Lake Erie Travel Diary - p 3

Black-throated Green Warbler (72691 bytes)14 May 2005
Rondeau, the most attractive of the Lake Erie migrant traps, preserves Carolinian forest, rich in basswood and maples.  The forest floor is carpeted with violets, trilliums, and Jack-in-the-Pulpit, which reminds me of the Smoky Mountains.  Unlike the Smokies, Rondeau is flat.  Its many pools and sloughs are good habitat for Common Grackles and Prothonotary Warblers, the latter eagerly sought by Canadian birders.  The sloughs are fairly open, making it easier to  photograph more warblers, including the Black-throated Green Warbler and another favorite, the Northern Parula. 

Northern Parula (76406 bytes)Warblers originated in the American tropics.   Almost 50 of the 114 total species in their family, Parulidae, evolved to migrate into the insect-rich forests of North America during the breeding season.   Their colors and songs seem to be variations on a theme.  Most have a dark and white pattern, with bold colors such as orange or yellow thrown in.  Warbler songs are usually a short series of  warbles and trills, not very musical, and maddeningly similar when you try to learn them.  If you really want to impress the other birders, learn to identify warblers by their songs.

Blackburnian Warbler (83144 bytes)17 May 2005
The two previous days were cold and windy, miserable for birds and birders alike.  Today, my last at Rondeau, dawned sunny, and the temperature soared to 59F, which could be a heat wave for this time of year in Ontario.  At any rate, it certainly enlivened the warblers.  Although they apparently cross Lake Erie at night, early morning is still poor for birding, much better in late afternoon.  One theory is that warblers become more active as the day warms and insect activity increases .  My first good bird today was Blackburnian Warbler, whose brilliant orange throat always elicts wows from birders.  It spent quite some time working the high limbs of a maple, then fluttered down, almost like a falling leaf, onto an open branch.

Blackpoll Warbler (82116 bytes)

The last warbler of the trip is one that, like me, came from far away.  The Blackpoll Warbler winters in South America, to northern Brazil and Ecuador.  When Blackpolls migrate north, many won't stop until they reach Alaska or Labrador.  Of all warblers, it travels the farthest to breed.  It is a thoroughly charming little bird, active and inquisitive.
    In the tropics I've seen birds more colorful than warblers, but something about them strikes a deeper chord.  All who enjoy birds eagerly await the first migrant warbler of spring.  Whether as migrants or summer residents, these visitors from the tropics add color and liveliness to the season.

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