I closed out my May birding with an observation of a bird that I hadn’t ever managed to view on previous visits to Hampton Creek Cove in Roan Mountain. Ironically, I won’t be able to add the bird to my year list of species.
The bird in question was a Brewster’s Warbler, and it turned out to be incredibly easy to observe. I arrived at Hampton Creek Cove at 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 25, with Byron Tucker, who was visiting from Atlanta, and David Thometz.
Brewster’s Warbler is the result of the mating of a Golden-winged Warbler with a Blue-winged Warbler. The hybridization of these warblers can also produce a hybrid bird known as Lawrence’s Warbler. Since these hybrids are not true species, they do not get counted on official birding lists.
As soon as we stepped out of the car in the parking lot, we heard the song of a Golden-winged Warbler. When we got binoculars focused on the singer, however, we discovered that it was a Brewster’s Warbler singing the song of a Golden-winged Warbler.
Over the years, I have visited Hampton Creek Cove on a regular basis to view nesting Golden-winged Warblers. While other birding friends have observed Brewster’s Warblers at this location, I had not managed to find one of the hybrids.
Although I cannot add the Brewster’s Warbler to my year list, it was great fun finally seeing one of these hybrid warblers. Also, I didn’t have to wait long before I added some new birds to my year list.
Golden-winged Warbler (one of the morning’s target birds) became Bird No. 149 for 2013. I tried, but failed, to get photos of several singing male Golden-wings. In total, we found three Golden-winged Warblers, as well as the Brewster’s Warbler.
Chestnut-sided Warbler became Bird No. 150 for the year. We found a total of five Chestnut-sided Warblers at Hampton Creek Cove.
The last new bird encountered at Hampton Creek Cove was Alder Flycatcher, which became Bird No. 151.
After leaving Hampton Creek Cove, we headed up the mountain. We made a few stops, however, before reaching Carver’s Gap.
In the vicinity of Twin Springs Recreation Area, we added several new birds.
Bird No. 152 for the year was Blue-headed Vireo.
Bird No. 153 was Least Flycatcher, so named because it is the smallest of the Empidonax flycatchers in eastern North America.
As is the case with most Empid flycatchers, it is difficult to distinguish from other members of its genus. The Least Flycatcher is considered the grayest of the eastern Empid flycatchers. The bird’s song is one way to distinguish it from relatives.
The Least Flycatcher produces a loud, persistent “Che-beck” call. The Adler Flycatcher, which we encountered at Hampton Creek Cove and again at Carver’s Cap, has a song best described as “Re-beet.”
The Alder Flycatcher has only been offically recognized as a species since 1973. Before that time, the Alder’s Flycatcher and Willow’s Flycatcher were considered one species under the name Traill’s Flycatcher.
Bird No. 154 was a Veery. I always love hearing the flute-like notes of a singing Veery in shadow-dappled woodlands. These small thrushes build their nests close to the ground, often in a clump of grass or ferns. The birds build the nests from moss and other plant fibers.
The Veery is much less spotted on the breast in comparison with such relatives as Wood Thrush and Hermit Thrush.
Once we left Twin Springs, we headed to Carver’s Gap. On the drive up the mountain, we stopped at a few pull-offs along the side of the road. We found such birds as Eastern Towhees, Indigo Buntings, Dark-eyed Juncos and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks at some of the stops.
When we reached Carver’s Gap, I added two more species. Red-breasted Nuthatch became Bird No. 155 and Brown Creeper made my list as Bird No. 156.
I also saw more Alder Flycatchers, as well as American Robins, Dark-eyed Juncos, Carolina Chickadees and Golden-crowned Kinglets.
I didn’t find two target birds, Winter Wren and Red Crossbill, which means I have a good excuse to return to the Roan soon.
I received an email on May 18 from David Caton about the status of the Red Crossbill flock at feeders at his home and his parents’ home in Erwin.
“I counted over 20 birds yesterday,” he wrote. “It seems they are in two different flocks. As I am typing this email, I have four on the feeder and seven that I can see in the trees waiting their turn.”
The crossbills have become annual visitors each spring for the past three years at Caton’s home.
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