Warbler Wonders

by Alta Hoover | Mar 25, 2021 | 0 comments

Blackburnian Warbler,
Blackburnian Warbler. Photo © Kevin Shank.

Study today’s lessons. Clean out and organize my desk. Prepare achievement tests.

My mind was organizing the morning’s work as I peddled to school through the rain. There were so many things to finish and remember on these last days of school. I wanted to get an early start this morning in order to cross off some of those year-end things.

Northern Parula, warbler
Northern Parula. Photo © Shaphan Shank.

Bird migration was also in full swing. Even as my mind raced ahead to the work I wanted to accomplish, I was listening to the birds singing in the rain. A House Wren’s bubbling song greeted me at its usual spot. Cardinals, catbirds, and Common Yellowthroats sang as the raindrops fell.

When I turned off the main road, the traffic noise became more muffled, and I listened intently for newly arrived warblers. As I approached the schoolhouse, I noticed lots of warbler activity in the woods to my right. Again and again the Northern Parula belted out his song—up, up, up the scale and tipping over the top.

I grabbed my binoculars out of my box and scanned the trees. There he was! He tipped back his head, his throat vibrating as he burst out in song. I admired his beautiful rufous breast band and splash of yellow, gray, and white as he perched almost at eye level about four yards/meters from me.

Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler. Photo © Kevin Shank.

Glancing around, I noticed that the little row of evergreens planted along the edge of the woods was swarming with warblers flitting from branch to branch. They reminded me of a bunch of insects. Quickly I parked my bike at school and headed for the edge of the woods, mentally crossing cleaning and organizing from my list for that morning.

The rain had almost stopped as I scanned the trees again. Yellow-rumped Warblers seemed to be everywhere I looked. Brilliant Blackburnians searched for food among the higher branches, pausing now and then to add their buzzy song to the dawn chorus. From the deeper woods came the clear “Teacher, Teacher” song of the Ovenbird.

Frantically I sorted through the birds as they kept flitting about in their feeding frenzy. Yellow Warbler, Nashville—so close I could clearly see his neat white eye ring. What was that one? I got only a glimpse as it flitted back into denser foliage, but it was enough to confirm a Chestnut-sided. Then I glimpsed a small bird creeping along a branch. Could it be a Black and White Warbler? No, it was our abundant-for-this-spring Red-breasted Nuthatch. But over there was a Black and White Warbler pecking away as it scampered along the branches. Suddenly, right in front of me, a Palm Warbler flew in. I watched in fascination as it kept bobbing its tail. A Black-throated Green’s “See, see, see, Susie,” lured me on, but a look at my watch reminded me of my duties in the classroom.

I tore myself away from those flitting, flying, feeding birds and entered the schoolhouse. With a song in my heart I prepared for the day. I could clean my corners some other day. I was grateful for that refreshing time, observing the beauty of God’s creation.

Chestnut-sided Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler. Photo © Kevin Shank.

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