Tower Grove Park (Monarchs and Other Migrants)

September 18, 2017

One of hundreds of monarchs gorging on nectar in a field of tickseed sunflowers (beggar ticks) in Tower Grove Park this morning.

The forecast was partly cloudy to cloudy with the possibility of rain this morning so I headed off to Tower Grove Park to greet the birds at dawn. Traffic along I-44 was typical for the early-morning rush with most commuters in a mild to moderate state of road rage. Nevertheless, I arrived safely and the first bird I saw when I entered the Gaddy Bird Garden was a gray catbird in its typical habitat of thick brush. I was surprised when the little gray bird came out for a picture.

A gray catbird surprises me by showing its face long enough for a nice image in morning light.

As I walked around the wooded perimeter of the famous bubbler area, it wasn’t long before I ran into a group of American redstarts, fluttering around in the trees. I watched them for a good while and only managed one image, a cluttered capture that I almost didn’t share here. I decided to include the little redstart because I know they are a favorite of many birders.

One of several American redstarts I saw this morning near the Gaddy Bird Garden.

As the morning progressed, I saw a great variety of warblers, vireos, and other migrants, most of which I could only enjoy through my binoculars as they were too high in the trees or in the shadows. As I walked the area, I decided to take a look at the acre of tickseed sunflowers (ID based on a look in Denison’s Missouri Wildflowers), between the bird garden and Magnolia Avenue. As I approached the beautiful field of yellow, I noticed hundreds of monarchs and painted ladies feeding on the buttery blooms. I spent the next 30 to 40 minutes photographing butterflies to the displeasure of the warblers who expected my complete attention, as always. The featured image was one of my favorites, but I’ve posted a few more below. I loved the way the background of every capture included thousands of yellow flowers that melted together in the blur of my 500 mm lens.

A closer look at a monarch on a prairie sunflower.

The open wings of America’s most treasured butterfly. This was Joyce’s favorite.

I finally tore myself from the sunflower field and began hunting for dickey birds again. I met up with a local birder near the bubbler as I photographed a thrush and he assured me it was a Swainson’s thrush. I made the image while the little thrush with its over-sized eyes was contemplating a bath in the pool below the bubbler.

A Swainson’s thrush contemplates a bath in the bubbler pool at Tower Grove Park.

About the same time I saw the thrush, I spotted a handsome little gray squirrel resting on a log in nice light. I just had to take its picture!

A gray squirrel among the birds of Tower Grove Park’s Gaddy Bird Garden.

I saw several rose-breasted grosbeaks in non-breeding plumage, of course, throughout the morning and I managed to make a few images. Rose-breasted grosbeaks are always a sight to see, even in fall.

A rose-breasted grosbeak shows off its burgeoning coloration.

My old friend, the black-and-white warbler.

The last bird I photographed before calling it a morning was a red-eyed vireo in deep cover. I was surprised that it came out so well, thanks to the autofocus capabilities of my aging Mark IV.

A red-eyed vireo, deep in the canopy, thinks it is immune to my photographic advances.

Overall, it was a great morning at Tower Grove Park, especially with the added excitement of all the monarchs. We haven’t had any rain for weeks in St. Louis so things were a little slow for this time of year. If we ever do get a decent rain, I’ll return to the park for sure to watch the warblers fall from the sky! Until then, I hope you enjoyed this first look from the fall migration.

Thanks for looking,

DB

I would love to hear from you at:  NatureFrames@Rocketmail.Com

Gallery of Images and Print Information:  www.dannybrownphotography.com

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