Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May 4: A Few Good Warblers

This past week as waves of songbirds have been pouring into the state, I've been stuck at my desk working and periodically reading reports on the Maine birding maillist of what everyone else has been seeing. A lot of warblers have been showing up, many of them on the early side, so it's been a little frustrating to have to work so hard at this exciting time of year. These colorful little gems of the bird world are among my favorite birds to seek out during spring and fall migrations. In the spring, there's the thrill of their return after many months absence, as well as the joy of seeing them in fresh, bright plumage (they favor yellows and greens) and hearing their varied songs. In the fall, they pass through silently and with muted plumage, presenting an interesting challenge to birders--which is why there's a whole section in the Peterson Field Guide to the Birds called "Confusing Fall Warblers."

Pine warblers are among the first to arrive, and I've been hearing them in the tall pines around my parents' house since early April. In late April I added yellow-rumped warbler. And this week a black-and-white warbler has been singing its "squeaky wheel" song outside my office. But people have been reporting everything from Louisiana waterthrush to blue-winged warbler to Blackburnian warbler this past week, and I was hungry to see more. Warblers are like candy for birders, and each spring outing is measured by how many warbler species were seen. In Maine it's possible to break 20 species on a peak mid-May day with a good fallout of these pretty little birds.

Today I finally had some small satisfaction. On a work outing to snap some photographs in Hope, I heard warblers singing as soon as I got out of my car: black-and-white warbler, then an ovenbird's "teacher, teacher, TEACHER!" from deep within the trees, and off in the distance, a black-throated green warbler's "zee zee zoo zee." As I walked along the trail, I flushed a yellowthroat, catching a quick glimpse of its black mask. Before I headed back to the car, I had even added bluebird and hermit thrush. I wasn't out for long, but that hour was a rewarding one.

Familiar singing
and bright new feathers--warblers
back from the tropics.

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