Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Highlights of the Charlotte Christmas Bird Count.

I am done with the local Christmas Bird Counts. I've done three, with two coastal counts to go.
The results of the local counts tell us that there are a lot of semi-hardy species that are lingering in the southern piedmont this early winter. This is not unusual in years where temperatures are relatively warm through the count period.
Some examples of this phenomenon are the presence of black and white warblers on both the Southern Lake Norman and Charlotte counts. Blue-gray gnatcatchers were found on both the Gastonia and Charlotte counts. A lingering ruby-throated hummingbird in Charlotte is very unusual. All of these species would normally be well to our east or south by now.
And as a bonus, I visited a home where eight Baltimore orioles are gobbling up grape jelly daily.

Here are few photos of highlight birds from the Charlotte Count held last Saturday December 27th:

Least sandpipers are a species you might expect to be on a coastal count rather than a piedmont one. But this species is a regular winterer at a local wastewater treatment plant.

Least Sandpiper by John Ennis

Horned larks are tough to find in Mecklenburg County. They are birds of extensive open country, often with little or no vegetation. note the rocky substrate this bird is foraging in.

Horned Lark by John Ennis

This ruby-throated hummingbird is an extremely rare bird for us in the winter. It is ironic that one is present in Charlotte this year, when the more expected rufous hummingbird is virtually absent.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Karen Clapperton

Blue-gray gnatcatchers linger in warmer winters. They were found this year at Gastonia and Charlotte.
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher by John Ennis

Like gnatcatchers, black and white warblers linger in mild winters. These warblers creep along tree trunks and branches, gleaning invertebrate material from the crevices. Since they don't glean food from greenery they can survive the winter weather here. This species was found at Charlotte and Southern Lake Norman.

Black and White Warbler by John Ennis

Baltimore orioles are infrequent feeder visitors in the southern piedmont, but established flocks sometimes develop. Eight birds are currently at a home in southeast Charlotte.
Baltimore Oriole by Phil Fowler.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Avoiding Getting Skunked on the Gastonia Christmas Bird Count

Last Saturday I covered the Rankin Lake / Gastonia Technology Parkway section for the Gastonia Christmas Bird Count. It was a cold morning with a steady drizzle for most of the early morning but that didn't seem to cut down on the bird activity.

I was getting birds by dawn, with a calling great horned owl and a displaying American woodcock. A surprise pre-dawn encounter  with a striped skunk ended in a negotiated truce (actually I totally caved in to it's demands) which allowed me to continue on for the rest of the day.

Highlights for my day included a cooperative sedge wren, a blue-gray gnatcatcher, and a nice adult bald eagle. I ended up with 57 species for about nine hours of birding.
Next up: Charlotte Christmas Bird Count on December 27th.

This sedge wren was photographed last year at the exact same spot where I found one this year. It is likely the same bird that I saw last year. Sedge wrens are rare anytime in the piedmont, even more so in the winter.

Sedge Wren by Ron Clark

Like sedge wrens, blue-gray gnatcatchers are rare in winter in the piedmont. they are very common migrants and breeders within our area. 

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers by Phil Fowler

Bald eagles are increasing in the piedmont. They have been found nesting well within the city limits of municipalities within the region.

Bald Eagle by Phil Fowler

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Local Rarities on the Southern Lale Norman Christmas Bird Count

 The Southern Lake Norman Christmas bird Count took place on December 14, 2014 with thirty nine participants tallying 101 species. Exceeding the century mark in total species is extraordinary for a piedmont count. It's a testament to the diligence and expertise of everyone who contributes to the census. You can't find 101 species without finding some unusual birds. Below are some of the ones we found Sunday

 Red-throated loons are common at the coast but are rare inland. This bird is in winter plumage. One red-throated loon showed up at Lake Norman.

Red-necked grebes are rare winter visitors to North Carolina. A single red-necked grebe was found on Lake Norman.

American wigeon are tough to find in Mecklenburg County. It had been a few years since I had seen one here.The male is on the left with a female on the right. A male wigeon was found at the Cowan's Ford Dam.

American wigeon by Phil Fowler

Blue-headed vireos are occasional here in the winter. I find them in mixed flocks of feeding passerines. this year one was found at the Davidson College cross country trails.

Blue-headed vireo by john Ennis

Black and white warblers are pretty rare in the winter piedmont. one showed up in huntersville this year.

