Orange-crowned Warbler, Connecticut Warbler- Albany Pine Bush Preserve 9/23


Very cool morning, 45F, wind NW 12 g20mph. I intended to visit APBP banding station in Karner Barrens East, but they cancelled due to excessive wind, apparently. Birdcast recorded a decent push of migrants overnight, so I decided to walk the yellow trail clockwise to investigate. Quiet early on with only Blue Jays and Red-breasted Nuthatches sounding off. At a point about 1/4 mile from the start, there is an area that was recently cleared (2yrs ago) of invasive/non-native plants, with some tree thinning as well. The resulting open canopy lets in much sunlight, and an area of weedy, low growth has commenced, currently with goldenrod, jewelweed, asters, and other viny growth. Birders have informally named this area the 'Catbird Spot,' as one can always hear/see Gray Catbirds here from May to September. There are many wild grape, creeper, poison ivy, and other fruit vines, along with pokeberry.

This low weedy area has a backdrop of thicker forest that keeps out the strong winds, and it warms up in the early morning sun. It seemed like a good spot to do some semi-stationary birding, occasionally walking up or down along the same stretch of trail. I had some hope that this would be a good day and place to find a Connecticut Warbler. A few chip notes were audible, one a Black-throated Green Warbler, and some chickadees were calling too. Some of the plant stems in the clearing started to quiver, like a bobber when a fish suddenly strikes the bait, so birds were moving around in the 'weeds.' One of the first birds to show was a Nashville Warbler; they seem to love the goldenrod too. The eye ring got my pulse going until I saw the yellow throat. The next bird that popped out was a dull, straw-yellow warbler, with a diffuse dark eye line, and white arcs above and below the eye, an Orange-crowned Warbler! Perfect habitat to find one, but they are very uncommonly found (or looked for, with intent) in this region, so I didn't even have it on my radar.

Forty-five minutes went by and there was a sudden influx of chickadees and friends. Black-throated Green Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Eastern Wood-pewee, Magnolia Warbler. While watching this bunch, I realized that there was much more activity in the weeds too. Directly in front of me, maybe 8-10 feet away, was a bird working its way up a stem. Chunky warbler, white eye ring, stubby tail. I got a few more looks as it climbed around, gray hood and throat, yellow underneath, long UT coverts. Connecticut Warbler! I fumbled to get a picture (FAIL) for the next few minutes, as I could never get a focus lock, and the bird was constantly shifting around. I decided to playback a few chip notes to see if I could get a response. Instantly got a series of three sneezy, squeaky "vik" or "vink" calls from the bird. Very satisfying result. 

Tomorrow morning should also have similar conditions, both migration-wise and weatherwise, so check edge habitat that is sheltered from the wind for ground foraging birds, especially in goldenrod. Enjoy fall birding!

Migration forecast here:

Tom Williams 

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