Fall Migration Definitely on, Mixed Flight of Warblers, Seal Salamander

It’s a beautiful day here, temperature near 80 and a very nice breeze.

The weather acts a bit as though it wants to move into a drier period – September is statistically our driest month – but the rain can’t quite seem to let go.

Out in Dial earlier, we thought we saw a Mourning Cloak, but the sighting was a dubious, as it seems late for a Mourning Cloak and this butterfly seemed large for the species. And we couldn’t get close enough. But it flew like a Mourning Cloak.

The real news is that about 1:00 PM, we got bombed by the first migratory flight of warblers that we’ve seen. It seemed there were from 8 -12 different species feeding on our hickory tree. (I think it’s a mockernut.) Once or twice, there were so many buzzing around a neighboring scarlet oak that they reminded me of bees. I’m the worst at identifying warbers, but think I saw a hooded warbler, a yellow-tailed warbler, and at least three other species. This was one of the more amazing things I’ve seen here. They seemed to be in a feeding frenzy that lasted about a half hour. Despite that, it was awfully difficult to get good looks, as they were extremely active, and the tree is still thick with leaves.

Saw a jake (young male turkey) with nice beard this morning, so I suppose that they haven’t taken to same sex flocks for the winter yet.

I neglected to mention that a week or so ago, we saw a Seal Salamander in the yard. That’s the only time in 30 years that I remember seeing a salamander here. We have the fence lizards and the five-lined skinks. (The southeastern five-lined doesn’t seem to occur as far north of Fannin County.) It seems that the fence lizards came only about ten years ago, while the skinks were always here. And once, we saw a marbled salamander on the pavement, maybe a quarter mile further from the creek and a little higher elevation. The seal salamander identification was pretty easy from Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia, by Jemsen, Camp, Gibbons, and Elliott (University of Georgia). That’s a wonderful resource, if you have the bucks. It is known to wander into the woods in a wet year, and it stands up on it’s front legs, supposedly like a seal. Or, according to me, more like a fence lizard basking. Large, adult black, with a kind of spotted white line down the sides. I’d guess we’re about 3/4 mile from the creek and 300′ higher, at least.

On a less inspiring note, we had a passel of hickory tussock moth caterpillars this afternoon.

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