Sunday, October 2, 2011

Palm Warblers arrivals and departures

Back in the spring I witnessed a Palm Warbler fallout -- a brief stop-over on their migration north to their breeding grounds. 

Palm Warblers nest in remote nearly inaccessible northern bogs. They are much more easily seen during migration, particularly since unlike most other warblers they feed on the ground and are not hidden by foliage.
BNA Online: Distribution of Palm Warblers

A couple of days ago, on their return trip to their wintering grounds, I witnessed another fallout. I was walking along the West River trail with the river on one side and  a corn stubble field on the other. Except for a lone Great Egret on a sandbank there wasn't much to see on the river. I decided to check the cornfield for American Pipits. I didn't see any Pipits but instead saw tiny birds rapidly moving about and foraging between the corn stalks, and the more I looked the more I saw. Taking photos was made difficult by their fast movements often obscured by dips in the ground, small plants and and a jumble of corn stalks. It was windstill. So watching for anything moving on the field was the easiest way to find them.

Sometimes a small flock would lift into the air and settle back down farther away. There was also a steady back and forth between the field and the bordering shrubs. I counted about 22 birds which was a respectable number considering that according to eBird the all time highest count in all of Vermont was 10 back in 1973. However 22 pales against neighboring NH and MA with 100 and 78 respectively.

Find Waldo - there are actually two on this picture; although one is out of focus.

What shows up here is the Eastern or Yellow race. They retain the yellow supraorbital stripe, whereas in the Western race it turns white. They have changed from their summer  plumage into their winter drabs. Gone is the rusty cap, the yellow on the chest is paler and the markings less distinct.

They had left by next morning. I wish them safe journey to their wintering grounds in the southeastern and gulf coast states. 

Thanks for visiting my blog. I always appreciate your comments. 

Many in Vermont are still struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. Fellow  Vermont birder Chris Petrak of Tails of Birding lost his entire backyard including leach field to a creek which turned into a raging river overnight.  Worse yet for the Vermont economy a hard fall and winter lie ahead. Foliage season is about to start and ski season is soon to follow, but without the passable roads 'leafpeepers' and skiiers will stay away. Houses have washed away, crops are spoiled and grass for farm animals made toxic by contaminated flood waters. It's a dire situation all around for the hard-working people of Vermont.


  1. So great you were able to see the Palms coming thru again~ Nice!
    I read Chris's Post..such a difficult time for many.

  2. Still they're quite a find, and I was sure glad to see them. Great going Hilke and good essay. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  3. Hilke, You are lucky to have them migrate though your area. What pretty your photos.

    Hope many respond to your requests for Irene damage donations. It touched my heart.

  4. The Palm Warbler are pretty, great shots.

  5. Beautiful little birds to see.
    Lovely images and info.

  6. Beautiful birds aren't they? My favourite is the second Palm Warblers, superb.

  7. Great photos. It would be challenging to even see tiny birds like that among the corn stalks and even more difficult to get good photos.

  8. Hi Hilke

    Great to see the Palm Warblers I have not really seen much in the way of migrants this year so it was quite inspiring.

    All the best.

  9. Awesome post Hilke. I find myself more and more interested in the migration routes and Northern and Southern homes of our migrating birds. It is a treat to have guests in our tree tops and fields.
    I find your descriptions of the Vermont's continuing struggles with the aftermath of hurricane Irene compelling. I hope my small donation joins with others to make a difference!

  10. Amazing shots of the palm warblers. I have not seen any as if yet. So sorry to hear about Vermonters. It seems like the world has already forgotten them. I may take a drive that way soon and spend some of my money in your lovely state. However, I did hear on my local or national news that Rt. 100 was open and passable.

  11. Gorgeous little bird - like a wee treasure:)

  12. Such pretty, colorful little birds! Great shots!

  13. How cool to get a chance to see a flock of warblers! I can't imagine seeing a group of 22 warblers, let alone 78 or 100!

  14. Now that's a great bird - love the plumage. Sorry to hear of the problems in Vermont as well.

  15. Hi there - great pictures and a good story of the birds.
    Many places less than two hours from my house were destroyed by bush fires two summers ago. They were hill towns and snowfield town as well. It was a terrible thing to walk down the main road of a town you had known and there not be a single building left. But the place is recovering - time is the best (and only) thing that this place has. Hope the news in Vermont gets better.

    Cheers Stewart M – Australia

    PS: have a look at a post called “the other side of the hill” from November 2009 on my other blog if you want to know more about our fires. SM


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