Martin Burns WMA – Byfield – 5/25/14 AKA: The Black-billed Cuckoo Show

Martin Burns WMA – Byfield – 5/25/14 AKA: The Black-billed Cuckoo Show

Prairie Warbler by Jeremiah Trimble
Black-billed Cuckoo by Tim Spahr

Paula McFarland & I led a small, congenial group at this 1,555-acre management area.  The sky was overcast but gratefully dry.  The terrain is hilly & rocky, and the poorly drained low areas were a little wet. This old pasture with oak, hickory, black cherry, white pine, pitch pine, red maple, Eastern red cedar, aspen, birch, dogwood, blueberry and viburnum is fantastic habitat.

We saw coyote scat and an Eastern Ribbon Snake go slithering off.

We heard Black-billed Cuckoos as we parked at the garages.  I thought of a story told to me a few years back that cuckoos have a tendency to call more frequently before rain.  I’ve heard sage birders say that both Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoos have been referred to as “Rain Crows”.  I was hoping our walk would be a dry one…   We had the best looks ever at this secretive species.  The cuckoos stole the show this morning!

We met the Merrimac Valley Bird Club group and had up close and personal looks at a Black-throated Blue Warbler, a victim of a window collision.  We studied the short, thin bill; the small, white spot on the edge of the folded wings. This male had deep slate blue above with a black face, throat and flanks.  We also had the opportunity to examine a pheasant feather.  I preened the feather, explaining the barbs are a series of short branchlets called barbules. These tiny hooklets tie the barbules together and, ultimately, the barbs together. This arrangement creates the strong and light structure of the feather.  Many thanks, to the MVBC!

After seeing a kingbird, Great Crested Flycatcher, pewee and phoebe, I spoke of rictal bristles which extend from the bill of many insect-eating birds, including flycatchers. These stiff feathers are believed to provide protection for the bird’s eyes as it consumes its wiggly prey. The bristles likely provide tactile feedback like the whiskers on a dog or cat.

Canada Goose   – pair with 3 goslings
Wood Duck

Common Loon - 2 migrant flyovers

Great Blue Heron  - at nesting area

Great Egret - 4

Cooper's Hawk
Buteo - 1 most probably a Broad-winged Hawk seen in flight while on a short faray

Turkey Vulture
Mourning Dove

Wood Thrush
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Black-billed Cuckoo - 8, we saw a pair in the open for a prolonged time
Chimney Swift

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - heard

Downy Woodpecker - 1

Hairy Woodpecker

Northern Flicker
Red-bellied Woodpecker - 3
Eastern Wood-Pewee- 3, 1 perched in on a snag for great views while vocal

Great Crested Flycatcher - 3

Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Phoebe
Olive-sided Flycatcher - 1, seen well near beaver swamp
Red-eyed Vireo
Warbling Vireo

Blue Jay

American Crow

Tree Swallow

Barn Swallow

Black-capped Chickadee

American Robin

Gray Catbird

Brown Thrasher - 1

European Starling

Cedar Waxwing - several, gathering nest material
Indigo Bunting - 5, males singing
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart

Northern Parula

Magnolia Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Blackpoll Warbler

Blue-winged Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

Canada Warbler 
Prairie Warbler

Eastern Towhee

Song Sparrow
Field Sparrow 

Chipping Sparrow

Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Tufted Titmouse
Black-capped Chickadee
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird

Common Grackle

Brown-headed Cowbird

Baltimore Oriole

House Finch

American Goldfinch

Good birding,