Posts Tagged ‘migrating warbler’

When I first saw this bird bouncing around on the ground on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I thought that it might be a sparrow. Then I caught a flash of yellow as the bird wagged its tail and I realized that it was a Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum).

Most warblers forage high in the trees, where they are difficult to see. The Palm Warbler, however, forages mainly on open ground or in low vegetation, making it marginally easy to spot and to identify.

Palm Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday marked the change of seasons for me—I switched the walkaround lens on my camera from my 180mm macro, which has been my almost constant companion throughout the spring and summer, to my much longer 150-600mm telephoto zoom lens. The change signifies my reluctant acceptance of the reality that the insect season is slowly drawing to a close and that increasingly I will be focusing on birds.

Warblers are still passing through our area as they head south, so I decided yesterday to try to find some at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, a location where I know that other photographers have spotted a variety of warblers. Although early morning is usually the best time for birding, I went at midday to avoid any potential crowds.

Most of the leaves are still on the trees, so it is a challenge to spot little birds and even tougher to photograph them. I was thrilled when I caught a glimpse of yellow after a long fruitless search and managed to get this mostly unobstructed view of a handsome warbler. I had no idea what species it was, but some experts on a Facebook birding forum informed me that it was a Cape May Warbler (Setophaga tigrina), a species that I had never before encountered.

Cape May Warblers breed in the spruce-fir forests in the North and winter in the Caribbean, in lush habitats with plenty of insects and flowers—I think I might enjoy that lifestyle. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, the tongue of the Cape May Warbler is unique among warblers—it is curled and semi-tubular and is used to collect nectar, almost like a hummingbird does.

Cape May Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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