BIRD WATCH: Now is the time to look for migrating bird visits

THERE WAS NO doubt about it. One of the first fall migrants to visit the yard was a young one.

The Hutton’s vireo looked like an adult bird but its actions revealed otherwise.

The bird bath and its active dripper had caught the bird’s attention.

It wanted to bathe, but it acted like it had never seen a bird bath and didn’t know how to approach it.

It was sitting in a Winter Hazel bush just a foot or so from the bath.

This look-a-like of the ruby-crowned kinglet was wiggling and jiggling and fluffing its feathers as if it had been attacked by lice.

These were the same actions a bird displays when in a bird bath.

It looked like some type of warm-up gyrations one might perform before diving into the water.

The would-be bather approached the bath from several directions but didn’t get wet.

It took several minutes and once or twice I thought it was going to give up.

When it flew to the trunk of the tree near the bath, it appeared it was leaving.

Not so.

It came back, seemed to assess the situation and dove in.

Well, it almost dove because it didn’t stop at the edge of the water but actually moved into rather deep (if you’re a vireo) water.

Then the show began.

The energetic warm-up continued once the bird was actually wet.

By then, it was giving a good imitation of a bathing robin.

Water flew in all directions.

Feathers ruffled up so much that the vireo looked like a wet ball of fluff.

It definitely had a list in its flight once it flew off.

The Hutton’s vireo is an easy bird to miss when it moves through our neighborhoods in the spring.

Their leaf-green coloring does an excellent job of camouflaging this small bird.

Even though they resemble the even smaller ruby-crowned kinglet, they are about the size of a chestnut-backed chickadee.

They often travel in company with other small insect-eating birds but due to their coloring are seldom seen.

Learning their song or call is a good way to know they are in the area.

Then you watch the trees and try to get a look at one.

Its song, or call, is a rising, two-noted “zu-weep, zu-weep.”

It’s easier to identify than you might think.

There is another call the Hutton’s vireo makes.

I just heard it for the first time.

The same day the bathing bird was seen, three more appeared in the afternoon.

These had to be young birds traveling together for company.

One of them called out to the others when they flew off.

It was like it was calling, “wait for me.”

The sound was nothing more than a chirp, something other birds often make.

It was repeated several times.

If I hadn’t been watching these three, I would have thought it was a sparrow, a junco, a towhee or some other bird.

You never stop learning when it comes to birds.

The appearance of these migrating vireos was a reminder that we are well into the season for almost daily “bird surprises.”

They were also a reminder that our summer birds are moving south and their time with us is getting short.

If you are thinking about taking advantage of what remains of summer (unofficially), keep in mind that thousands of birds will be moving down our coast in the coming weeks.

Others move along historical migration routes that follow the mountain ranges.

This is the month to watch for the migrants away from home or right in your own backyard — or bird bath.


Joan Carson’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at P.O. Box 532, Poulsbo, WA 98370, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Email:

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