After a long winter of brown and gray drab, we are now getting to experience sensory overload in full color. Not only are we wrapped in greens of every hue; flowers of all colors are appearing everywhere we turn. But the arrival of migrating birds, most especially the Warblers, brings a new wave of color.
Almost all Wood Warblers migrate south for the winter. Being insect eaters, most cannot survive a winter here unless they can adapt to eating berries. Now that Spring is in full swing, they are moving up from wintering grounds as far away as the southern reaches of South America. Some will stop here for a short time before moving farther north to breeding grounds in Northern forests, but others remain to nest here.
Each species of warbler has a niche, a favorite habitat that it prefers and where we can expect to locate it. While many warblers migrate northward along the coast, by the time they reach this far north they are beginning to disperse and seek out their preferred habitat. Avalonia properties throughout Southeastern CT host a vast array of varied habitats, and therefore many of them are great places to pick up some “spring color”.
The YellowWarbler is just that: very yellow! Some show streaks on their chest and sides, and they are quite widespread. They prefer to nest near and around wetlands and waterways as well as shrub areas. They are already at Knox and Anguilla Brook Preserves in Stonington, Henne in North Stonington, Pine Swamp in Ledyard as well as many others with swamps and wetlands. The Common Yellowthroat is another wetland lover, but the male of this species sports a black mask: very distinctive against the bright yellow.
|Common Yellowthroat Warbler|
The American Redstart male is stunning black and orange while the female is olive with bright yellow flashes. They prefer second growth woodlands, woods with brushy undergrowth and hedge edges as well. Many open space areas have their required habitat conditions. They can often be found on roadside edges as well. Knox Family farm is a good area for them.
|American Redstart Warbler|
Prairie Warblers, Blue-Winged Warblers, Yellow Breasted Chats and Chestnut-sided Warblers are the ones who benefit from shrub land regeneration projects and young forests. Power line cuts have some of the best shrub habitat, and areas within Pine Swamp Wildlife Corridor as well as the Knox preserve are being managed for such habitat. The Peck and Callahan Preserves in Stonington are being restored as habitat for the New England Cottontail, but that same habitat will benefit these endangered birds as well. The Preston Preserve is being cleared of invasives, and anyplace native shrubs are being re-established, these shrub land specialists will thrive.
Many of the woodland species move right on through, like the Yellow-Rumped Warblers, but several make their homes in our woodlands including the Ovenbird, Black-and-WhiteWarbler, and Worm-eating Warbler.
There are great field guides to carry out on a hike to help you identify those flashes of color we see now. If you have a smart phone there are great apps that help with not only visual ID but will play recordings of their songs as well. Spend a little time studying and practicing with those apps. It will be worth the effort. And don’t forget to schedule a neck massage after a day of warbler watching. They tend to take to the high treetops!!
Written by Beth Sullivan.
All photos by Rick Newton.
Learn more about all these colorful warblers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.