Notes from spring migration plus a warbler love triangle

A male yellow-rumped warbler paying us a visit in May during his spring migration.   Photo © Diana Pappas.

A male yellow-rumped warbler paying us a visit in May during his spring migration.
Photo © Diana Pappas.

We have hosted some colorful and melodious visitors this spring, and when I say “hosted” I mean we have kept the birdbath full and clean. We hope these visitors remember that they were treated to a nice drink and a relaxing day or two or three on their way north in our backyard, and that they keep this stop on their itinerary every year. What birds we’ve seen!

Last month, our notable visitors included a rare raven in the pine tree, announcing his presence with a low croak. He dwarfed the agitated grackles around him, though en-masse the grackles were able to send the raven away from their vulnerable chicks. A wild turkey, passing through, scratched at the ground with her feet looking for edibles.  A dazzlingly colorful and vocal pine warbler spent a full week in the backyard, at one point sitting on the garden fence and keeping me company while I was weeding. Chipping sparrows foraged in the lawn with their rusty cap setting them apart, taking the place of juncos who have long since flown north for cooler weather. I came within 4 feet of my first ruby-crowned kinglet, wondering what this tiny nondescript bird could possibly be when his bright red crest was raised and answered my question with absolute certainty. An eastern towhee stopped for a brief drink and later reminded us to “drink your tea” from his perch on the old white dogwood tree before he set off on his way.

So far this May, the backyard birdwatching has been equally fruitful. Not to be outdone by the showy blooms in the neighborhood, male American goldfinches landed on the now-empty suet feeder, shocking me with their vibrant new yellow plumage. A few days later, a brilliant male Baltimore oriole made his return on the same day as a non-flashy but equally welcome gray catbird. Our summer friends are back. A Wilson’s warbler paid a brief visit, just long enough for Tom to identify it, and today we’ve been entertained by a few love triangles in the backyard: dashing yellow-rumped warblers sung high in the trees and then eyed each other over drinks at the birdbath, and two male brown-headed cowbirds puffed themselves up for the attentions of a female who seemed to be playing hard to get.

The best backyard bird sighting of late would have to be what we saw on Mother’s Day, a pair of adult bald eagles soaring overhead, their white heads and tails unmistakable to the naked eye, and their wings steady and broad – a thrilling sight. There is so much going on out there! As I type this, a tiny iridescent green hummingbird just landed in the flowering bridal wreath for the briefest of rests before being chased off by a male house sparrow. Do I keep typing or do I go outside with my binoculars?

Drama at birdbath: a yellow-rumped warbler love triangle.  Photo © Diana Pappas.

Drama at birdbath: a yellow-rumped warbler love triangle.
Photo © Diana Pappas.

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2 responses to “Notes from spring migration plus a warbler love triangle

  1. The top photo captures the fleeting feel of the season, when spring blossom and emerging shoots look different every day and birds are extra active. Envious of your warbler species. Now, drink your tea!

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