During the month of May, I focused most of my efforts on observing and photographing warblers throughout the Forest City. Opting not to visit Point Pelee National Park this year, I was quite satisfied with the 21 warbler species I observed, all within a ten minute drive of my house. Two highlights for me were a couple of life birds, the Canada Warbler and Cerulean Warbler.
My most productive locations were the Westminster Ponds ESA and Greenway Park, both located in the city’s south end. The cool start to the month resulted in a lack of leaf cover, which made for optimal views and photographs. I found early mornings to be the most productive and used the weather, most notably the wind, to my advantage.
Warblers feed on insects, so naturally I positioned myself in areas where insects were abundant. How do I find areas rich with insects? I use the wind. A stiff breeze will blow insects from open areas into wooded or other sheltered areas that are protected from the wind. These protected areas will then be full of insects and consequently warblers. For example, at Westminster Ponds ESA I would search for warblers along the edges of the ponds opposite the direction of the wind. If the wind was north, I would bird on the south side of the pond and vice versa. The morning winds would push the insects across the open ponds into the trees and shrubs along the bank. It was areas like these where I found the highest concentrations of warblers. Early in the month when there was a lack of leaf cover and shelter in the canopy, strong winds helped keep the insects and thus warblers, at eye level.
As expected Yellow-rumped Warblers, Yellow Warblers and Palm Warblers were the first to arrive at the start of the month. These three species always arrive in early May. Magnolia Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers and Black-throated Green Warblers soon followed. As the month of May progressed, the late arriving warblers began to appear, including the previously mentioned Canada Warblers and Wilson’s Warblers.
Some warbler species lack the word warbler from their names and can be forgotten as warblers. Ovenbirds, American Redstarts and Northern Parulas are all warbler species that were readily observed during May.
Black and White Warblers are regularly observed clinging to tree trunks. If careful attention is not paid, these birds can be mistaken for nuthatches due to this characteristic and the similar colour in plumage.
My favourite warbler, the Blackburnian Warbler, is regularly viewed from underneath as it forages high in the canopy. Fortunately, due to the high winds I achieved eye level views of this stunning bird.
While many of these warblers just pass through our area on their way to their breeding grounds further north, some remain and nest in our area. Female Yellow Warblers can currently be observed incubating eggs throughout many of my favourite birding areas.
Next time you are out birding, keep an eye out for some of the warblers that breed across our area. Now that the leaves are fully and emerged and these species are nesting, they are certainly more challenging to locate but great views can still be achieved. If you do come across a nest, remember to respect the birds and give them some space.
While the peak warbler migration may have passed, some late migrating warblers will still be making their way through our area. If you get the chance, head out on a cool, windy morning and position yourself where the insects will be most abundant. Keep a close eye for movement at eye level, as well as higher up in the canopy. You may just be rewarded with some great views of these beautiful warblers.