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starting a new yard list in style! Virus; Grosbeak breasts

Hi C-birders,

I mentioned a few weeks ago that my wife and I were house-hunting in
Durham. Well, we've made an offer, had it accepted, and are just a few
inspections, repairs, and replacements away from closing on a place in Old
North Durham (on Lynch Street) and moving in.

But I figure I don't need to have actually *paid* for the place to start a
yard list, especially given that when we went by today to meet the first
of the inspectors, there was some kind of warbler fallout going on! I saw
and heard at least half a dozen warbler species there in one day today
that I haven't detected anywhere on Ninth Street in two years there! It
started with Northern Parula, a species I actually have recorded on Ninth
Street, plus half of the "Black" warblers: Blackpoll (heard only), Black-
and-White (both female and singing male), and Black-throated Blue (seen
and heard). No sign of the other three (Black-throated Green, BT Gray, and
Blackburnian), but later saw and heard American Redstart (orange-and-black
male) and Magnolia Warbler (singing the alternate, Hooded-like song).
After that I spotted a Common Yellowthroat, which I had heard but not seen
on our previous visit, hopping around under the neighbor's azaleas. Also
heard a Yellow-breasted Chat, a Red-eyed Vireo, and saw a Ruby-crowned
Kinglet (which goes from "uncommon" last week to "occasional" this week,
to "rare" next week and not even recorded the week after next, according
to the Triangle checklist). Add those to the more expected species that
were also evident, and the list for the new yard is already at 25 species,
including 9 warblers, before we've even closed on the place! Ninth street,
by comparison, still stands at 47 species (3 warblers) after two years

The yard is mostly shaded by big old oaks, and the canopy there is more or
less continuous with an old railroad bed (my wife says it's a leading
candidate for the rails-to-trails treatment but the RR folks won't give
up the land), and there's a drainage area and a yard which are both pretty
severely overgrown; those three factors probably all contribute to the
yard's diversity. We also recorded our first yard herp today, a Worm Snake
(Carphophis amoenus) under a chunk of rotten wood, which looked about
ready to lay a heap of eggs. The bad news is, the place was inFESTed with
Gray Squirrels, probably thanks to the Black Walnut tree in the yard (as
well as the several big oaks), so I'll have a hard time keeping seed
feeders filled.

On a different tack, is anyone else receiving viruses repeatedly from the
address of Carolinabirder Joe Covington? Fortunately, Duke's e-mail server
cuts them all off before they reach me, but I've been notified of at least
10 in the past week, and no less than 3 came via Joe. I recommend that
everybody be very wary of any attached files or non-text messages coming
from his address until further notice.

Other listserv check: Eurasian Kestrel has returned to Cape Cod, if
anyone's travelling north. I would be going up there for a roast of my
mother by our synagogue tomorrow night, but have to proctor an exam
tonight and grade it tomorrow, so I'll have to be happy with whatever I
can find on the Jordan Lake/Chatham County spring bird count. If anyone's
going south, there's a Bananaquit and a couple of Caribbean Short-eared
Owls on the Dry Tortugas, as well as at least 3 Western Spindalis
scattered around south Florida.

On Thu, 2 May 2002, barbara brooks wrote:
> this a.m. I was greeted by a male RB Grosbeak and this p.m. I had 2, the red
> markings vary greatly in size, one being almost 2x bigger than the other
> male, Does this signify age or just that the samller red breasted grosbeak
> will have a harder time impressing the females of which I have 2.

Red, pink, and yellow coloration in birds is often diet-related. We've
talked about that here on Carolinabirds before, with reference to red vs.
orange vs. yellow male House Finches. I would guess that the Grosbeak with
the smaller rose patch probably had fewer carotenoids in his diet before
his last feather molt. He will also probably, as Barb guesses, have a
harder time convincing females to mate with him, just as yellow and orange
House Finches mate less often than red ones.

Good birding,


Joshua S. Rose
Duke University
Department of Biology (Zoology, R.I.P.)