Wednesday, June 01, 2011

How I saw a Black -throated Blue Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler Watercolor by Sally Wickham © 2011
One warm and sunny day in mid-May, I found myself in a section of Stockbridge, Vermont where I had never been. It’s a place called No Town. Yes, there really is such a place. To get there you drive to the spot where the Appalachian Trail crosses Stony Brook Road. In order to hear any birds, I needed to get away from the brook and so I walked westward on the trail. On this day and at this elevation, the leaves are just emerging. No bugs yet.
Finally, one bird song stands out. It is not familiar to me and the bird repeats itself endlessly as if to help me along in my bird watching adventure. Did I mention that I had left my Bushnell Powerview 10 X 25s safely in their case at home?
And then there is the problem that I have remembering bird songs for any length of time. When I get back to where I can listen to recordings, they get all mixed up. New ones I hear interfere with the one that I heard . Today I try something different and lucky for me, this bird is ready to accommodate. 
I listen carefully. Three notes and then another. Three clear notes and the last one is nasal, almost buzzy and trails up. Down\ Down\ Down\ Tsee /// Down\ Down\ Down\ Tsee/// There. I think I’ve got it. I continue to strain my eyes and my neck looking high into the tree tops but see nothing. I take note of my surroundings—mostly hardwoods, eastern slopes of the greens-- and record that information in my field book.
When I return home, I do not go to the recordings. I check my newest bird book, Birdwatching in Vermont by Ted Murin and Bryan Pfeiffer. In it, on page 5, is a table that lists habitats and their birds. With this book, I am able to narrow down my candidate list to a few birds whose songs I don’t recognize. 
Then I listen to those few birds. The system that works for me is the Birding By Ear series. AND THEN I HEAR IT. Down Down Down Tsee...... They identify it as the male Black-throated Blue Warbler. I am sure that is the bird that I heard. After consulting The Sibley Guide to Birds I know what I am going to look for. 
The very next day I find myself in the exact same section of Stockbridge. I stop in several spots along the road and listen. Soon enough I hear the now familiar call. Down Down Down Tsee and today I have my binoculars.

It takes a while, but lucky for me, the Black-throated Blue Warbler moves around a lot.  He also repeats his song frequently.   First I find him with my eyes;  raise the ptics; locate the bird.  I SEE HIM!!!!  I CAN SEE HIS BEAK MOVING AS HE SINGS  “Down, Down, Down, Tsee.”   It’s him!   It is the Black-throated Blue Warbler.   He flits from branch to branch as I watch— a new bird to add to my list. 

Words by Linda Lunna ©2011

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