Date: 9/21/18 4:35 am
From: Joseph C. Neal <joeneal...>
Subject: Falling Leaf Birds above Mighty Buffalo
If anyone has trouble deciding where to go birding, I recommend eBirder’s Fill in hot spots, give ‘er a spin, and voila, there’s your decision. Don’t like? Spin again! But when it comes to Cave Mountain in the Upper Buffalo National River, I don’t even spin. Just go.

Trip over on September 18 with David Oakley in part to seek out Worm-eating Warbler (success). Then yesterday again, in part because I got lousy images of interesting flowers, plus on the 18th I missed Swainson’s Thrush in fall migration.

Bring your bins, but leave the canoe at home. Mighty Buffalo is now a “sinking stream” under Boxley Bridge – dryer than a bone, all flow deep under cobbles. There’s still visible flow at Ponca low water bridge, but not much, and usually frisky and flashy minnow schools look like they are getting a little testy over their currently cramped quarters.

Meanwhile, migrants are pouring through the forested hills above, including Cave Mountain. Hooded Warblers, Yellow-throated Vireos, and White-eyed Vireos are all singing (in neighborhood of 5-6 of each). Headed up Cave Mountain, pulled into the little parking at the cave and immediately had a Wood Thrush. While watching, 4 birds flew over me that looked like thrushes, but which? Heading up the mountain, I began to pick up Swainson’s Thrushes. Not sure how many, at least 2-3, could have been a few more. While trying to sort that out, a wave of migrants was moving through tree tops. Looking straight up, I managed to identify a Scarlet Tanager, Northern Parula, etc but missed most. Pesky little mosquito experts explored my bare, bin-holding skin. I stopped where the huge sandstone bluff line crosses the road. No Ceruleans, but the Worm-eating Warbler remains.

A Black-throated Green Warbler was moving slowly in the many branches of Ashe’s Junipers on top of Cave Mountain. One hundred feet below the bluff line, a Yellow-throated Vireo was singing in the canopy, with upper reaches of Buffalo National River as backdrop. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo sang, too, first I had heard in a while.

I now have plant identifications from the botanist. One of the flowers is Spiranthes cernua, Nodding ladies’-tresses. The other is a non-native Commelina communis, Asiatic dayflower. According to Wikipedia: “The flowers' interactions with pollinators have been well studied and have helped to support important hypotheses about pollination … Recent research has also revealed that the Asiatic dayflower can bioaccumulate a number of metals, making it a candidate for revegetating and essentially cleaning spoiled copper mines. Several animals and fungi use the plant as a food source, with a few species feeding upon it exclusively.”

Finally, this was a morning dominated by Falling Leaf Birds. You will not find these in Sibley. Things are drying out, even in the forests above the Mighty Buffalo. Throw in just a slight breeze and voila, it’s all drama to looking up into the canopy, among falling leaves, for migrating warblers.

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