It was a day for the races, and no less my best day of birding during spring migration EVER.
James Orrico, James Randall and I departed Fairfield at the bright and early hour of 5:00 heading for a famed destination for watching spring migration at it’s very best. It was a day where, somehow or another we were able tick away 3 lifers, 11 year birds, and 22 species of Wood-Warbler.
“Wow,” you must be saying. Those numbers in such a big city. How??
Many of the best spots aka migration traps in the Northeast (Birdcraft, East Rock and Central Park) are in the middle of very large open areas. Take a migrating Blackburnian Warbler for example, the city below is an ocean of sorts with no trees and no food for the warbler to eat. Suddenly, out of the blue a large green spot pops up. The warbler decides to land on this “island” and refuel and rest much to the delight of the birders waiting for him.
Because of this, coupled with a terrific movement of migrants the night before, I can well say we played our cards perfectly. Beginning, at the maintenance field we snagged James R’s lifer Olive-sided Flycatcher among many other migrants taking advantage of the first light.
We then began to wander through the Ramble and encountered waves of migrants including Tennessee Warbler, Gray-cheeked Thrush, and Least Flycatcher. After hitting the ramble we moved on to Belvedere Castle. Our stop there was highlighted by a male Cape May Warbler, another lifer for James.
All the birders we ran into told us there was an enormous hatch-out of insects in the vicinity the bridge SW of the reservior. Sure enough, we encountered waves and waves of warblers (and birders!). Fantastic looks at Bay-breasted, Blackburnian, and Cape May were enjoyed by all. A Yellow Warbler flew in, and Magnolia Warblers flitted by. It was an incredible experience, watching all those stunning warblers working the trees together.
Our return to the Ramble was highlighted by a well-won Mourning Warbler, my life bird highlight of the day.
Here’s a list of all the warblers seen today:
Northern Parula (4)
Tennessee Warbler (1)-Singing, the Oven
Nashville Warbler (1)-Singing, Maintenance Fields
Yellow Warbler (1)-Bridge SW of reservoir
Chestnut-sided Warbler (7)-Seen throughout
Magnolia Warbler (28!)-The maggies were in abundance today!
CAPE MAY WARBLER (2)-Belvedere Castle and Bridge SW of reservoir
Black-throated Blue Warbler (3)
Blackburnian Warbler (3)-Fantastic looks at AN ABSOLUTELY STUNNING 2 males and a female
Yellow-rumped Warbler (2)-Warbler Rock
Black-throated Green Warbler (4)
BAY-BREASTED WARBLER (8)-A TON at the bridge SW of the reservoir
Blackpoll Warbler (3)
Black-and-White Warbler (3)
American Redstart (10)
Northern Waterthrush (2)-The Point
MOURNING WARBLER (1)-The point, near Boathouse Cafe
Common Yellowthroat (3)
Wilson’s Warbler (3)
Canada Warbler (8)-Surprisingly pretty abundant
Hooded Warbler-The Point, uncommon away from breeding areas
Of all those wonderful birds, my species highlight of the day was definitely the Mourning Warbler.
We had returned to the Point after getting a quick bite to eat at the Boathouse Cafe. After running into multiple groups of birders excited after seeing a male Mourning Warbler, we decided we had to try for it. And we were determined to see it. After spending some time searching we joined up with a birder named Frank, who had seen the bird just before. We got into a conversation along the trail and as we were saying our goodbyes after a nice chat, a small bird with a greenish-yellow back flew into a nearby bush. Adult spring male Mourning Warbler! I got a split-second look at his beautiful face. We called Frank back and soon more birders arrived on the scene. We all surrounded the bird before it flew out into the open for a few seconds. Wow. As the bird moved from bush to bush, we kept him surrounded, so others could see. Finally, we decided to leave him alone. It was an exciting chase, and a great way to end the day.