Friday, May 29

Friday Bird Blogging: This Week in Warblers

This diary is a summary of the warblers I've encountered in the last month. I know it says "this week" but that's just 'cause I like the alliteration. I promise that the title is the only lie I will tell in this post.

All the warblers below were potographed in either Vermont, New Hampshire or Massachusetts, and none more than 100 miles from the borders of the other two.

All the photos below are clickable, leading you to larger versions with more detail about location. They were all taken with a Sigma 50-500mm lens, taken either with my Pentax K20d or the backup camera I used temporarily, a Pentax K10d, when I dropped (!) the K20d last week.

Warbler #1: American redstart (5")

This photo is from Hinsdale, NH. There's a particular stretch of land that has gotten me great looks at quite a few warblers, and last weekend was no exception:

Cornell's facts about the Redstart include the following:

The male American Redstart occasionally is polygynous, having two mates at the same time. Unlike many other polygynous species of birds that have two females nesting in the same territory, the redstart holds two separate territories up to 500 m (1,640 ft) apart. The male starts to attract a second female after the first has completed her clutch and is incubating the eggs.

Draw your own conclusions.

Warbler #2: bay-breasted warbler (5.5")

I'd never seen a Bay-Breasted warbler before this day, so it was a real treat to get this good a look at one. It reminds me why Parker River Wildlife Refuge is, by far, one of my favorite places to look for birds.

Here's what Cornell tells us about the Bay-breasted warbler:

... the Bay-breasted Warbler benefits from spruce budworm outbreaks when the caterpillars provide abundant food. Spraying to control the destructive outbreaks may have reduced populations of this warbler.

Warbler #3: black-and-white warbler (5.25")

These used to be birds I worked hard to find. Then one showed up in my yard, and now I just seem to find them everywhere. This one showed up near my office at work:

And this one was another great Parker River sighting:

I can vouch for this characterization from Cornell:

Unusually aggressive for a warbler, the Black-and-white Warbler sometimes attacks and fights Red-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee, Tennessee Warbler, and other species.

I have, in fact, been dive bombed by these guys.

Warbler #4: black-throated green warbler (5")

This was part of our Hinsdale walk:

Here's what I want to know about this entry:

The male Black-throated Green Warbler sings persistently during the breeding season. One individual was observed singing 466 songs in one hour.

Who did the counting?

Warbler #5: blackburnian warbler (5")

I want to say something about this: we showed up on Parker River last Saturday and didn't know it was birdathon day. There were birders *everywhere* doing their little competitive birding thing (I don't do the competitive stuff as a rule, but I get how it can be fun). I mentioned to someone that I had been looking to get a decent photo of a blackburnian (I had one from a few years ago) and he made a point of taking time out of his birdathon to help me find one.

I really like birders. Even when we're in competition, we help one another out:

Warbler #6: blue-winged warbler (4.5-5")

Even though it was close to home (we found this bird at Herrick's Cove, a Vermont Important Bird Area I check out early in the morning on my way to work), this guy was work. We heard this and I thought it was a Northern Parula. Hoping to get a decent shot of it, we spent about 20 minutes looking for it, and quickly saw it hop up a few times, only to go down again, but those brief looks made it really clear that it was *not* a parula. It took 20 minutes of hanging out looking for it, and almost giving up, before we finally were getting ready to move on when it flew out into a tree and landed right above me. Viola. Instant life bird.

Warbler #7: chestnut-sided warbler (5")

One morning at Herrick's Cove, I saw a bunch of these guys just flitting about like crazy. One landed right by my head:

This shot was at Parker River:

Here's something I did not know about these birds:

On the wintering grounds in Central America the Chestnut-sided Warbler joins in mixed-species foraging flocks with the resident antwrens and tropical warblers. An individual warbler will return to the same area in subsequent years, joining back up with the same foraging flock it associated with the year before.

Warbler #8: common yellowthroat (5")

As their name implies, common yellowthroats are fairly common. They are, however, still pretty neat and can present some fun ID challenges. This first one is from Parker River:

These others are from Herrick's Cove, on two different days. Notice the marking on these two birds. It would be very easy to mistake them for the much less common Nashville Warbler, which looks extremely similar, but can have a red mark on the tip of its head, and has distinctly black legs:

Cornell again:

The Common Yellowthroat is apparently monogamous within a breeding season and only infrequently will males be seen with two mates in their territory. Females, however, show no fidelity to their mates and often attract other males with their calls. The true genetic mating system of this species remains to be worked out.

I'll just leave that as is.

Warbler #9: magnolia warbler (5")

Magnolia warblers are about 5" tall, and has quite the range. Per Cornell:

Though it has very specific habitat preferences in the breeding season, the Magnolia Warbler occupies a very broad range of habitats in winter: from sea level to 1,500 meters elevation, and most landscape types, except cleared fields.

