectic, but we did get glimpses of American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, Northern Waterthrush and Chestnut-sided Warbler. We also heard a calling Northern Raven, the first one we have heard at home this fall.
Before leaving for work on Thursday, Sept. 12, I found a Bay-breasted Warbler, which became Bird No. 182 for the year. I also enjoyed watching a Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Phoebe, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jays, Carolina Wrens, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, White-breasted Nuthatches, Song Sparrows and American Goldfinches. The birds were especially active this morning.
I was very saddened this past week to learn of the death of Donna Adams. Donna, who was 77, died Wednesday, Sept. 4, in Murfreesboro.
Donna and her husband, John, have been avid birders in Elizabethton for many years. I’ve known the couple since the 1990s when I first started birding. They belonged to the Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society.
STAR readers may also recognize John’s name in association with the photos he often shares on our “Starring” page on Thursday of reader-submitted photographs. John loves to share photos of many of the birds he encounters in the area.
The Blue Grosbeak was one of Donna’s favorite birds. Whenever I wrote about Blue Grosbeaks, I could count on hearing from her. This beautiful blue bird has become a little harder to find in Elizabethton and Carter County in recent years, which is something we both lamented.
Donna was also a person who liked to write notes and letters. She sent me several over the years, often when something I mentioned in my column caught her interest. I treasured these notes, which were always handwritten on notecards featuring an image of a songbird. In this age of email and Facebook, it’s a rare individual who takes the time to send you a handwritten note.
I am also friends with Dani Sue Thompson, one of Donna’s daughters, on Facebook. I shared with her that now whenever I see a Blue Grosbeak, I will think of her mother.