Some birds are not always as they seem

The weather turned colder late last week, and every birder I know was smiling. Colder weather brings a greater variety of birds this time of year, when the fall migration is underway.

I’ve been spending more time of late at the old AT&T Building One site at the Pole Farm, at a crossroads in the woods about three-quarters of a mile up the central trail from the Cold Soil Road parking lot. The area is a great spot to spot warblers during migration, and on last week’s visits I found the activity varied from day to day. Jim Parrish, the leading birder at the Pole Farm, and I often end up in that area around 7:30 in the morning.

As we were peering into the brush and trees Friday morning, I spotted something small moving in the foreground. “Just a yellowthroat,” I said, but Jim added a caution that turned out to be as prescient as it was wise. Don’t dismiss a bird just because it’s something you expect to see in that area. It could be something special.

I went back Saturday morning and was over on the Reed Bryan Farm side of Mercer Meadows. There’s a corner where the woods end on your left and you suddenly have open fields on both sides of the path. In the past, I’d often seen a lot of activity in that section, and the sun was favorably positioned for me to look back at the wall of trees on the edge of the woods.

I must have spent 20 minutes there, frantically pointing my camera up and down, left and right, trying to capture whatever birds were flitting about. They had to be warblers, I figured. I moved on and when I got to a shaded area, checked my camera to see what I had. I zipped through the photos and laughed: it seemed I had nothing more exotic than a common yellowthroat and a female American goldfinch.

A Philadelphia vireo.

When I got home and brought the images up on screen, I was in for a surprising treat. Not only did have photos of a black-throated green warbler (one tops this post), but to my utter delight I also had not a goldfinch but a bay-breasted warbler and not a yellowthroat but a Philadelphia vireo.

It’s as if Jim had predicted I’d cavalierly dismiss a few birds that were greater than what they seemed. In this case, I had spotted two lifers (the bay-breasted and the Philly) and got my first photos of the black-throated green. That was cause for rejoicing.

A bay-breasted warbler, either a female or immature. Note that brown tinge on the side below the wing.

Published by Dan

University media executive by day, blogger by night, I am a well-traveled resident of New Jersey

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: