Monday, September 10, 2012

Parc Perlière: Our Birds of the Day for the Weekend -- September 8 & 9

          After a work week of several evenings away from home, I was ready to veg at home for the weekend, work on photo-editing and blogging as well as accomplish a few chores, of course.  Even though Sunday morning in the mountain gaps between Asheville and Mount Mitchell State Park in North Carolina seemed to be offering ideal conditions for warbler migration in herds, I passed on that temptation for a quick trip to the mountains in order to spend the weekend in the comfort of home and to snuggle the kitties claiming neglect (Ha!).  Thankfully, birding at Parc Perlière, the name we have given our 1/3 acre yard, did not disappoint when we took breaks from the computers and the kitties to enjoy the outdoors.    

Saturday evening, September 8:  The yard bird of the day:
           We had all of the usual suspects lurking in the trees, the shrubs and at the feeders throughout the day in which we had sun and showers mixed as a cold front began to push through.  At 7 pm, I stepped out onto the back deck to watch the crazy storm clouds blow across the sky.  The lowest clouds moved quickly in one direction while the somewhat higher clouds appeared motionless.  I called Carl out to come see the spectacle.  Aside from some Northern Cardinals, Carolina Chickadees and  Carolina Wrens, most of the birds seemed to have settled down for the evening.  As we were observing the cloud movement, we suddenly saw a bird flapping somewhat erratically in a south-westerly direction into a head wind.  It was the size of a Merlin with very pointed, narrow wings and white windows in those wings towards the wingtips.  Carl asked, "What is that?!"  I recognized the species and knew we had a new life bird for the yard -- a Common Nighthawk!  I was thrilled!  I had read some other Carolina birders' sightings of the Common Nighthawks migrating through and had envied them the experience which was now ours.  I grabbed the bird guide so that I could show Carl how I identified the bird.  The next thing we knew, we had a flock of nine flying over!  That group was soon followed by a pair which was then followed by another singleton.  In 30 minutes, we counted 13 of these birds!  I later did my eBird list to confirm that the Common Nighthawk was Parc Perlière's life bird number 105!  Celebrate!

            Unfortunately, the storm-boding skies were too dark and the birds were moving too fast and too high for us to attempt a photo.  Thus, the photo below of a Common Nighthawk taken on Dewees Island is all I have to offer.  But it will show you the wing shape and pattern that allowed us to identify our yard's life bird no. 105 on Saturday evening!
Common Nighthawk -- Dewees Island -- May 2, 2010
 Just in case you were wondering what this bird's appearance may be when not in flight, the next photo shows a Common Nighthawk photographed a year later in the dunes on Dewees Island. 

Common Nighthawk -- Dewees Island -- May 1, 2011

Sunday morning, September 9: The bird of the day
           Sunday morning, with the cooler temperature and somewhat lower humidity, Carl and I decided to eat our breakfast on the back deck.  As we ate, we watched a few birds moving in and out of the Magnolia tree in the corner of our neighbors' yard.  The binoculars revealed that they were the suspected Red-Eyed Vireos!  I have managed to obtain a few decent shots of these lovely migrants but not the shot that I truly wanted -- a Red-Eyed Vireo eating the seeds off of the red Magnolia cones!  Though we have witnessed it, this is a difficult shot for us due to the poor lighting conditions (the tree is backlit in the morning) and the shyness of the birds.  Nonetheless, we decided to give it a try setting ourselves as close to the tree as we could without discouraging the birds' forays and also trying to angle our position so that the light was a bit more from the side than from behind.  We soon discovered that one bird seemed to be drawn to a particular cone -- which allowed Carl to pre-focus.  I, on the other hand, still had the goal of trying for the all-time great Hummingbird shot.  Since the Hummingbird feeder was on the opposite end of the deck, I did not bother with the pre-focusing.  I simply had to be ready for both events.

       Only one Ruby-Throated Hummingbird came to feed at a time but I did not miss my shot.  And I am relatively happy with the photo below from this morning.  The hummer is not THE bird of the day though because we see them daily.  WHEN I get the 2-for-1 hummingbird shot, it will most definitely be my bird of the day.  I am still working that problem...

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird -- Parc Perlière -- September 9, 2012

          Our target bird for the Bird of the Day for both us was going to be the Red-Eyed Vireo eating seeds off of a Magnolia cone!  Success!  We both got good shots -- here are mine!

Juvenile Red-Eyed Vireo -- Parc Perlière -- September 9, 2012

Juvenile Red-Eyed Vireo -- Parc Perlière -- September 9, 2012

Juvenile Red-Eyed Vireo -- Parc Perlière -- September 9, 2012

Juvenile Red-Eyed Vireo -- Parc Perlière -- September 9, 2012

Juvenile Red-Eyed Vireo -- Parc Perlière -- September 9, 2012

 From the caption, you may have noted that I labeled this bird as a juvenile.  The brown color to the eye is the give-away.  The adults have the red eyes, such as this fellow below.

Adult Red-Eyed Vireo

         We are very happy to report that this Magnolia tree is full of cones so we will have plenty more feasting Red-Eyed Vireos over the next 2-3 weeks.  These birds winter in South America and will need plenty of seeds for fuel for the trip.  These birds migrate at night and generally, we only see them early in the morning.  I assume they are resting after their morning forage.

          Both of our Birds of the Day for this weekend have long travels ahead of them as both species are headed to South America.  Migratory birds fascinate and amaze me with their journeys!  How wonderful for us to have a window into that trip as they fly over or as they pause to build up their reserves of fat for the trip!  I wonder what the next week will bring as we bear witness to this wonderful phenomenon of the Fall Migration season. 


  1. Nice series of photos as they dine in your yard

  2. Always so beautiful, always a pleasure to read ! Do you know that the French name for the Nighthawk is "Engoulevent", which is a funny way to say "wind swallower" ! ;-)
    Phil Deken

  3. What a great series of photos. I thought we lived in a great place but you obviousy live in a MARVELOUS spot!! Alays look forward to your posts.. keep 'em coming!! g