Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Backyard Warblers

When I walked out the door Tuesday morning, I was greeted by a cacophony of bird calls - spring has arrived.  I listened for the charismatic call of the Louisiana Waterthrush, and was pleasantly surprised to hear it calling from the ravine behind my house. Bird number 169 this year, and a lifer.  Unfortunately, I was unable to try to see the bird, since school is "more important than birding" or something like that. So, when I got home, I promptly went outside to the top of the bluff overlooking a creek in my backyard.  Two Waterthrushes were chasing each other right below me in the creek bed, and they provided some amazing views.  As I was tracking the birds through my binoculars, a flash of yellow caught my eye.  When I got a good view, my heart rate skyrocketed - it was a male Hooded Warbler, which is arguably one of the most beautiful birds that can be seen in North Carolina.  Its combination of a green back, black "hood", and striking yellow face demonstrates the kind of artistry only nature can create.  Elated with my 249th lifer, I watched dazed as the bird flew around the underbrush.  It eventually flew out of sight, and I headed back to my climate-controlled house (it was gettin' kind of hot).

Today, I returned to the ravine - this time with camera in hand.  I carefully worked my way down the bluff and made it to the bottom.  A Louisiana Waterthrush was working his way up the creek, bobbing his tail as he went.  I positioned myself up on a precarious fallen tree and waited.  Promptly, the Hooded Warbler emerged from a tangle of undergrowth.  I raised my camera, and he flew away.  He landed in good light, I lifted the camera again, and he flew away.  This went on and on until finally he landed on a perch about fifteen feet away.   I leaned out, trying not to fall into the creek below me, and snapped a quick photo.  Yes!  I got it.  

Hooded Warblers are only just arriving to North Carolina.  This was the first one reported in Wake County this year, though many will follow.  

I spent another half hour observing the warbler.  Seeing amazing birds like this is what I love most about birding.  There is something utterly ridiculous in such a colorful plumage, but it makes the bird a real gem.  I think that Hooded Warblers are now tied with Prothonotary Warblers for the coveted "Lucas' Favorite Bird" title.

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