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Fall Warbler Neck

September 26, 2011

It finally happened, dear Birders! I experienced Warbler neck in September! That’s what happens when you stand in a wooded area, tilt your head back as far as it will go and point your binoculars straight up toward the tops of pine trees (and other trees I haven’t yet learned to distinguish, I mean I’m hardly a tree watcher after all…) and watch fall warblers dart in and out of foliage and then stop for as millisecond, which is about enough time for me to totally misidentify the bird. In the end, I did catch a good glimpse of a Blackpoll Warbler (Dendroica striata) and a Yellow Rumped Warbler. I’d post pictures, but they’re all uniformly greenish-greyish-yellowish with stripes here and there, and there’s really nothing all that thrilling about them except for the fact that they’re Warblers, and that’s attractive in and of itself. There’s a delightful challenge to looking at and IDing (even if totally unsuccessfully) warblers. They’re tiny, spectacularly twitchy, nervous little things that never stay in one place for more than a few seconds. And then they’re off. It’s magic.

I did get a great look at a Palm Warbler (Dendroica palmarum) half way between Hamilton and Long Point. We stopped at a colossal Sewage Lagoon, and there he was, fluttering about in a tree, doing his quintessential tail-wagging motion! It wasn’t particularly difficult to see the Palm Warbler because there were about 8 of him, doing the exact same thing. (That’s my kind of bird — when he appears in multiple incarnations at once. It’s a gift for the somewhat-beginning-enthusiastic-yet-skill-less-birder.) The tail-wagging was intensely satisfying for all parties concerned. (here’s an image from this great site.)

Tail-wagging aside, the other avian excitement was my first sighting of a Long-Billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus), which was well worth the drive into Burlington. (I was initially skeptical about everything that has to do with Burlington when I thought all we were going to see were Solitary Sandpipers, not that they weren’t thrilling, but just that it was a long day, and my interest in look-alike Sandpipers was starting to wear thin.) But the Dowitcher, let me tell you, is a thing of wonder! When he eats, he moves his head and body in a sewing machine motion! He really does! It was quite the sight to behold, and thankfully, he performed his “eating routine” without stopping for a single beat. (Image from here)

All in all, a splendid fall day that also included a Wilson’s Snipe, Pectoral Sandpipers, dozens of other warblers I couldn’t catch, Killdeer, and Cormorants (which I mistook for Great Blue Herons, don’t ask me how — it was the end of the day, Burlington was getting to me, what can I say), and many many other great things.

On a slightly different (but no less majestic) note, it’s Birthday Season here at Birds and Words, and we’re celebrating to be best of our abilities. We’ll be turning a year older this week, but such is life. In anticipation of the Big Day, I couldn’t resist getting the niftiest Red purse made out of seatbelts! Happy September!

Not exactly a Bird Watching bag, but pretty close!

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