I welcome you to The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen’s attempt to bring some nature and knowledge into your home. The Nine Minute Naturalist borrows from NPR’s lovely 90-Second Naturalist podcast. Since we all have a bit more time on our hands, the goal is to take something that is happening out in our environment and stimulate your brain for roughly nine minutes. Don’t let something as “minor” as a quarantine to keep you from learning. I hope you enjoy!
Every naturalist has certain strengths and weaknesses. One of my greatest weaknesses is birding. I am good with visual identification but struggle with audible id. Sadly, birds don’t always offer a good view in the binoculars, especially when trees are leafed out. Despite my flaw, I never fail to get excited when the migrants begin returning to Wintergreen each spring. The time is now for us novice birders to get out and improve our skill set.
We are going to focus on a few of my favorite birds that grace the Wintergreen environment in spring. These birds are all relatively easy to learn and can be found with just a bit of knowledge and effort.
One of the most beautiful migrants is the scarlet tanager. This brilliant bird is set apart by its blood red body and black wing and tail. The scarlet tanager has a chick-burr call that sounds a bit robin-like. They tend to mix in with other birds after the breeding season so learning the call is important. To find them visually search the top of the forest canopy. Their bright red bodies make them a relatively easy target to find. A good place to look for them is on the Fortunes Ridge Trail just below Blackrock Drive.
The warblers are what set the Blue Ridge apart in terms of bird diversity. Many different varieties can be found using the Wintergreen area as a breeding site. One of my favorites is the black and white warbler. Two distinct reasons make me like this bird. First, it is quite attractive. Second, it is easy to find. These warblers make nests in leaf litter and tend to feed on lower layers of the forest. They are also not shy in the least and will often go about their business while you get a good look. Their call is a thin, squeaky song that can be heard before most migrants. A good place to look is along the Old Appalachian Trail from Cedar Drive to Laurel Springs Drive.
The ovenbird is another warbler that offers the novice a great opportunity to see and hear it throughout the spring. Its call is hard to miss. They spend much time singing teacher, teacher, teacher letting everyone know where they are. The odd part is that they are usually hanging out on the forest floor strutting around like a rooster. With a bit of caution, you can watch this bird feed along the forest floor for as long as you please. Look for them on Cedar Cliffs Main Trail in open stretches of wood.
Head to the water for the last of our migrants we will focus on. The Louisiana waterthrush is not a thrush but a warbler with the appearance similar to a thrush. This bird can be found working its way along forested streams and creeks bobbing its tail constantly. It has a sharp metallic call that certainly helps identify its location so you can begin the visual search. A great spot to look for this bird is along the Lower Shamokin Falls Trail.
There are so many great migrants that call Wintergreen home for a time each year. Find the ones you love and can identify and continue to build your knowledge. I highly recommend finding a birding app you like and becoming very familiar with it. They are great for bird calls and can even be used to get birds to respond to you while in the woods. Keep trying to improve those weaknesses!
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