Thursday, April 16, 2009

Warbler hopes

Although warmer weather is called for today, up until today warm weather has been in short supply here on Roundtop this spring. And that could turn out to be a good thing for warbler watching in another week or so. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

For the past few years, winters were mild and spring came early. The trees leafed out early but the beautiful spring warblers that migrate through arrived at their regular times. Their inbred sense of migration timing tells them when they should arrive to catch the bugs that appear at the same time as the leaves begin to open. But, by the time the warblers arrived, the leaves were long open, the bugs gone and the warblers blew on through like their tails were on fire. They kept heading north, trying to find that sweet spot where bugs and leaves match their own needs.

The result for me is that for the past few years I haven’t had many warblers to look at. Now even in a good year, warblers are usually beautiful little frustrations. They are often high in the trees, often hidden behind a leaf, usually moving faster than the hand can move binoculars. Ah, but sometimes, they are so sweet. On those rare occasions, these little jewels are close, out in the open, they sit still and I can look at those lovely, tiny little birds for hours.

Over the years, I’ve had some memorable warbler mornings. One year I came home from working the night shift, pulled into the driveway and was surrounded by a dozen or more chestnut-sided warblers, most at head level and all rather put out that I was attempting to drive into my own driveway, which after all, didn’t I know belonged to them? Another time I stepped out onto the front deck and found a hooded warbler calmly bouncing in the driveway, just a few feet away. Or the time a flash of yellow zoomed past the window and when I went outside to investigate I found a pair of Kentucky warblers.

Most years aren’t that spectacular, though it is a rare year when I don’t see something interesting or uncommon. Last year and the year before fell into that category. In any event, the slower start to this spring’s leafiness has me hoping that 2009 might turn out to be a decent or even an average year for warblers here on the mountain. I’ll let you know how that turns out. We’ll still have to wait a week or two or maybe three to know the answer to that one.

My photo today was taken on one of the trails around Roundtop. The understory is starting to show signs of greening up, though I didn't find any flowers or fiddleheads just yet. Perhaps in another day or so.


The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Your area looks about as green as here—probably due more to increased photoperiods rather than temperature.

No warblers here yet that I've seen. But then it has been rainy for two days straight—or maybe three; can't remember. But today is just beautiful. A vast blue cloudless sky since dawn; and 60 degrees. The warblers have to be close.

Last spring, on a warm May afternoon, I pulled a chaise lounge right on the lip of the riverbank and stretched out to read and maybe snooze. This was under several hackberries that were pretty well leafed out. About twenty minutes later several Kentucky warblers landed on branches within two or three yards of where I lay, and not more than three or four feet higher than my head! They flitted about for well over an hour—working up the river a ways, then coming back and working through the bushes downstream. They didn't seem to care in the least that I was there and watching. They sang away from time to time and you wouldn't believe how loud it sounded being so close. My Nikon binoculars focus down to seven feet, and half the time they would be too close to focus on! It was absolutely amazing. Of course my camera was in the house.

Carolyn H said...

Griz: I've noted too before when I've very close to a bird that their song sound very loud. Wood thrush can make you want to cover your ears and run away. That's how loud they are.

That's a very good story about your Kentucky warblers. What a good afternoon that was!

Carolyn H.