Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nuttin' hatching today except PALM WARBLER x2

Something was bringing the birds out recently. I didn't really pay too much attention to it until I heard a Red-breasted Nuthatch in Chumash Park.

The Red-breasted Nuthatch is a high altitude bird and is quite rare around these parts, but there has been a rather sizeable influx of the species in lower altitudes for reasons unknown. I never found nuthatches to be a particularly migratory bird, so its odd to see them wander this far.

I first heard one of these bird in the pines along the creek. Its rather long-carrying call is unlike the common white-breasted nuthatch. As it is such a typical sound of the northern wilderness, it feels so strange to here it at my local park. It definitely made me freeze for a moment when I first heard it!
The red-breasted's call sounds superficially similar to the Eurasian nuthatch, whereas the white-breasted is completely unique.

I was only able to confirm one bird, but there may have been two. I heard the bird pictured above calling, but as soon as it disappeared behind the branch to the right I heard the call again, this time from another tree adjacent. Its entirely possible it managed to blindside me but I do not know. It would have been simple if there was a male and female as unlike most nuthatches females differ slightly in plumage, but they all seemed to be males.

Later in the day I noted a small brown bird along the dirt slope that runs parallel to the path up to the apartments of Oak Creek. From this description, there is nothing unusual about this bird, until it started flickings its tail. At this point, the brown bird is no longer normal.

Tail-flicking is not hugely common in birds. It is a very specific trait usually only present in a few species. It serves as a really nice field mark when seeing a bird from afar, or even in silhouette where most other features are impossible to see. While in Canada I had the same situation with a brown tail--flicking bird which turned out to be a palm warbler, a relatively uncommon bird for the area. In a small tree naerby I became distracted by this distant but obliging male Nashville Warbler.

I then looked back to the tail-wagger who had since perched on this tumbleweed-esque shrub:

Funnily enough, it was undoubtedly a palm warbler. Though known as an annual migrant in the fall, they are still quite rare and out of range in this state. Even better, while photographing the above bird, this second bird turned up!

Despite its name the palm warbler is not often seen in palm trees; this name was applied to the finder of the species who indeed collected the first specimen from a palm tree. As John Acorn put it a better suiting but less charismatic name would be the "bog warbler", as this accurately describes their breeding habitat. Several other birds are also misnamed in the sense that they generally don't occupy the specific conditions they were named for. It's like seeing a new species of finch land on a greenhouse and calling it the greenhouse finch, even though it often lives in deserts far from civilization.

The rare bird alert for LA was flooded with warblers this week. Something in the air, perhaps?

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