Ruffner Mountain Birding Report, October 9, 2016

White-throated Sparrow, photo by Paul H. Franklin

White-throated Sparrow, photo by Paul H. Franklin

A Report on Ruffner Mountain from Scot Duncan

It was a chilly morning at the Ruffner Mountain Wetlands this Sunday (checklist below). The pre-dawn was calm, but as the sun rose the winds brought by the new cold front became gusty and strong. Showers of golden leaves ripped from their twigs by gusting winds provided formidable visual clutter for one scanning the forest for bird flight. Neotropical migrant numbers are thinning out quickly, due to the clear skies with northerly winds for many days, and now the cold front. Most small canopy-feeding insectivores have cleared out – warblers are now scarce.

With about 3 hours of birding Ruffner Mountain, I saw merely 14 individuals of 7 neotropical migrant warbler species. Vireos are still trickling through, and at this late point in the migration Philadelphia Vireos can be the most common of this taxa. Pee-wees and empids are increasingly scarce. Meanwhile, small winter insectivores are arriving to replace the canopy insectivores. Ruby-crowned Kinglets are more numerous by the day, and small flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers are well on their way to becoming ubiquitous. In the understory, Common Yellowthroats and House Wrens are patrolling any patches where the weeds are thick. Most will push through to the coastal plain, but a few will linger here in the mountains.

Larger neotropical migrants are still around, but their numbers are also dwindling rapidly. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings are still here feasting on the fall seed crop. Thrush are still about best detected by their flight calls early in the morning, or by waiting near any tree with fruiting poison ivy vines. The tanagers, however, are disappearing quickly. The large insects and the fall fruit crop they rely on have been hit hard by the drought in northern Alabama, and there’s little incentive to stick around.

This drought is harsh. I’’ve placed pie plates with water on my back patio, and there is a continual visitation of birds to it. Mostly locals, but the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks have followed the cardinals to the use of this odd little resource. Both Summer and Scarlet Tanagers have visited this weekend.

We are in the midst of the shift change. Out with the neotropicals and in with the winter residents. Today marked my first sightings of sapsucker, Winter Wren, and White-throated Sparrow –all making an appearance within one minute of each other as if they were the diplomatic contingency representing their brethren who will soon be arriving en masse.

While Hurricane Matthew has been pounding the East Coast, I’ve been hoping for a few wayward eastern-flyway migrants to be spun our way. Some of the Bay-breasted Warblers that have been sighted in Alabama might correlate with the hurricane, or not. Ditto for the Ovenbirds and Chestnut-sideds, both of which have a moderate eastern bias to their fall migration. None have reported a Black-throated Blue Warbler from Alabama this month, which is the one I was particularly hoping for.

Perhaps tonight will bring another surge of sparrows. Or if not tonight, then the next front is sure to. Soon Swamp and Song sparrows will be everywhere, with the juveniles trying to find appropriate habitats to settle into for the winter. Lincoln’s Sparrows make uncommon cameo appearances in October, so watch for them mixed in with the others.

Bird early and often,

Originally posted to albird.

Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, Jefferson, Alabama, US

Oct 9, 2016 8:39 AM – 12:09 PM – IGNORE TIME STAMPS
Protocol: Traveling
1.5 mile(s)
48 species

Red-shouldered Hawk 1 8:39 AM
Mourning Dove 2 8:39 AM
Red-bellied Woodpecker 4 8:39 AM
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2 8:39 AM
Downy Woodpecker 2 8:39 AM
Northern Flicker 5 8:39 AM
Eastern Wood-Pewee 2 8:39 AM
Acadian Flycatcher 2 11:03 AM
Eastern Phoebe 4 8:39 AM
White-eyed Vireo 1 8:39 AM
Yellow-throated Vireo 2 8:39 AM
Blue-headed Vireo 1 11:03 AM
Philadelphia Vireo 3 8:39 AM
Red-eyed Vireo 1 8:39 AM
Blue Jay 8 8:39 AM
American Crow 6 8:39 AM
Carolina Chickadee 7 8:39 AM
Tufted Titmouse 5 8:39 AM
House Wren 5 8:39 AM
Winter Wren 1 11:04 AM
Carolina Wren 4 8:39 AM
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3 8:39 AM
Eastern Bluebird 3 8:39 AM
Gray-cheeked Thrush 1 8:39 AM
Swainson’s Thrush 2 8:39 AM
Wood Thrush 4 8:39 AM
American Robin 2 8:39 AM
Gray Catbird 6 8:39 AM
Brown Thrasher 12 8:39 AM
Northern Mockingbird 2 8:39 AM
Ovenbird 2 8:39 AM
Black-and-white Warbler 1 8:40 AM
Tennessee Warbler 2 8:40 AM
Common Yellowthroat 3 8:40 AM
Hooded Warbler 3 8:40 AM
American Redstart 1 11:04 AM
Magnolia Warbler 3 8:40 AM
Pine Warbler 4 8:40 AM
Yellow-rumped Warbler 8 8:40 AM
Black-throated Green Warbler 2 8:40 AM
White-throated Sparrow 1 8:40 AM
Eastern Towhee 3 8:40 AM
Summer Tanager 1 11:05 AM
Scarlet Tanager 1 8:40 AM
Northern Cardinal 12 8:40 AM
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 16 8:40 AM
Indigo Bunting 20 8:40 AM
House Finch 2 8:40 AM

View this Ruffner Mountain checklist online at