Pennsylvania Game News - April 2020 - 62

Even though our woodcock was a
Johnny-come-lately, we were grateful
to experience this spring ritual.
Two days later, high up in the Second
Thicket, near the top of Sapsucker Ridge,
I heard the first, unmistakable zhee of
a blue-gray gnatcatcher. Smaller than
chickadees, they resemble miniature
mockingbirds, with white breasts and
long, black tails edged in white and usually sticking almost straight up from their
blue-gray backs.
I knew I could expect a pair to build
their nest high in a black locust tree in
our yard, as they have during most of the
48 years we have lived here. They breed
from coast to coast, north to south, and
even deep into Mexico. In Pennsylvania
they prefer to nest on the edges of deciduous and mixed woodlands. Noisy in their
courting and nest-building, they are easy
to watch as they construct small nests
anywhere from a few feet off the ground
to 70 feet high on horizontal branches.
During that same walk, I saw the first
hermit thrush of spring, halfway up a
hill on Sapsucker Ridge Trail where I
always see migrating hermit thrushes.
Unfortunately, they fly 7 miles across
Logan Valley to the Allegheny Front to
sing and nest. Distinguished from other
thrushes by their reddish tails that dip
slowly up and down when they perch,
they are secretive and mute, rarely sharing their exquisite song here.
The only spotted thrush that winters
north of Mexico, they nest in mature and
second-growth high-elevation forests
in Pennsylvania and as far north as the
boreal and hardwood forests of Canada
and the northern U.S. This species also
is thriving in Pennsylvania, with as many
as five singing males per kilometer (0.6
mile) in our northcentral high-elevation
forests.
62

Sitting on Alan's Bench on a warm
April 13, I spotted a ruby-crowned kinglet foraging on young Norway spruces.
Usually I hear these tiny birds calling
look-at-me, look-at-me before they sing
a song that warbles all over the scale.
The perky, greenish-gray males
exhibit ruby-red patches on top of their
heads when excited. Although they breed
in the coniferous forests of northern
New England and Canada, they always
spend a couple weeks here before they
move on.
The following day I walked down
our road to listen for the pair of Louisiana waterthrushes that Dave had found
the previous day. I heard a waterthrush
singing near Dogwood Knoll, but farther down the road, Waterthrush Bench
earned its name as three waterthrushes
counter-sang, and I spotted them chasing
each other.
I continued to the bottom of our mileand-a-half road, and when I returned to
Waterthrush Bench an hour later, the trio
of waterthrushes still were singing and
chasing. All the while, their tails swayed
like metronomes. Their ringing songs
announced the arrival of the first warbler
species of spring.
Although waterthrushes resemble
members of the thrush family, with
brown backs and brown streaking on
white underparts, they also have white
throats, white eyebrow stripes and long,
pink legs - the same as northern waterthrushes and ovenbirds. All are similarly
colored and the only three species in the
Seiurus warbler genus.
Pennsylvania is near the northern
edge of the Louisiana waterthrush's core
range, but they are especially abundant
in our own Ridge and Valley Province,
according to the Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in Pennsylvania. Our state



Pennsylvania Game News - April 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pennsylvania Game News - April 2020

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Pennsylvania Game News - April 2020 - Contents
Pennsylvania Game News - April 2020 - 2
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Pennsylvania Game News - April 2020 - 64
Pennsylvania Game News - April 2020 - Cover3
Pennsylvania Game News - April 2020 - Cover4
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