Sunday, April 20, 2008

Warblers Fill The Air With Song

April is the month of migrant warblers, for it is in this month that the preponderance of these beautiful birds pass through our lawns, forests and parks, northward bound.

Few warblers spend their winters with us. One is the lovely yellow and olive-green pine warbler, a year-round citizen of the South's forests and lawns. He has put on a new bright suit for spring and has already left our yards to build his nest high in a tall pine.

On some sunny morning, we might awaken to find our trees and shrubs alive with colorful creatures that have appeared from somewhere in the night.

This flashy one with yellow, black-flecked breast and bars of white across tail and wings . . . a magnolia. From Yucatan the night before he set out straight across the Gulf, flying ever northward. Today he is resting and feeding along North Augusta's Greenway. Tonight perhaps he will push on. No doubt thoughts of mating and nesting in his old neighborhood have triggered his hurrying on.

Within a week he'll be building his nest in the same spruce thicket in Maine or Quebec where last year he and his mate raised their brood of four. Some members of the family will return to the same area next breeding season.

From his West Indies winter home, this chestnut-cheeked warbler in his spring migration flight passed through the Bahamas and Florida, steadily pushing through Georgia and South Carolina. Some of the flock drop down to feed and rest for the night along streams and wood edges in our area.

A sighting one never forgets is seeing the Cape May warbler feeding from the blossom, the color of his cheek patch, of the tulip poplar. The pointed fir and spruce forests of Nova Scotia beckon this beautiful warbler home for the summer. Here he will build a nest for the six or seven creamy white eggs, richly blotched with shades of brown. These tiny eggs will produce youngsters that in the fall will repeat the age-old migration journey on the same sky roads that their ancestors have followed for eons past.

This flame breasted blackburnian, of fire-throat, as he is often called, is in from the jungles of Peru or Ecuador where he spends the winter. Now during these lengthening, warming, sunny days he is hurrying to the pine grove of southern Quebec where he nested last spring. He and his mate will hand their nest far out on a lofty swaying branch in a jack pine.

Migrating through our area from his winter home in South America, the blackpoll warbler breeds mainly in Canada but has extended his nesting range into the mountains of New York, Vermont and New Hampshire. This white and black warbler can easily be mistaken for a chickadee, though the migrant is a good inch or more larger than his look-alike.

He wears a solid black cap and has a solid, somewhat triangular white cheek patch. His solid white breast is streaked on the sides with black. His back is black and gray striped.

The blackpoll is a late migrant and perhaps has not been through our area yet. Look for him!