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A Perfect Day for Birding

Today I had one of those excellent birding days.

If you are a birder, you know what I mean. Everything is perfect. The sky was sunny, the air was warm enough to leave the jacket at home, but not so warm or humid that you actually felt uncomfortable or hot.

I was hoping to see some warblers at the park, but my expectations were modest. October is peak migratory season in my area of the country. You might get a few stragglers in September, but not usually. But today I got lucky.

Bird #1 was a flycatcher called an Eastern pewee. Pewees are small, gray birds with white wing bars. Their heads are slightly out of proportion to the rest of their bodies, giving them a very cute appearance. I am about 90% certain thatís what it was, anyway. Other flycatchers sometimes look like pewees, but I got a very good look at this bird.

Bird #2 was undeniably a black-and-white-warbler. Not only did I get a good look at it but it was behaving as a b & w warbler would. These are the only warblers that climb up tree trunks.

Bird #3 was one of those frustrating birds that Roger Tory Peterson called ďconfusing fall warblers.Ē It was dull yellow-green with white wing bars. Was it a blackpoll? A pine warbler? Chestnut sided warbler? It was hard to say, since these birds (and a few others) are practically twins. I hope itís a blackpoll, as I can add it to my life list.

Bird #4 was also tricky. It was blue-gray above, with a bright yellow chest but a white abdomen. This could be a Nashville warbler or a female common yellow-throat, or a yellow-breasted chat. The picture of the yellow-throat from Cape May didnít look too much like this bird, though, and chats are big for warblers. They also have white stripes by their eyes. So, Iím going with the Nashville warbler. Itís not a lifer for me, but itís not one of the more common migrants around, so Iím happy to see it.

Look for the warblers early in the morning or in late afternoon. They like scrubby shrubs more than trees, and they are more active in the sun. They are pretty conspicuous. Not only do most of them have some shade of yellow somewhere on their body, but they do not stand still! They often fly off of a branch, catch an insect, then fly back. You wonít see them around your bird feeder too often. They are true wild birds, and most of us only see them for a couple of weeks in spring and fall. They like days like today: warm and not windy.

If you have a day in fall or spring where the weather seems too good to be true, get your binoculars and go. Perfect weather and warblers go perfect together, but both are pretty rare.

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