Black and white warbler by Jeff Lewis

Orange-crowned warblers are more common at the coast but some linger into early winter here. One was found at Birkdale Golf Course.

Orange-crowned warbler by Jeff Lewis

Common yellowtroats brighten up any winter brush pile, especially the brighter males. A male was found at Cowan's Ford Refuge.

Common yellowthroat by Phil Fowler

Loggerhead shrike numbers have crashed throughout their range in the last few decades. formally a fairly common nester in Mecklenburg, they are all but gone now. One found near Wallace Farms is probably the only one in the county right now, and was a complete surprise on Sunday.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Band Information on American Oystercatcher

I received banding information on the banded American oystercatcher I mentioned in a previous post. The bird was banded as a chick on June 13, 2014 at Masonboro Island, just south of Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.
During the summer it was re-sighted five times; all from the same location. On November 29th my birding group sighted it about 40 miles to the south at Saucepan Creek behind the west end of Holden Beach. That’s about 40 miles of coastline, not straight-shot. This oystercatcher would have moved along the immediate coast line.

So the bird is not a big wanderer, at least not yet. It’s young, having just left it’s nesting grounds within the last couple of months. I plan to keep checking the site at low tide through the winter to seeif they bird stays or moves on. Maybe some other banded birds will show up as the winter progresses.

This bird was banded as a chick in June 2014 at Masonboro Island, NC. It was re-sighted in November about 40 miles away.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Begins this Sunday for Area Birders

For thousands of birders world-wide, Christmas begins this Sunday December fourteenth. That is the opening day of The National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count period which runs each year from that date through January fifth. During those three weeks, birders will take to the field for a full day of counting birds and collecting bird population and distribution data. It is the longest running citizen science program; this year marks the one-hundred fifteenth anniversary of the Count.
Participants fan out within a fifteen mile diameter circle from a predetermined center to census all the species that they encounter. Over the years, the data has proven valuable for researchers studying changes in populations and population shifts. 

In North Carolina, forty-one counts have been scheduled this season, with eighteen already set in South Carolina. By the time the period is over, over fifty counts will have been conducted in North Carolina and close to thirty in South Carolina.

This isn’t a casual stroll through the woods and fields looking at birds. This is an intensive effort where the mission is to FIND birds. That means getting off trail, walking through thickets, wading through marshes and swamps, getting in the field before sun up and staying after sun down. The Count goes on rain or shine, cold or warm, wind or calm. I have done all-day counts in the freezing rain, deep snow, and single digit wind chills. This is serious business.
I will participate in five Christmas Counts this year; Southern Lake Norman on the fourteenth, Gastonia on the twentieth, Charlotte on the twenty-seventh, Wilmington on January third, and Southport / Bald Head Island on January fourth. There are some other area counts of interest as well; York/Rock Hill on December twentieth, Catawba Valley on December thirtieth, and Pee Dee Refuge on January third. 
What’s the payoff? I get to spend all day birding with other enthusiastic birders, I will see lots of good birds, there’s the potential to find a real local or state rarity, I know the data collected will go into a database that is constantly being tapped, and there is a free tally up supper at the end of each day.
For more information on the 115th Christmas Bird Count go to http://www.carolinabirdclub.org/christmas/  and


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Helping to Track the American Oystercatcher

I spent the Thanksgiving holiday week at the beach, Ocean Isle Beach to be exact. I took full advantage of the change in venue and birds by doing a good bit of birding once the rain stopped midweek. On Saturday November twenty-ninth five other birders joined me for a day of birding the area. One thing I always check for is leg bands on certain species like American oystercatchers and piping plovers. I didn’t see any piping plovers but did encounter a nice flock of fifteen oystercatchers in Saucepan Creek; with one individual sporting some green leg bands with a readable code on each.
American oystercatchers catch the attention of birders and non-birders alike. They are large birds that have strong contrasting black, brown, and white plumage. The most prominent feature however is the bright red bill and bright red eye ring of the adults.
The American oystercatcher has been identified as one of several shorebird species where the population is low enough as to warrant special attention. In 2001 the American Oystercatcher Working Group was formed to gather information on the species and to come up with management plans. One initiative was to establish a banding program that has greatly increased knowledge of the species’ migration movements and wintering sites. With binoculars or scopes, the codes on the bands can be seen and reported to an online database. Within a few days a report is sent back to the observer letting them know where the bird was originally banded and locations of other re-sightings, if any.
By reporting re-sightings, even the casual birder can contribute to the knowledge of where important migration stop-over spots are, as well as important wintering areas. The Working Group can them come up with conservation strategies to help these favorite beach birds out.
I reported the banded bird from Saucepan Creek and the band code of “CJO”. You can just make out the band code on the accompanying photo that was taken at some distance. This appears to be a young bird as evidenced by the dark portions of the bill, different from the bright red bill that adults show.

