Thursday, April 13, 2006

Yellow-throated Warbler

I was stuck at home today waiting for the plumber to arrive when Shane telephoned. He was calling to fill me in on the day trip that he and Sean took on Wednesday. It was another one of those ludicrous drive-four-hours-north-look-for-a-bird-then-turn-around-and-go-home type of road trip. I couldn’t make the trip and I think, deep down inside, he was calling to gloat over their success.

As I was talking on the phone I heard a mockingbird singing outside the window. Our annual 5th Street mockingbird apparently arrived last night. He announced his presence with a chorus of titmouse, “peter, peter, peter”, robin “cheerily, cheerio” and his own, “deedle, deedle, deedle”. I commented to Shane that there was probably a good flight of birds last night and that Prospect Park was probably full of new birds. As soon as I hung up the telephone my cellphone rang. I didn’t recognize the number and when I picked up they were gone. Moments later Sean called. The conversation went something like this:

Sean: “Doug Gochfeld just called, he spotted a Yellow-throated Warbler on Lookout Hill.”
Me: “I can’t stay out long so I’ll pedal over quickly.”
Sean: “I’ll take my bike and meet you there. Bring some allen wrenches, my left crank arm fell off and it’s just hand tightened.”
Me: “Ahh, sure, whatever.”

He was willing to risk life and limb (or, at least, a hard landing on the bike’s top tube) to see that bird.

Yellow-throated Warbler on Lookout Hill


After I hung up, my cellphone immediately rang again. It was Doug. He was still following the warbler and said he’d wait on the hill for me. As I rode south through the park it was clear that many songbirds had indeed moved into the park over night. I heard the trilling calls of Palm, Pine and Yellow-rumped Warblers along my entire route. Riding the road up to the top of Lookout Hill I heard a Black-throated Green Warbler's unique, buzzy “zoooo zeeee zoo zoo zee”. My first for the year. As I approached Doug, near the Butterfly Meadow, I could hear the Yellow-throated Warbler's song. The bird’s clear, descending whistles suddenly rise at the end of the song, as if he had a brief burst of energy. I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen Yellow-throated Warblers in New York. They breed south and west of New York but migrating individuals occasionally stray into the NYC area. I missed two individuals last year. Also, in the area were a pair of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers making insect-like, thin, wheezy buzzes near the tops of the trees.

Here's a better Yellow-throated Warbler, Prospect Park, April 2003.

(Photo credit - Steve Nanz)

Fortunately, the Yellow-throated Warbler was very cooperative and remained singing in the woods on Lookout Hill all morning. I called a few more local birders to alert them of our unusual visitor. Having run out without putting in my contact lenses or bringing my reading glasses, digiscoping through my binoculars was impossible. I gave my camera and bins to Sean to try to take some photos. As a professional photographer he’s only good with “real” cameras and wasn’t accustomed to the system I cobbled together. He took one fairly decent photo...well, at least you can tell it's a bird.

All the Norway Maples are now flowering, in perfect sync with emerging insects and arriving, hungry insectivores. The park’s air was vibrating with the power of bird songs that I haven’t heard in almost a year. The electricity of avian sounds are only going to increase over the next month. Imagine if the strength of all those voices could be harnessed, the world's energy needs would be resolved.

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Prospect Park, 4/13/2006
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Ring-necked Duck (1, Upper pool.)
Turkey Vulture (1, flying over Lookout Hill.)
Belted Kingfisher (Heard near Maryland Monument.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Blue-headed Vireo (Singing in Elm tree across from Quaker Cemetery.)
Black-capped Chickadee
Carolina Wren (Lookout Hill.)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (2, Lookout Hill. 1, near Fallkill Falls.)
Hermit Thrush (Lookout Hill.)
American Robin
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Several.)
Black-throated Green Warbler (1, Lookout Hill.)
Yellow-throated Warbler (Near Butterfly Meadow. Found by Doug Gochfeld.)
Pine Warbler (Several.)
Palm Warbler (Fairly common.)
American Goldfinch (Lookout Hill.)

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