A Mid-October Ramble Around the Rattray Marsh

Now, in October 2016, the ash-tree removal and sapling-shrub-and-tree planting programs at the Rattray are almost complete. It’s much calmer down here than it has been for the last two years! It’s possible to walk around the full loop from the Old Poplar Row spur path to Jack Darling and back without any closures. Aside from the unpleasant whine of leafblowers on the surrounding residential properties it’s reasonably quiet again. That makes enjoying the company of the last of the summer migrants and the cheerful year-round residents simpler. Here are a few of the feathered faces I met on my mid-October excursion.

Two Types of Kinglets Both Zipping Quickly Through the Canopy and Hovering Alongside the Goldenrod

Photo of Golden-crowned Kinglet Eating Something Leggy on naturalcrooksdotcom
This Golden-crowned Kinglet has caught something with very long legs to eat.

As the warbler migration winds up for the fall, the Kinglet migration continues. On recent trips I’ve seen both Ruby- and Golden-crowned Kinglets. They are truly tiny and always on the move–it’s very hard to capture their character and appeal in a still photo.

Photo of Ruby-crowned Kinglet Asters on naturalcrooksdotcom
This Ruby-crowned Kinglet posed attractively amidst the asters and goldenrods.

You can tell the two Kinglets apart fairly easily if you can see their faces. Golden-crowned have almost angry-looking white and black eyelines. Ruby-crowned have a partial white eye ring.

Riverbank Grapes and Virginia Creepers Share Their Bounty

Photo of Riverbank Grapes Ripening on naturalcrooksdotcom
The Riverbank Grape crop is large this year and many birds were taking advantage of the leaf cover to perch in some shelter while snacking.

Photo of Northern Cardinal Female Eating Grape on naturalcrooksdotcom
This female Northern Cardinal was popping grapes like a pro.

Photo of Hermit Thrush Near Virginia Creeper on naturalcrooksdotcom
At least three Hermit Thrushes were in the Creeper.

Photo of Yellow-shafted Flicker Virginia Creeper on naturalcrooksdotcom
A Northern Flicker ate Creeper fruit for about five minutes, too.

Photo of Multi-flora Roses in hips on naturalcrooksdotcom|
The softer fruits must be more appealing than the Multiflora Rose hips although by spring most of them will be gone, too.

A Few Water Birds Floated By

Photo of Mute Swan Juvenile Outlet on naturalcrooksdotcom

Two pairs of Mute Swans were seen incubating eggs this spring in the Rattray. Although one nest flooded, they re-built and went on to have cygnets. Recently, there has been a pair of Mute Swans with three dusky youngsters and a single Mute Swan with two grey adolescents moving around the marsh. I’m not sure if the fourth parent is still around or not.

Photo of Hooded Merganser at Outlet on naturalcrooksdotcom

Three Hooded Mergansers have also been hanging out in the Lagoon. No adult male has been seen recently, though.

Sparrows Skulk Everywhere in Autumn

Photo of White-throated Sparrow on the Boardwalk on naturalcrooksdotcom

This White-Throated Sparrow was taking advantage of a sunlit spot on the board walk to bask for a minute or two.

Photo of Staghorn Sumac Dewy on naturalcrooksdotcom

It was still quite a cool day and in shadowy spots the heavy silver dew was still lingering.

Photo of Sparrow on Cow Parsnip on naturalcrooksdotcom
This sparrow preferred to perch under the canopy of Cow Parsnip seed heads.

Late Migrants Add Variety

Photo of Eastern Phoebe Pines on naturalcrooksdotcom
There were several Phoebes enjoying the mosquitoes, gnats and other insects still flying in the unusually warm weather.

Photo of Young Thrush on naturalcrooksdotcom

Some of the Thrushes appeared quite young and may have only fledged recently.

Songbirds Aren’t the Only Migrants Though

Photo of Brown Creeper on Trunk Rattray on naturalcrooksdotcom

I was enjoying watching a small flock of migrants including two Brown Creepers while I toured along the Knoll trail.

Photo of Downy Woodpecker Rattray October on naturalcrooksdotcom

Some of the resident woodpeckers were also busily at work.

Then a larger bird flew in to perch and everyone froze.

Photo of Sharp-shinned Hawk Juvenile on naturalcrooksdotcom
At first I wasn’t sure if this was a young Merlin or Sharp-Shinned Hawk. A check on the internet, though, advised me that Merlins always have dark-coloured eyes. These yellow eyes help to identify the bird as a young Sharp-Shinned. (It could have been a young Cooper’s but it was quite small so I’m pretty sure it was a Sharp-Shinned.)

The smaller birds nearby didn’t care what its name was: they just didn’t want to be eaten. All the singing stopped and the birds stayed still until the hawk moved on further around the edge of the marsh.

Overall, it was a splendid day to explore the Rattray!

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