As of this writing I have not received a report of where this bird was banded or where else it has been spotted. I will let you know when I hear something. 

 Here is the subject bird of today's blog. It was taken at some distance, but with the aid of a scope the band code was able to be seen. Note on all the birds below that the bands are all the same color green. This indicates all were hatched and banded in North Carolina. Each state has its own unique band color and scheme.
Am. Oystercatcher, Saucepan Creek, Brunswick Co NC 

The photo below shows another young banded bird from Wrightsville Beach area of NC. Note the dark tip to the bill indicating a 1st year bird. The bird on the right is a juvenile laughing gull.

A. Oystercatcher; by John Ennis

The photo below shows an adult banded oystercatcher from Cape Hatteras. Note the adult has a completely red bill and prominent red eye ring.

Am. Oystercatcher; Cape Hatteras NC 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Birds Use White Feathers to Communicate Warnings

While looking at some sparrows recently I noticed a few flashing white outer tail feathers as they flew away from me. I used this feature to identify dark-eyed juncos and vesper sparrows in that flock. A little later I startled a Northern flicker off the ground and watched it flash a conspicuous white rump as it again flew away. Still later, a Northern mockingbird flew close in to me as I made some squeaky noises to attract some birds. It perched close and slowly raised its wings to expose large white wing patches. When it finally identified me, it flew away flashing bright white outer tail feathers too.

White is a color that is often used in nature to communicate danger or a warning to anything that may be paying attention. Think about when a cottontail rabbit or a white-tailed deer is startled or runs away from you. They too flash bright white as they depart.

In the case of the mockingbird, the slowly raising of the wings to show off the white patches is a defensive sign and a warning to other birds that they are intruding on its territory. The sparrows and flicker flashing white while they flee are communicating to other members of their flock that there is an imminent threat. It also provides a beacon for the other birds to follow as they all try to escape the threat.

There are many other local bird species that have varying amounts of white in the tail. Eastern towhees, American pipits, Eastern meadowlarks, pine warblers, horned larks, and longspurs all have it. Many waterfowl, woodpeckers, white-rumped sandpipers, greater and lesser yellowlegs, black-bellied plovers and loggerhead shrikes, to name just a few more; show white wing or rump flashes. Again these white areas are best seen when the bird is flying away from you.

For the birder, these white marks are useful field marks that aid in quick identification. A glimpse of a flash of white in a flushed sparrow flock quickly confirms the presence of vesper sparrows or juncos. Birders use white rumps and white wing patches to quickly identify birds in flight, sometimes at great distances.

Northern Mockingbird by Phil Fowler

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Orioles Can Brighten up a Winter Feeder

Baltimore orioles can be occasional winter visitors to area feeders. They like a variety of foods; suet dough, sunflower chips, shelled peanut, orange slices, and especially grape jelly are very good at attracting them if they are in the area. And there is potential to attract a rare species of oriole too.

Baltimore orioles occur in a wide variety of plumages based on molt, age, and gender. Below are some frequently encountered plumages.

Male Baltimore Oriole by Jeff Lewis
Male Bullock's Oriole by Jeff Lemons

Identification of adult male orioles is pretty straightforward. the more commonly see Baltimore male has the complete black hood.

The adult male Bullock's oriole is extremely rare here, but this photo was taken near Southpark  two winters ago. Note the orange face and black eyeline and "goatee."

Female Baltimore Oriole by Jeff Lewis

Female Baltimores lack the extensive black of the males. Note the strong stripes on the wings and the orange plumage, especially on the upper breast.

Female Baltimore Oriole by Phil Fowler
In this bird, note again the orange tint to the breast. Also note the long, thin bill in both birds.

Immature Male Baltimore by Jeff Lewis
In this immature male Baltimore oriole, the black hood is just now molting in. This bird is not as orange as some but some orange feathers can be seen coming in on the chest. 

