Challenging Fall Migrants - 07 Sep 2021


With Robin in class this afternoon I took the opportunity to walk the trails at Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge and Lake Erie Metropark. It was overcast and hot with winds beating on the tops of trees. I could only hope the birds were lower in the canopy today.

The short loop at DRIWR was a bit slow, but a sudden break in the clouds brought out a pair of Robber Flies connected at their tails. I initially thought they were dragonflies.




At the edge of the boardwalk a small flock of warblers suddenly appeared. They were backlit and moving fast through the underbrush so it was a case of shoot now and ID later. Cape May Warblers! I was lucky enough to get a bright yellow male w/ gray cheek patch, heavy chest streaking and slightly decurved bill with distinct dark eyeline extending to back of head.







A pair of Red-eyed Vireos were easy enough to ID. That dark eyeline is distinctive even if the eyes are not apparently red.




Another Cape May Warbler. This one was tougher as it was about as dull a bird as you could find. And backlit ta-boot. But, the eyeline, decurved bill and streaking along flakes is evident. Note the lack of wingbars. Likely a 1st Fall Female.


The west side of the trail brought another small flock of Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, and a few warblers that decided to remain on the backlit side. This presumed 1st Fall male Blackpoll Warbler had a yellow wash all over, bright wing bars, and a faint eyeline through bright eye arcs. Luckily, the orange feet on black legs were visible enough to confirm ID. Also note the long white undertail coverts and very short dark tail.




I returned to the parking lot and found a mini murmuration of European Starling north of the refuge.


I then drove over to Lake Erie Metropark and walked the museum trails. More Blackpoll Warblers appeared at the west edge of the trail.




Near the north end of the trail a Swainson's Thrush appeared low in the brush. Despite it sitting and posing nicely in the low light thicket hand-holding 840mm lens and shooting 1/80 sec wide open at ISO 3200 yielded only a couple of keeper images. Luckily, the bird was sporting bright buffy eye rings that helped w/ ID. 


Perhaps my best bird of the afternoon came a few minutes later when a small flycatcher sat quietly overhead almost directly in front of the late afternoon Sun and haze. The yellow wash and bright eye ring gave me a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher!







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