Brawny Breezes Bring Migrants and Triggers Bonanza Bird

A night of strong winds out of the north and a morning that dawned calm and sunny provided near perfect conditions for a fall migration movement. Never one to squander an opportunity, I grabbed binoculars and headed out to prove my theory.

Along the river trail the temperature was crisp, the birding activity a bit on the slow side. As a result of the windy night, leaves were plentiful on the trail. Even walking softy, the crunching leaves made hearing bird song a bit tricky. However, as the sun seeped through the trees, warming the undergrowth, the chirps and cheeps picked up. On the migrant side, a merry band of American Robins were busily swapping tree-top perches for the opportunity to scurry around on the forest floor. I watched them for a few minutes and thought they appeared particularly congenial to one another, chattering back and forth as if attending a fine social occasion. The food source must have been plentiful.

A short distance down the trail, I detected five Hermit Thrushes, going quietly about their business. By their manner and demeanor, you would never know they were of the same family as the robins. Their behavior was unobtrusive, they moved slowly, without song or call. As I watched the thrushes, I became aware of twittering in the tree tops above me. BONANZAJP Looking up, I saw the nervous wing flicking that can only be kinglets. They were not singing, just whispering their lisping notes. After a few moments, I got binocular views and identified both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets. It amuses me to watch kinglets as they continually flitter and fidget in their restless quest for insects.

As I neared the largest bend in the river, woods gave way to weedy fields and I was rewarded by dozens of migrant sparrows. The most obvious and the greatest number were White-throated Sparrows. Even though they were actively feeding, there was no dearth of clear whistled song as “Poor Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody” rang out over and over. If you reside north of the U.S. border, the white-throats sing “Oh, Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada”, or so I’ve been told! Whatever the interpretation, it’s delightful and cheery.

A few other migrants were mixed in with the sparrow flock, including White-crowned Sparrows and Savannah Sparrows. Not to be outdone, our resident Song Sparrows could be heard all along the trail. I confess they are one of my favorites because they don’t play hide and seek with me. They are an in-your-face bird. Pish or whistle and the Song Sparrow hops front and center to answer with his 3 note introduction, followed by very pleasing musical notes.

Noting that a couple hours had slipped away, I turned to make my way home. I was feeling pretty contented, the typical result of the good bird walk. The gusty winds from last night had showered the trail with a heavy concentration of leaves, and as I walked along I began to shuffle my feet through them. Soon, I was kicking leaves with abandon, just having a grand time of it. Yea, I was very relaxed. And then, without warning, as I kicked into a colorful pile of autumn leaves, A FEATHERED BOMBSHELL EXPLODED AT MY FEET!

I had accidentally disturbed a resting American Woodcock! What a bonanza! I don’t know which of us was more startled. I do know it sure gave my nervous system a twitch. Even with the shock of surprise, it only took a millisecond to identify the bird. One glimpse of the unique chunky shape, round wings, barred head, and killer bill was all it took. I did not hear the typical twittering wing sound the woodcock probably made as it abruptly flew up, but then, the blood pounding through my veins may have dulled the normal flight sounds. What a thrill!