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Greenway Trail Spring & A Rare Vireo (for Ohio).

May 11, 2013

Bell’s Vireo

Two days ago I went out to the Heritage Trail in Hilliard.  You might remember that this is where I saw a Red Fox last spring, so I thought that a return visit was a good idea.

The Heritage Trail is one of Franklin County’s many greenway trails.  Built upon an old right-of-way, this multiuse trail is several miles long and is frequently occupied by cyclists and joggers- and the occasional birder.  It was good to get out in a wide-open farming area after being in the woods a lot looking for warblers and other migrants.

My recent visit yielded no foxes, but I did see a special bird.  On to the pictures!

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There are lots of bushes along the trail along with the occasional tree, hiding a farm field landscape

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Wildflowers- often invasive species- could be found

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In addition to spring blooms, summer-friendly plants were getting ready to bloom

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A couple of rabbits were the the only animals that posed for pictures

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A Black Swallowtail butterfly landed near me, enjoying the warmth of the day

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Tree Swallows and House Wrens occupied the many nesting boxes placed along the trail

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This Robin had to build its own nest

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Red Winged Blackbirds were on territory like this feisty guy flashing his red and yellow wing patches

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This Brown-Headed Cowbird hung around the area- they are parasitic birds that lay their eggs in other birds’ nests

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Catbirds were numerous, singing their squeaky songs and ‘meowing’ at me as I strolled by

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Common Grackles are country birds, and there was no shortage of them along the trail

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Song Sparrows are quite common just about everywhere but forest interiors in Ohio

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Willow Flycatchers called from the tops of small trees; they often fly out and catch flying insects on the wing

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An imposing Brown Thrasher was right at home in the bushes

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However, this magnificent Mockingbird had a problem with the Brown Thrasher…

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If you look closely you can see the two birds squabbling in the brush

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Spring is a touchy time for many!

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This Yellow Warbler perched on an electrical tower- they mostly enjoyed the dense bushes, however

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And now we come to the star of the show.  This bird looks fairly dull compared to many, but it has a short and forceful song that it sings from its preferred habitat in the bushes.  Wait, this doesn’t sound like a vireo!

The last time I did a post about vireos, I said that these birds typically hung out in the treetops of mature woodlands.  This is true, but there is often an exception to the rule in nature, and this bird is one of them.  A certain type of bird may have a general habitat or behavior that it does, but over time a species may depart from the norm and exploit a different attractive habitat or useful behavior.  Adaptation in this manner is a good thing- everyone isn’t doing the same thing, which would mean there was a lot of competition, or if the environment changed then everyone may be in for a rough time.  Variation in nature is an adaptable thing.

So, this Bell’s Vireo enjoys dense shrubs to feed and nest in.  These birds are more common in the Great Plains states, and only occasionally stray into Ohio, where birders are happy to see them.  Last year along the Heritage Trail, a nesting pair raised a family- perhaps this very bird.  It’s always a good day when you see them here in the Buckeye State.

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This is my best photo of the vireo (don’t worry, I took lots of bad ones as well!).  He preferred staying in the bushes, but popped out for an occasional whirlwind of crazy singing, announcing that this section of the trail was his.  He might be mistaken for a larger flycatcher at first glance, but he has a thicker bill, a characteristic of vireos.

How did this bird get its name?  Actually, famed birder John James Audubon named him after a friend, John Graham Bell, who accompanied him on a trip up the Missouri River in the 1840s.

Notice this bird is slightly yellow on the breast.  The further west you go across the country, the more gray these birds are.  Perhaps the most interesting fact about these birds is that no one has seen them drinking water.  It’s possible that they get enough liquids from their all-insect diet- that’s a lot of insects.

With spring in high gear at this time, you too can notice lots of sights and sounds of the season.  Check out any trails in your area and see what you can find.  I bet you’ll enjoy yourself!

29 Comments leave one →
  1. May 11, 2013 10:48 pm

    One of the benefits of the greenway system is that as it has been replanted to support birds and butterflies, we are miraculously seeing more really cool birds and butterflies.

  2. May 11, 2013 11:58 pm

    What a treat: such lovely and interesting photos! Thank you!

  3. May 12, 2013 12:32 am

    Nice catch on the Vireo, on a very pleasant day!

    • May 13, 2013 9:10 pm

      Thanks! I got so lucky in that last shot of the vireo. If everyone knew how many bad photos I took, they’d be shocked!

  4. May 12, 2013 6:02 am

    During our many bike rides using the trail we’ve been fortunate to enjoy the birds you’ve highlighted (except for the Bell’s). It’s also a great place to see Indigo Buntings.

    • May 13, 2013 9:11 pm

      It’s a great trail! I couldn’t get a shot of the one elusive Indigo Bunting I saw, but there’ll be plenty of them joining him soon!

  5. May 12, 2013 11:00 am

    Another great post, and we especially enjoy the interesting links.

  6. May 12, 2013 6:07 pm

    I liked the mocking bird (before fighting) best of a very fine lot of pictures.

  7. May 12, 2013 7:58 pm

    That last shot is perfect.

    • May 13, 2013 9:14 pm

      Gardener, I was so happy to see that shot because I had many disappointing ones. The one good shot makes all of the bad ones worthwhile!

  8. May 13, 2013 1:05 am

    Wonderful post, the Black Swallowtail is beautiful!

  9. May 13, 2013 1:37 am

    What a pleasant trail, with the greenery and flowers and birds! I especially like the last photo. What a beautiful little bird! I wish we had them here.

  10. May 13, 2013 10:16 am

    A lovely walk! Well done for seeing the Vireo – that must have been a surprise. I just love the swallowtail butterfly – spectacular!

    • May 13, 2013 9:17 pm

      Thanks, Jo! It was such a sunny and pleasant walk I knew I was going to make a whole post on it afterwards!

  11. May 13, 2013 5:14 pm

    Love that Thrasher. Got a name for those purple flowers 2 pics down from the garlic mustard? I just came across a bunch of them on a trail.

    • May 13, 2013 9:09 pm

      Sure, Scott! That’s Garden Phlox (phlox paniculata- sometimes known as Summer Phlox), they’re starting to bloom here in Ohio now. You see them along roads and wood borders in the summer. They escaped from gardens long ago and sometimes mark old homesteads.

  12. May 15, 2013 10:30 pm

    Hi. Your photos are foretelling our own spring. I like the beady little eye of that Bell’s Vireo. I also love the Brown Thrasher. I have a bird card of him, but in it he looks much neater than he does in your photo! Jane

    • May 17, 2013 12:11 pm

      Thanks, Jane! The Thrasher was ruffling up his feathers when I got his picture, like he’d just got done grooming. An impressive bird indeed!

  13. May 17, 2013 12:14 pm

    Hi Seasons, Great sighting on the Vireo. I have never spotted one. I love the series of all the photographs of the various birds and that cottontail bunny is cute, too! Have a great weekend!

  14. May 20, 2013 10:26 am

    Your pictures are beautiful as always! Loved the picture of the butterfly, we’re just starting to see butterflies, as our temps have been bouncing up and down between 80’s and 50’s, sort of confusing the plants, insects and animals. 🙂

    • May 20, 2013 12:36 pm

      Thanks Robin! We’ve had some spring extremes here in Ohio too- a frost warning one morning, and mid-80s temperatures a couple days later.

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