Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Birding the Pond Trail, First Week of Autumn

Last week, the first day of autumn brought a cold front and rain so it actually felt like fall for a few days. I took a walk down the trail that runs through our neighborhood and was surprised to see that some of the winter residents had started to come back. I didn’t bring my camera since it was raining so no pictures.

I wasn’t expecting to see anything more than the grackles, vultures, jays and doves that I’ve been seeing all summer on these weekly counts down the trail so I was happily surprised by the tapping of woodpeckers. Ladder-backs and Red-bellies are fairly common in the neighborhood during fall and winter, but other than a Downy I saw back in July I hadn’t seen one or heard a woodpecker since early April, but I saw at least 2 Ladder-backs and I think I heard a few more farther down. Welcome back, woodpeckers.

As I approached the pond, I saw one of the Red-shouldered Hawks swoop out over the trail. He had some unfortunate something in his talons. Based on size and color, I suspect it was a dove. I saw him again a little farther along. This time he was sitting in a branch about 30 feet off the trail. He stuck around long enough for me to get a quick look and wish I’d brought the camera since it had stopped raining. This hawk has been teasing me all year and one of these days, I’m going to get a decent picture.

When I got to the pond, I was surprised to see a few ducks. I counted 3 Blue-winged Teal in the reeds on the far side. A few days later, I spotted 6 of them, so the ducks are starting to filter back in from points north. I also spotted 3 Pied-billed Grebes swimming in tight formation a little closer to my side of the pond. I can’t help but wonder if these are the same 3 that spent last winter here. These are the first grebes on the pond since May and the first ducks since early April. Welcome back, waterfowl.

For those who may have forgotten (or for any newcomers), I started a so-called Big Year (really more of a committed small year) back in January to see what birds I could see along the trail within a mile of my house. Here’s the updated list as of last week, the first week of fall:

  1. Black-bellied Whistling Duck
  2. Gadwall
  3. American Wigeon
  4. Blue-winged Teal
  5. Northern Shoveler
  6. Northern Pintail
  7. Ring-necked Duck
  8. Pied-billed Grebe
  9. Great Blue Heron
  10. Great Egret
  11. Little Blue Heron
  12. Green Heron
  13. Yellow-crowned Night Heron
  14. Black Vulture
  15. Turkey Vulture
  16. Osprey
  17. Red-shouldered Hawk
  18. Killdeer
  19. White-winged Dove
  20. Mourning Dove
  21. Black-chinned Hummingbird
  22. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  23. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  24. Downy Woodpecker
  25. Eastern Phoebe
  26. Ash-throated Flycatcher
  27. Western Kingbird
  28. Scissor-tailed Flycathcer
  29. Blue Jay
  30. American Crow
  31. Purple Martin
  32. Barn Swallow
  33. Carolina Chickadee
  34. Black-crested Titmouse
  35. Carolina Wren
  36. Bewick’s Wren
  37. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  38. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  39. Eastern Bluebird
  40. American Robin
  41. Northern Mockingbird
  42. European Starling
  43. Orange-crowned Warbler
  44. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  45. Black-and-white Warbler
  46. Common Yellowthroat
  47. Chipping Sparrow
  48. Song Sparrow
  49. Northern Cardinal
  50. Red-winged Blackbird
  51. Common Grackle
  52. Great-tailed Grackle
  53. House Finch
  54. Lesser Goldfinch
  55. American Goldfinch
  56. House Sparrow


  1. Blue-winged Teals, Pied-bill Grebes… both ducks I’ve never seen before in my life and would love to get a look at. Glad to hear the woodpeckers are returning. Ours didn’t seem to be as plentiful this summer. They usually bring the little ones in to the suet feeder, and we still saw quite a few, but their numbers seemed less than in past summers. I’m sure they will be more populous once winter hits. Will you be participating in Project Feederwatch again this year?

    • The teals and grebes are nice to see, although right now both birds are in their bland plumage.

      We hardly ever get WP’s at our suet feeders. Every once in a while, but they’ve either never found them or just aren’t interested. The only one that’s ever come by is a Golden-fronted WP that came for a few weeks in 2008.

      I will be participating in FeederWatch, though I doubt I’ll blog it every week this year. Maybe just occasional updates. We’ll see.

      Did you watch Flash Forward? Could be the next Lost.

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