It may seem early in fall migration, but birds are moving, and many of the marsh’s summer breeders have already departed. Yellow Warblers are entirely absent, and Prothonotary’s have become few and far between. Staging Baltimore Orioles are drastically reducing in presence, and Gray Catbirds (abundant only a week ago) are slowly filtering out. But while others are departing, and some are trickling in, flocking species such as Common Grackle and Cedar Waxwing continue to stage along the lake shore, building in numbers every day.
While every bird that passes through the station is incredible in its own way, there have been a few birds recently that really caught our attention. The first being an aberrant plumaged Gray Catbird (hatching-year, full juvenal plumage, affectionately termed the Glaucous Catbird) with an apparent melanin deficiency. While most pigment aberrations seem to affect only the feathers on the majority of birds, the interesting thing about this catbird was that every body part color was subdued. Body and flight feathers, beak, legs, and eye color were all a paler color than found on a typical individual. Photographing subtle colors can be difficult, so to try to make the pale color obvious we photographed a normal catbird of the same age shortly after the paler bird in the same lighting.
An unusual visitor for the fall, a hatching-year Olive-sided Flycatcher stopped by this past week, exciting our team and drawing our attention to the plumage characteristics of young flycatchers.
Hatching-year flycatchers are easily distinguished from adult birds by the presence of buff tipping to feathers and buff-cinnamon wing bars. This is especially true among the Empidonax flycatchers who show whiter wing bars as adults, in addition to other species who don’t show wing bars as adults, like Eastern Phoebe .