Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chasing Vireos

Sleeping Bear Dunes con't:

One of the first things I noticed when we got to the campground was the beautiful, melodic song of one particular bird whose territory seemed to encompass our campsite.  It's song sounded very similar to an American robin, which were plentiful in the woods, and I didn't pay it much attention. But at 5am the next morning, when it began to sing directly over our tent, I paid it a great deal of attention. I finally was him later that morning and was surprised to see it was definitely not a robin.

So hard to ID from underneath.

So after breakfast I got my camera and started following him around the campsite. I had not a clue what it was. He was working the middle canopy areas of the woods around our site, clearly gleaning insects.  I could tell his breast and belly were white, he had a dark eyeline, and at some point I caught a glimpse of his back, which was olive.

Got himself some breakfast!

What the heck is it?

I was without a bird book (duh!) so I got out my iPhone and opened the iBird app.  I put in all of the info I was certain about, but the search did not give me anything that made sense.

I hadn't slept well the night before so after our Alligator Hill hike and a plate of nachos I tried to take a nap in the tent.  I may have slept for five minutes when I heard the little stinker right above the tent once again. I crawled out, cursing quietly, and got my camera. This time he was lower down in the canopy.  Right off the bat, before I'd even gotten him in focus, he catches a cranefly.

Mmmm, got it by the head.

Then he paused long enough for me to get a really good look at him. Lori watched with her binoculars. Then we got iBird fired up again and started paging through options.  Vireos were our second guess and sure enough, this guy turned out to be a Red-eyed vireo. In our defense we could not see his red eye as clearly as it stands out in this photo.

Ah ha!

We wanted to check our guess so I decided to play the song on my phone.  I have never done this before as I really don't like to disturb things, but I was curious what his reaction would be.  If he responded we figured we were right. Three seconds into the song he came zipping into our campsite and landed in a tree six feet off the ground.  I gave my phone to Lori and grabbed my camera.  She played it one more time and he swooped down from his perch and flew mere inches past her nose, then landed in a cedar directly across from me.

Reading about the Red-eyed vireo on the Cornell site I was embarrassed to see that this is a very common bird in Eastern forests. Goodness knows how many times I've heard one and thought it was something else. Silly girl, I clearly have a lot yet to learn!


  1. ...awesome! I love Red-eyed Vireos. They are all up and down the Little Miami Trail...singing their hearts out! Great photos...

    1. Thanks Kelly! Now that I've seen one and know what they sound like, I am seeing them everywhere. I don't know how I missed them before.