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!