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Head deep into the woods to see, hear the songbirds

By Barry Reed

n about two weeks, the passerine migration will have ended and your annual bird list may not grow until a few birds begin arriving in mid-August.

They’ll make another trip through the Times News region as they again head to their winter “homes.” But that doesn’t mean you can’t still find birds here.

I’d like to focus on what bird species you can expect to find in the forested regions of our area. Some of these birds seldom venture into the suburban areas or the housing developments.

And, some are rather reclusive and may only be found by listening carefully to their songs.

The biggest issue for birding the forests is the fact that the trees and shrubs are now fully covered with foliage.

The birds are there in the treetops or dense undergrowth, but much harder to see. I listen for the male’s singing to help me locate them and then learn to be patient to find them among the leaves.

But, about the first or second week of July, much of the birds’ singing ends. Remember, much of a bird’s songs is about territoriality

. By mid-July the available breeding territories are already established and a male bird’s hormone level drops. Unfortunately, the forests, save for the tireless red-eyed vireo’s songs, then become eerily quieter.

I’ll leave you with photos of many of the birds that seldom venture far from the “deeper woods.” Franklin, Towamensing, and Penn Forest Townships have plenty of the “deeper” forests that hold a number of species.

I’m sure two areas I don’t frequent as much such as much of Schuylkill County and the Broad Mountain areas are great as well.

I will at some point, highlight the more “suburban birds” in a future column. But, remember to see these neat forest birds you need to get out there.

Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: The ____warbler winters in Argentina and is often the last warbler seen arriving in this area in May. A. common yellowthroat B. yellow C. black and white D. blackpoll

Last Week’s Trivia Answer: The pastel colored, two to three foot roadside flowers blooming now, are Dame’s rocket.

Email Barry Reed at breed71@gmail.com.

Our largest woodland flycatcher is the great crested flycatcher. It chooses a perch and darts off to catch insects. Listen for its “wheeep” call to help locate it.
One deep forest bird that may “show up” at your sunflower feeders during migration is the rose-breasted grosbeak. They feed and nest in our local forests and somehow with that Un-Godly large beak, sing a beautiful song
The hardiest of the woodland thrushes is the hermit thrush. I was pleasantly surprised to find them in June last year on the Pocono Plateau confirming that they are breeding in our Times News forests.
If a mature spruce grove or large conifer tract is in your nature area, look for our smallest nuthatch, the red-breasted nuthatch climbing down a trunk or even under limbs looking for spiders and insects to eat.
One warbler species that spends much of the time on the forest floor is the ovenbird. It too sings “a bunch” from dense forest areas and even nests on the ground.
The tireless singer, the red-eyed vireo is found in almost every forested region in our area. I think it only stops singing when it gulps down an insect. Listen for its song on some APPS or go online to be familiar with it.
Arriving here mid-April and sometimes lingering until late September, is the Eastern towhee. Look for these birds scratching the leafy forest floor for insects. In breeding season, males will perch on lower tree limbs and sing to claim this part of the forest for his mate and young
ABOVE: True to its name, the brilliant red scarlet tanager is another tree top feeder. The male scarlet tanagers sing heartily and that helps to find them in the canopy. Many people don’t get to appreciate their beauty because they aren’t normally close to the ground.
I’ve never seen a veery in a suburban setting. They arrive here about May 1 each year and like the other woodland thrushes, does most of its foraging in the understory or forest floor. Its song and coloration are very different then its cousin the wood thrush.
One of the smaller flycatcher species is the yellow-bellied flycatcher. I find them closer to the Pocono Plateau in Penn Forest Township.
Higher in the forest canopy is one of three regular vireos, the yellow-throated vireo. It plucks insects, especially small caterpillars, from the leaves.
The parula warbler is a summer resident of our local woodlands. This warbler is usually foraging in a mixed forest of conifers and hardwoods. It arrives here late April and is one the later migrants well into late September.