Thursday, August 7, 2014

Yellow Warblers overhead in August

A few minutes ago I was out in the front yard, and heard my favorite sound of August:  the seet of a Yellow Warbler passing overhead.  Sometimes they are slightly buzzy, sometimes quite clean- this one was the latter.

Yellow Warblers are circum-Gulf migrants in fall, a label given to migratory bird species that are bound for the tropics to winter, and chose to navigate around the Gulf of Mexico instead of across it.  Yellow Warblers are more inclined to continue nocturnal movements into the early morning than are most species, and are commonly seen and heard in Greater New Orleans coming over at c. treetop level up to a few hours after sunrise.   They are usually headed some version of west.

They can be heard and seen doing this with frequency as far east as (at least) the Florida panhandle, but such overhead Yellows are generally less common farther inland than New Orleans- being less numerous even as close as Baton Rouge.  In places where shoreline configurations concentrate them, hundreds can be seen in an hour or two by scanning- I have seen such flights on the lakeshore at Fontainbleau State Park, and at South Point (RR bridge) and Point Aux Herbes (the base of the Hwy 11 bridge) in Bayou Sauvage NWR, although their occurrence at these places may be highly  dependent on wind direction.  I have seen abnormal spikes of 100 or so in an hour at Bucktown, and even over my yard in Old Jefferson, though I could not discern what was special about those days that would cause peak movements.

Although lots of warblers make seet notes similar to that of the Yellow Warbler, the numbers of them that fly long distances (disappearing over the treetops and not just jumping tree to tree while foraging) are very small compared to Yellows in the first three weeks of August- and really still somewhat outnumbered by Yellows into mid September.


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