And always be aware of the possibility of a Western tanager visiting your feeder. As in orioles, the adult males are strikingly colored and identification is usually easy. There will be at least a hint of red in the face. This photo was taken in Mecklenburg County a few years ago. 

Adult Male Western Tanager by Wayne Forsythe

The more likely to be seen females and immatures may resemble this duller bird below. Note the greenish yellow plumage and two wing bars, the upper one being yellowish, the lower being whiter. Also notice the bill is shorter and thicker.

Western Tanager by Jeff Lemons.

In this immature male below, note again the yellow upper wing bar, brighter greenish yellow plumage, and a hint of red coming in around the face.

Immature Male Western Tanager by Jeff Lewis

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Water is Just as Important in Winter for Birds

We have gotten off to an early start for really cold weather this winter. As freezing mornings get more frequent, it is important to remember that our area birds need water as much as they need feeder food, maybe even more. Heated bird baths are great, and if you are thinking of investing in one you should not be disappointed if you opt to purchase. But just supplying water in a shallow pan or conventional birdbath during the winter can be just as rewarding, especially during bouts of snow and ice.

You might also attract species that may not normally visit feeders. American robins and cedar waxwings are frequent patrons of provided water in the winter. Check out the photos from our area and see for yourself. 

Cedar Waxwings and Robin by Billy Vaughn

Cedar Waxwings and Robins by Jeanne Davis

Friday, November 14, 2014

Incoming Arctic Air Will be a Hummingbird Mover

So this really is going to be the cold blast that will bring any hummingbirds in the area to feeders. Arctic air streaming in today and tomorrow, along with an even colder shot next week will be a hummingbird express. Keep the feeders thawed and your eyes on them this weekend. Let me know if you see anything.

I have mentioned the rufous hummingbird as the most likely species to show up, but other rare species come too. Last year a calliope hummingbird spent the winter in Mecklenburg County.

Below is a photo of an immature male calliope hummingbird that spent a winter in Union County a few years ago. Notice the few magenta feathers coming in around the throat. Their elongated shape, along with more subtle identifying features, made this ID easy. The calliope hummingbird is the smallest bird that regularly occurs in North America.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

First Winter Hummingbird Report of the Season Received

The first winter hummingbird report of the season came in to me yesterday; a female-plumaged bird off Rea Road in south Charlotte. The observer reports obvious rufous plumage on the flanks. This location is smack dab in the middle of the Mecklenburg County hotspot for wintering hummingbirds. 

Though it is very likely a rufous hummingbird, it will be impossible to tell exactly what it is until a definitive photo is taken or the bird can be observed by an experienced birder. Even then, it may be difficult. The rufous hummingbird belongs to the genus Selasphorus, which includes several other closely related species. The adult males are easy to ID, it is the female-plumaged birds that present challenges. To be accurate, it is best to call them Selasphorus hummingbirds until a specific ID can be made.

If this winter is like the 2013-2014 season, dozens more birds will be discovered in the next couple of months. Keep a watch on those feeders! 

Rufous Hummingbird by Jeanne Davis

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Some Tips on Identifying Some Winter Finches

As a follow-up to the Winter Finch Forecast and as a prelude to some really cool air coming into the area this weekend, here is a short discussion on how to identify the two most likely winter finches that may be seen.

This pine siskin shows the typical streaky plumage, strong wing bars and yellowish patches on the wings. This yellow may be very pronounced in some individuals and more muted in others. Photo by Jeff Lewis.

Seen with its close relative, the American goldfinch, the differences are apparent. The goldfinch has no streaking on the upper or lower sides. The two species often will occur together and have similar habits. The finch feeder stocked with niger seed will attract both species but sunflower seed feeders are just as attractive to them.  Photo by Taylor Piephoff                                                                                                                              

Purple finches should looked for now as well. This typical female shows the dark cheek patch bordered by two whitish stripes, resulting in a strong facial pattern. Purple finches are larger, bulkier, and more "bull-necked" than the house finches that are permanent residents in our area. Photo by Kent Fiala                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        


The male purple finch has more extensive raspberry color to the plumage. Note how the raspberry extends over most of the body, particularly from the breast down to the belly. Again, these birds are much more bulky than house finches. Photo by Kent Fiala

The male house finch has a more red or rose color than the purple finch, and the red is much reduced in coverage area. Note how the red extends to the breast but not to the belly. Male house finches are also brown on the upperparts whereas the purple finch has the shades of raspberry. Photo by Lee Weber

 This photo shows a female purple finch sharing a feeder with female house finches. Note how the streaking stands out compared to the house finches, which are plainer. Also note the plainer, unpatterned face of the house finch. The bulkier, bull-necked posture of the purple finch can be seen in this photo too. Photo by Lee Weber

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Time to Start Looking for Winter hummingbirds!

