Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Counting the Months Until Warblers

Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Male blue-winged warbler in our orchard.

It's early November here in southeastern Ohio. Daylight Savings Time is no longer in effect, making the days seem shorter than they actually are. The air is cooler—verging on cold. The trees have lost their collective grip on their foliage, leaving dark spiderwebs of their naked branches etching patterns on (mostly) leaden skies.

I already miss the warblers.

Most years we have a dozen species of eastern wood warblers nesting at Indigo Hill. From April through early October we can see and hear them. Now in November, when the landscape seems tired—resigned to the killing frosts and weak sunshine of another winter, we have the occasional yellow-rumpeds passing through, issuing their soft tchups to one another. They won't linger here on the ridge where the wind blows cold. They'll spend the winter along the river eating dried pokeweed berries and poison ivy and sumac fruits, taking advantage of the micro hatches of insects on sunny winter days.

Yellow-rumped warbler in winter plumage.

I was editing some video the other day. It was footage I shot on our farm during an interview last summer. The amount of bird song audible in the background of the footage was stunning. Indigo bunting, common yellowthroat, blue-winged warbler, prairie warbler, hooded warbler, yellow-breasted chat, red-eyed vireo, white-eyed vireo—they've all gone south now.

Prairie warbler, male, singing along the edge of our meadow.

Funny how the spring and summer bird song chorus just sneaks up on you. A few more birds chime in each week until the singing is nearly constant. Yet your ears have grown accustomed to it to the point where you don't really notice it. Now, in the relatively quiet days of early winter, that bird noise on the video is a startling reminder of what we had all around us just a short while ago. My how things change with the seasons!

So I'm counting the days—months really—until the warblers and other migrant songbirds return and the air is once more filled with song.


On November 3, 2009 at 2:29 PM Jo said...

You've got it backward -- DST is over, mate. :)

It's amazing how deathly silent everything gets as soon as the birds get on the move. I'll admit that I rarely pay much attention to Red-wings during the summer, but man, when they show up in March, am I ever glad to hear that silence finally broken!

On November 3, 2009 at 5:13 PM Bill of the Birds said...

Ah, so it is. My mistake. I will fix that so no one will even notice. Unless they read these comments. Drat!

On November 3, 2009 at 5:48 PM Carol said...

My yard is finally getting active. 2 male Painted Buntings, 2 Greens, Eastern Phoebe, Cardinals, Titmice, Catbirds..everyone is starting to come home.

During the summer I mainly Cardinals at the feeders.


On November 3, 2009 at 5:56 PM Julie Zickefoose said...

Nice post, B. I think so much of what makes us sad in fall is intangible--the silence, where once there was so much jingling music--is something we may not even notice, but it is very real.

On November 4, 2009 at 7:56 AM Dave Lewis said...

6 more months until the warblers return to Magee! I'll go out there at least once a month to check...you never know...in the meantime, we've got Kinglets!

On November 8, 2009 at 9:15 PM CNemes said...

Autumn is definitely my favorite season, but I agree that the dearth of birdsong is a little sad. I've just gotten into birding in the past year, and didn't/don't have the expertise to recognize many warbler songs when they came through in the spring, so I'm actually looking forward to having the winter to brush up on my skills before they come back!

That being said, I saw more warblers this autumn (again, due to increasing experience in birdwatching) than I did in the spring. Two weeks ago I spotted my first yellow-rumped warblers (actually a small flock of them) and a late palm warbler. And as Mr. Lewis said, kinglets! All summer I had longed for these! I'm so thrilled to see them regularly now.