Other than the very few warblers of various types that remained in New England all winter, the pine warbler and palm warbler will be the first arrive in the region. I have seen them show up on rare bird alerts already but they will return in larger numbers over the next two weeks. Keep you eyes on your feeders as pine warblers are one of the few warbler species that will visit feeders. I’ve seen them eat suet, suet nuggets and meal worms. Above is the pine warbler; below is the palm.
Something woke me up around 3:30 a.m. and I couldn’t fall back asleep. I gave up trying when the darkness outside my window started to brighten. What the heck, I told myself. It’s the height of warbler season so let’s go find some warblers. I made a cup of coffee and raced the rising sun to a nearby park. I headed down a path that has led to warblers in the past. It did again this time. There wasn’t a tremendous variety of warblers (maybe seven species) but the ones I did see kept me entertained.
My favorite was this American redstart that followed me along the path for an inordinate amount of time. It gave me great looks at it, but it would not sit still very well for photos. I managed a few decent shots despite his hyperactivity. A few more photos are below.
(Repeat text for context: I’m running out of COVID-19 lockdown themes so from now until things get back to some semblance of normalcy, I will simply post my best photo from the previous day. You could say it fits because of its uncertainty and challenge. I’ll call the series “A Day on Merganser Lake,” even though that’s not the real name of the lake I live near in southwestern Connecticut, it’s just a nod to my favorite duck family.)
The black-and-white warbler is another common warbler in New England. Black-and-white warblers are one of the few warblers often seen on tree trunks. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, they have an extra hind claw that helps them cling to trunks. They are also often heard and not spotted, especially when the leaves are fully out in our New England woods. Listen for the high-pitched squeaky wheel song. Some song descriptions are of little help, but this warbler sounds exactly like a squeaky wheel. The black-and-white warbler is not a colorful warbler (obviously) but it’s a striking bird regardless with its striped plumage.
The ovenbird’s “teacher, teacher, teacher” song is often the dominant sound in the New England woods during spring and summer. It is a loud and piercing song, but it is often difficult to find the source. The ovenbird is small (it is a warbler after all) and well-camouflaged bird. It resembles a thrush with its overall brownish plumage and spotted chest but it also has an orange crown flanked by two dark streaks. The ovenbird, which is named for the shape of its ground nest, is often found walking along the forest floor. It will sing from the ground or from a perch in the woods making it that much more difficult to find.
I checked out Happy Landings, an open space of fields and shrubby areas in Brookfield, Connecticut, after dropping off my son Will at middle school the other day. With its huge fields, the protected space is a rare haven for bobolinks in New England. There should be more such field habitat. Anyway, I wanted to see if the bobolinks were back and sure enough, they were — along with plenty of other birds. Take a look …
Happy birding and let me know what you see out there this migration period.
The early warblers started arriving in New England a week or two ago. Pine warblers and palm warblers are typically the first two species to make their way back this far north and, sure enough, both are back now. This post includes photos of both species so you know what you’re looking for. (Above is the pine warbler; below is the palm warbler.)
The spring warbler season is the highlight of the year for many birdwatchers. It will pick up gradually over the next week or so and then erupt from late April through the middle of May. At the height of the warbler migration, a New England birdwatcher can see between 20 and 30 warbler species in a single day. (It would take some effort, of course, but it’s very possible.)
I’ll post frequently about warblers over the next few weeks and, hopefully, have plenty of fresh warbler photos to share. In the meantime, practice up with this link from AllAboutBirds.org — it includes various warblers and their songs.
Here is the latest For the Birds column, which runs weekly in several New England newspapers.
Warblers steal the show in spring migration, and rightfully so. They are colorful, cute, sing interesting songs and are plentiful in our woods in April and May.
Other songbirds are a blast to watch in the spring, too, of course. Birds such as orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks and towhees capture our attention and make us nudge anyone standing close by to make sure they see it too. Less colorful birds such as chipping sparrows, kingbirds, phoebes and vireos enhance our spring as well.
But it’s the little warblers that get most of the attention during the spring migration.
I love warblers for all the same reasons that everybody else does, but I think there’s another reason we appreciate these neotropical migrants so much. Warbler watching, like birdwatching in general, can be as easy or as difficult as you want to make it.
Someone can choose to see and appreciate the small birds flitting around the trees, but not care to identify them — easy and totally acceptable.
Others may choose to identify only a few, perhaps the ones they see often in their yard — relatively easy and also perfectly acceptable.
So far, early in this warbler season, Yellow-rumped Warblers are by far the most abundant species. That is true pretty much any year, but this year that really seems to be the case. I’ve seen only a handful of the other typical early arrivers — Pine Warblers and Palm Warblers — but dozens of Yellow-rumpeds nearly everywhere I go.
I visited my old favorite spot Selleck’s Woods the other day and Yellow-rumped were everywhere I looked. I also saw a Palm Warbler, two Brown Thrashers and an Eastern Towhee — but Yellow-rumpeds were the dominant species. Not that I’m complaining. How can you complain about such a beautiful bird?
Stay tuned for more warbler photos (I hope so anyway).
It may be hot as ever as we head toward the second half of August, but the birding action is heating up as well. After a few months of relatively slow birdwatching as our feathered friends kept a low profile to raise families, the birds are starting to show themselves again.
I visited my brother Gregg’s house in upstate N.Y. near the Vermont border and the birds were out in full force. In one day I saw a Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Black-and-white Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker, Wood Thrush, and Ruby-throated Hummingbird. More common birds seen that day included chickadees, titmice, catbirds, Chipping Sparrows, American Goldfinches, robins and Blue Jays.
The summer is not over yet and the birdwatching is finally heating up, too.
Let me know what you see out there.
Here’s another warbler photo taken this weekend at Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods in Darien.
Last week I had a post with several warbler species included. The Common Yellowthroat was not included in that post, but I found a fairly cooperative one this weekend. Yellowthroats can be tricky to photograph because they are usually hidden among thick brush, often near wetlands.
On Saturday, I led a bird walk with a great group of people and we saw 10 warbler species, in addition to several other types of birds, such as vireos, egrets and thrushes. The warbler season in New England is still in full swing. Let me know what you’re seeing out there, send photos and sightings to email@example.com