It’s almost November first! Time to talk hummingbirds! For those of you who have been reading my Observer column for a few years, you should know what I am talking about. For those of you who may be new readers, this may strike you as an odd time of year to be discussing hummingbirds. Not so.
For the most part, our ruby-throated hummingbirds departed the southern piedmont around October eleventh. The water level in my feeder hasn’t moved since then. There may be a few ruby-throat stragglers still, but they will almost certainly be moving on soon. If you are still seeing a hummingbird at your feeder, you need to take a close look at it. Any hummingbird seen in Mecklenburg County after November first is much more likely to be a species that has flown in from the western United States. I suspect there are some of these long-range visitors with some of you right now. Please let me know if you are still seeing one.
As November wears on the likelihood of a hummingbird visiting you will increase. Keep your feeders up and maintained. Watch for fleeting visitors or dropping water levels, especially after the passage of strong cold fronts. Last November I received a dozen messages that hummingbirds had arrived after the passage of an unusually strong front mid-month. By New Years Day I had records of over thirty-five hummingbirds visiting feeders in the area. Some birds decided to move on after a day or so but some ended up staying almost to April, departing just in time for the ruby-throateds to come back.
The most likely species that you might see will be the rufous hummingbird. Males are pretty unmistakable, being almost all red. The females and immature, which are the most likely to be seen are more challenging to identify. Look for some reddish coloring on the flanks and around the tail region. If you get one, take a photo if possible and send it to me.

I will be writing more about wintering hummingbirds as the season goes on, providing updates on numbers and locations. 
Compare the two species in the photos below.

Female Rufous hummingbird by Jennifer Carpenter
In this photo of a female rufous hummingbird, notice the reddish plumage on the flanks and on the sides of the tail. This color is something to look for when examining late fall and winter hummingbird visitors. This is the most likely plumage these birds will be exhibiting.

In the photo of an immature male rufous hummingbird below, notice how most of the plumage is an unusual reddish-orange

Male rufous hummingbird by Fran Thomas


Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Phil Fowler
In comparison, this female ruby-throated hummingbird shows no reddish plumage at all. This is the species that nests in the eastern United States. If you are seeing any type of hummingbird right now, let me know at piephoffT@aol.com

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Winter Finch Forecast is Out

Every fall serious birders, both field birders and backyard feeder watchers, wonder what the coming winter will bring in the way of migratory and irruptive northern finches. The movements of northern finches such as pine siskins, purple finches, common redpolls, and crossbills can vary widely and wildly from year to year. For example, in some years pine siskins may dominate feeders even as far south as the Carolinas. In other years they may be completely absent.

Movements tend to be based on the availability of food produced by northern conifers. The better the yield of seeds the more likely the birds are to stay to the north. Poor yield or crop failure results in birds moving around more. And it really isn't limited to just finches. Other species like red-breasted nuthatches, waxwings, and blue jays are affected too.

Ron Pittaway released his Winter Finch Forecast for 2014-15 recently. Though predictions are generally for the northern and northeastern United States, some insight can be gained into what species we might expect to encounter here in the piedmont of the Carolinas.

Check out the full forecast here:


Maybe some pine siskins, shown here with a lone American goldfinch, will put in appearances at local feeders this winter.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Last Night a Big Night for Migrants Moving

Stepped outside this morning at 5:30 AM and was greeted by the sounds of numerous nocturnal migrants passing overhead. Most dominant were Swainson's thrushes, gray-cheeked thrushes, and rose-breasted grosbeaks. There were others but I am sorely out of practice deciphering the short, variable calls of the migrants.
Try it yourself. If you are an early riser, listen outside for just a few minutes around 5:30-6:00 AM. You can also hear them anytime after dusk through the night. You will know pretty soon if its a good migration night. You will hear birds. If you don't hear any after just a minute or two, try again the next night.
Below is a link to hear some thrush calls; as well as some other migrant grosbeaks, warblers, and tanagers.


