Monday, March 13, 2006


I would not be able to claim with any certainty that I’ve ever seen the same warbler twice in as many days, save one. The Yellow-rumped Warbler that graced us with its presence each day in our backyard since January 22nd hasn’t been observed since Friday. I presume departure and with good reason.

Last seen, it was zipping around the trees in our front and back yard, acting much like any random warbler I might have encountered in Pheasant Branch, Nine Springs or Baxter’s Hollow. The warm weather hatched insects and the warbler’s instincts for sustenance switched over. Still, the suet must have been a good energy source as it continued to take a few nibbles. No longer the perched puffball of feathers enduring blasts of arctic air, trying to conserve whatever warmth its small body could generate…no, this was a warbler ready to go. Sleek, smart and energetic, I thought as I watched it for what would be the last time.

Along with millions of other birds, perhaps the favorable migration weather that evening was more than it could resist. On Saturday morning birders across the state were reporting fresh spring migrants. I wasn’t at all surprised to read a report on the Wisconsin Birding Network that a small flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers was seen in Kenosha County this past weekend – they are on their way.

I like to imagine various scenarios on the bird’s departure. Did it perch on any trees north of our block and sort of linger before committing? Or did it just make a beeline for the sky and just go full-bore? I’d like to think the latter – and the way that bird behaved...I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the truth of it. Now I wonder...where is it at this very moment?

Through much of February I was recovering from either bronchitis or viral pneumonia and didn’t feel up to traveling too far away from home to go birding. It’s amazing how much positive and undiluted joy that little bird brought while watching it through the window, or when topping off the feeders each morning. Seeing it zip and chip across the yard from the spruce trees to the suet feeder, I would practically let out a sigh of relief. It was as if I couldn’t start my day until I knew the warbler was doing all right. I’m grateful for the gift, the experience and in a reverse sense of thanks...I hope it thoroughly enjoyed every bite of suet it ate.

Links chronicling the Yellow-rumped Warbler:

January Warbler


A Tough Warbler

Curse of the Were-Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler Update

Yellow-rumped Warbler image © 2006 Mike McDowell

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