These are both photos of the same bird, taken at Parker River. We first found it a bit distant, as in this view:

Then as I traced it, it kept getting closer:

Warbler #10: northern parula (4.5")

Also at Parker River, another birder pointed this Northern Parula out to me. I've had photos of Parula's before, but never this close or with this much detail:

Parulas tend to hang out high in the tree canopy, which is one reason I rarely get photographs of one. Seeing one this close, and nearly at eye level was great.

Warbler #11: northern waterthrush (6")

This bird from Herrick's Cove was a real treat. I'd been looking to get a photo of a Northern Waterthrush for a few years now, but I never managed to pull it off. The day before I got these photos, I heard two of them calling back and forth, but could only get a quick look at one, not quick enough to get a photo. I even tried playing its call to coax it out. No luck. The next morning I went back to the same spot to see if they were still around. Didn't even need to try the call. One was singing from a nearby tree and eventually moved into perfect view.

Warbler #12: ovenbird (6")

Now this ovenbird was not easy. It was hidden by leaves and just sort of singing down low, but I did manage to find it and photograph it, despite all expectation to the contrary.

The ovenbird is named, by the way, because its nest resembles a dutch oven.

Warbler #13: palm warbler (5.5")

Palm Warblers are among the earliest new warblers, so I'm always looking for them (and Yellow Rumped) before anything else is even on my radar. These were both at Herrick's Cove one morning:

I don't know why it's called the Palm warbler. It's a northern bird.

Warbler #14: wilson's warbler (4.75")

This Wilson's was a real treat. We spotted it and I just did my best to get photos of it. Most of them came out poorly but a few worked out well. This was at Parker River as well:

Warbler #15: yellow warbler (5")

Yellow Warblers tend to get fairly ubiquitous. These were taken all over:

Allen Brothers Marsh in Westminster, VT:

The boat launch in Springfield, VT:

Parker River:

Herrick's Cove:

When I listen for them, I have trouble sometimes. I didn't realize why until I read this:

Recent DNA-based studies indicate that the Chestnut-sided Warbler is the closest relative of the Yellow Warbler. Both sing similarly phrased songs, and Yellow Warblers regularly sing songs nearly identical to those of the Chestnut-sided Warbler.

Warbler #16: yellow-rumped warbler (5.5")

Finally, another of the most prevalent warblers, the yellow-rumped warblers are among the first to arrive in the Spring and the last to leave. I haven't done great with photos of them this year, but this shot from Herrick's Cove does the trick:

Something else I didn't know is that one reason they are so prevalent is because of their eating habits:

Yellow-rumped Warblers are perhaps the most versatile foragers of all warblers. They're the warbler you're most likely to see fluttering out from a tree to catch a flying insect, and they're also quick to switch over to eating berries in fall. Other places Yellow-rumped Warblers have been spotted foraging include picking at insects on washed-up seaweed at the beach, skimming insects from the surface of rivers and the ocean, picking them out of spiderwebs, and grabbing them off piles of manure.

A few other warbler tips. For telling them apart (in the Spring-- in the Fall it's murder) I tend to group them into "yellow", "colorful," "stripey," "black throated" and "misc." This tends to be based on their head color, but isn't exclusively.

Yellow ones include yellow, palm, wilson's, common yellowthroat, nashville & blue winged.

I use yellow warbler as the "base" for this group and distinguish the others based on how they differ from it. Palm is like yellow but with red cap. Wilson's has a black cap. Nashville has a white eye ring and some grey on its head. Blue-winged has blue wings. Common yellowthroat has a black mask for males and, for females, looks like a pink-legged nashville.

The colorful ones include parula, chestnut-sided, redstart and yellow-rumped

I don't have a base for those-- but once I realize it's a very colorful bird it's not that hard to separate them out.

The stripey ones include the ovenbird, the waterthrushes, the magnolia and the black and white. Mangolia is the only yellow one with stripes in our region. The ovenbird has a bright orange streak on the head. The waterthrushes are harder to tell apart but Louisiana tends to be much less colorful than northern. I've never seen a Louisiana, so when I start seeing one, I'll figure out more :)

The black throated warblers are sort of their own category (black throated green, which isn't really green, and black-throated blue, which is very dark blue, and black-throated gray, which I've never seen), but if you see a warbler with a black throat, it's easy to tell which is which.

The others I usually just sort out on their own.

I never really thought I'd be into warblers this much, but it's kind of like the way I'm into puzzles: there's something really fun and immediate about seeing such a small bird and figuring out what it is. Figuring out how to photograph it is even more interesting because it can be extremely challenging, but sometimes I do okay.

Finally, a couple administrative items:

  1. I take a lot of photos, and I don't post them all here. If you'd like to get a weekly (or daily) e-mail summarizing new photos, there's a form you can fill out here to get regular updates. I do not even look at the e-mail addresses subscribed and don't send solicitations; it is a strictly announcement only e-mail group that sends out an automated e-mail once per day, but the default setting is for a weekly archive;

  2. Personal self promotion: I do sell prints, including a print of that Magnolia Warbler photo.

I hope you enjoyed all the warbler photos and factoids.