Gray-cheeked Thrush by Jeff Lewis

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Out with the Old, In with the New

The strong cold front that moved in last weekend was of the stuff birders live for. Since August serious birders have been waiting for the first strong front of the season. Oh, there have been some mini cool downs that caused some birds to move but the season had been notable for the absence of cold fronts with northwest winds. Such fronts sweep out migrants present prior to the passage and sweep in new ones. The birding landscape can change literally overnight. Birders well know this phenomenon and take advantage.
Last Saturday I was on the shores of Lake Norman off Exit 30 at Davidson. At daybreak I saw tightly packed flocks of both blue-winged and green-winged teal, some numbering over sixty individuals, flying high and low over the lake. For about an hour a flock of teal was never out of my sight. These hundreds ducks were pouring into and through the piedmont as a result of the stiff northwest winds. I also saw my first pied-billed grebe of the season and four common terns blowing around in the winds, also a season first.
The next day even more changes were evident. Winter birds appeared in the feeding bands of migrants. Yellow-rumped warblers, yellow bellied sapsuckers, and ruby-crowned kinglets replaced species that had departed. The front ushered in the first wave of sparrow migrants too. At Veteran’s Park I found the season’s first sizable chipping sparrow flock, a group of about twenty-five birds.
For weeks Eastern wood-pewees had been a numerous and conspicuous migrant. Eastern phoebes had been present in small numbers. After the front passed the numbers of these two species switched. Pewees became scarce while the phoebes became the dominant flycatcher seen. This fall I have seen more white-eyed vireos than any other year that I can recall, yet they were totally gone by Sunday. Small migrating flocks of blue jays could be seen winging slowly and steadily overhead, while migrating chimney swift numbers increased dramatically too.

There are still a few ruby-throated hummingbirds hanging around but their numbers took a nosedive too. I expect the numbers to have further declined by this weekend. Next, the sparrows and winter hummingbirds will arrive. More on that development in a few weeks.
Blue-winged Teal by Jeff Lewis

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Find a Berry-laden Dogwood Tree and Enjoy the Show

When I was growing up we had a large dogwood tree in the backyard that produced a good crop of berries almost every year. I remember just watching that tree for extended time periods and being amazed at the diversity of birds that visited to dine on the berries. Last week I was reminded of how attractive a productive dogwood tree can be when I visited Sheffield Park and Idlewild Road Park in search of migrants.
At Sheffield, a flash of orange caught my eye as a female or immature summer tanager hovered to pluck a berry from a large dogwood. Stopping to see what else might be around, I soon observed two Swainson’s thrushes, several American robins, a gray catbird, brown thrasher, and a rose-breasted grosbeak partaking of that tree. I was reminded that the woods of Idlewild Road Park have a large number of dogwoods and have been very productive in the past. I drove on over and headed down a trail to a nice hardwood forest with dogwood understory.
Immediately I saw a scarlet tanager in the dogwoods; then another, and another. A total of six scarlet tanagers and an additional summer tanager were all there.  A group four Eastern bluebirds flew in, another three Swainson’s thrushes, a wood thrush, some American robins, a red-bellied woodpecker, a Northern flicker, and downy woodpecker; all made for constant in and out action in the dogwood canopies.
Birds are attracted to the berries because of their red color. It is well know that hummingbirds like red, but clearly many bird species have the same affinity. Spicebush, a common lowland shrub, has red berries that are favored by birds, as does magnolia.

There are plenty of other species that love dogwoods too. I have seen gray-cheeked thrushes, veeries, red-eyed vireos, red-headed woodpeckers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, and even pileated woodpeckers on dogwood. Dogwoods are clearly an important fall food source for hungry migrants. If you have a nice dogwood on your property, or know of a nice grove of multiple trees, take some time to watch for activity. You might see some unfamiliar species. 

Scarlet Tanager by John Ennis
All scarlet tanagers in the fall are greenish yellow with contrasting black wings. They look quite different from the brilliant scarlet and black males from the spring.

Summer Tanager by Phil Fowler
Female and juvenile summer tanagers are a more orangey color with less contrast between the wings and rest of the plumage.

Summer Tanager by Phil Fowler
Adult male summer tanagers in fall retain their bright red plumage year round. If you encounter summer tanagers, the majority will be female or juvenile plumaged.