Warbler Week: Black-and-white warbler

Photo by Chris Bosak
A black-and-white warbler seen in Ridgefield, Conn., May 2019.

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.

Warbler Week: Ovenbird

Photo by Chris Bosak
An ovenbird sings from a perch in Ridgefield, Conn., May 2019.

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.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An ovenbird sings from a perch in Ridgefield, Conn., May 2019.

A nice spring bird walk (aren’t they all?)

Photo by Chris Bosak
A bobolink perches at the end of a branch in Brookfield, CT, May 2019.

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.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A yellow warbler sings from a perch in Brookfield Conn., May 2019.
Photo by Chris Bosak
A yellow warbler perches on a branch in Brookfield Conn., May 2019.

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Warbler watch is on

Photo by Chris Bosak A Pine Warbler sits on a deck railing in New England this fall.
Photo by Chris Bosak A Pine Warbler sits on a deck railing in New England this fall.

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.

Photo by Chris Bosak Palm Warbler
Photo by Chris Bosak Palm Warbler

Latest For the Birds column: Watching warblers, of course

Photo by Chris Bosak A Palm Warbler perches among pussy willows at Selleck's Woods in Darien, Conn., April 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Palm Warbler perches among pussy willows at Selleck’s Woods in Darien, Conn., April 2016.

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.

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Yellow-rumped Warblers abound so far

Photo by Chris Bosak A Yellow-rumped Warbler perches on a branch in Selleck's Woods, Darien, Conn., April 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Yellow-rumped Warbler perches on a branch in Selleck’s Woods, Darien, Conn., April 2016.

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).

Photo by Chris Bosak A Yellow-rumped Warbler perches on a branch in Selleck's Woods, Darien, Conn., April 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Yellow-rumped Warbler perches on a branch in Selleck’s Woods, Darien, Conn., April 2016.

Birding starting to “heat” up

Photo by Chris Bosak A Black-and-white Warbler clings to a tree in Hoosick Falls, N.Y., in summer 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Black-and-white Warbler clings to a tree in Hoosick Falls, N.Y., in summer 2015.

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.