Thursday, April 13, 2006

Pine Warbler in Pheasant Branch

With recent rain and above normal temperatures, Pheasant Branch Conservancy is set for an early leaf-out this spring - it's already greening up so quickly. By mid-May I'm sure to have a bad case of "warbler neck" from gawking up into the dense canopy when working to identify multitudes of warblers, vireos and flycatchers.

Yesterday started with a soft spring rain. I always have a poncho in my backpack for wet-weather days because some of the best bird watching can be experienced in such conditions. Though binoculars can be waterproof, nothing can keep the objective lenses from collecting droplets when looking skyward. It doesn't take long before the image is blurred beyond one's ability to see always bring along a lens cleaning cloth on such days!

I enjoyed the remainder of the morning with birding friends and we were very excited to find a Pine Warbler gleaning insects between bark crevices. Because it was surrounded by an active group of Yellow-rumped Warblers, it wasn't easy to pick out. Dottie announced, "Hey, that was has more yellow on it!" I put my binoculars up to it and quickly identified it. Watching and listening to it sing is very confirming, as its song is sort of similar to a Chipping Sparrow.

In my experience, it's a narrow window of opportunity for seeing Pine Warblers in Pheasant Branch. Without fail, I manage a glimpse of one or two during mid-April, in the same general area, year to year. Pine Warblers nest in the northern half of Wisconsin, and on rare occasions I've spotted them near our cabin in Sawyer County.

Though my friends eventually had to leave to go to work, I was left to enjoy the song of a Brown Thrasher calling from atop the ravine in an oak tree.

Pine Warbler image © 2006 Michael Allen McDowell

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