Last of the Warblers

Last of the Warblers

This is just about the end of the Spring migration for those cute, colorful warblers. A few stay around here and breed, but most are on their way to northern states. It is a brief challenge to capture a nice shot, and to remember what they are called. It seems I have to learn them over again each Spring!

These were taken at Lafitte's Cove, Galveston Island over April 27 and 28, 2015 with Bill Maroldo

 Male Black-and-white warbler Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6 1/160 sec ISO 3200

 Male Black-and-white warbler

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6 1/160 sec ISO 3200

The Black-and-white Warbler is one of the first to arrive, in fact I saw one briefly at Quintana Neotropical Sanctuary in early March. This tiny bird travels around tree trunks and branches much like the Nuthatch; they move up the tree as they hunt for insects and grubs. It is supposed to have a high, squeaky song, but I am not good at audio identification, unless it is loud and distinctive. Like American Bitterns

Female Black-and-white warbler Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6 1/200 sec ISO 3200

Female Black-and-white warbler

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6 1/200 sec ISO 3200

These two were at the drip at Lafitte's Cove and I got nice examples of both the male and female. She is a duller version, and has a white throat. Was this a mated pair? I have no idea. When they do get to breeding/nesting grounds, the male will defend the territory around the nesting site chosen by the female. The clutch size is 4-6 eggs and they might have two broods a year. 

Black-throated Green Warbler Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6 1/250 sec ISO 1000

Black-throated Green Warbler

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6 1/250 sec ISO 1000

This handsome fellow is a  Black-throated Green Warbler. He is headed to the forests of the Appalachians, the northeastern US and Canada. He picks insects and prey from leaves and smaller branches.

Everyone has a niche to exploit.  

Northern Parula Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6 1/160 sec ISO 3200

Northern Parula

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6 1/160 sec ISO 3200

Do any of these cute guys stay around here? Yes, the Northern Parula has wintered in Central America and will breed in the eastern US and parts of Canada. Lucky for us, this little one will find a mate and raise chicks in trees with Spanish moss. I have seen them at Brazos Bend State Park during the summer, but never any nests or babies.

Philadelphia Vireo Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6 1/400 sec ISO 1000

Philadelphia Vireo

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6 1/400 sec ISO 1000

I just love this little Philadelphia Vireo. He isn't as colorful as some of the others, but he was inquisitive and cooperative. He is headed all the way to Canada, and doesn't breed in Philadelphia. He resembles the Tennessee Warbler a great deal; in fact I couldn't tell them apart and relied on the binocular birders to identify this one.  I found this info on a page about Tennessee birds:

The Philadelphia Vireo gets its name because the specimen used to describe the species was collected in Philadelphia during migration by John Cassin in 1851. A nineteenth-century local name for this species was Brotherly-love Vireo.
Male Hooded Warbler Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6 1/160 sec ISO 2000

Male Hooded Warbler

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6 1/160 sec ISO 2000

Hooded Warblers are easy to identify; none of those subtle differences to confuse you. He is just passing through as well, but does breed in the southeastern US including far east Texas. I got a nice photo of one last year at Quintana Neotropical Sanctuary; it was one of my first warbler shots. 

Female Hooded Warbler Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6 1/160 sec ISO 1600

Female Hooded Warbler

Sony A77II with Sony 70-400 G2 f/5.6 1/160 sec ISO 1600

The female Hooded Warblers are just a tad less bright as the male and lack the dark black hood. These birds winter in Mexico and Central America on the Caribbean side and are quite feisty. The males and females maintain well-defined separate territories during winter. 

All birds are vulnerable to loss of habitat but the Hooded Warbler is also frequently parasitized by Cowbirds. We see Brown-headed cowbirds in mixed flocks with Grackles and Red-winged blackbirds. Cowbirds feed on insects, especially those that may be stirred up by cattle. They have evolved a strategy to stay with the herd; forego building nests and just lay their eggs in with a host's eggs. They are quite clever and will often remove an egg so the number stays the same. The unwitting host then incubates and raises their chick. Cardinals will often feed the larger interloper at the expense of their own chicks, but some birds recognize the strange egg and evict it from the nest. It is called Brood Parasitism if you want to read more; there are any number of adaptations. 

Male Magnolia Warbler Sony A77 II with 70-400 G2 1/250 sec. f/5.6 ISO 1600

Male Magnolia Warbler

Sony A77 II with 70-400 G2 1/250 sec. f/5.6 ISO 1600

Magnolia Warblers winter in Central America and are just passing through to the New England states and Canadian forests. The males arrive on the breeding grounds first and establish their territory. He has two songs; one to defend the territory and another to attract a mate. This one has a white eyebrow that shows up in other photos, but looks faint here. Identification is tricky and I am grateful to the binocular birders for their help. 

Spring migration is about over for the little warblers. I feel good about the new ones I saw and photographed this year, but the Painted Bunting eluded me again. Perhaps next year.

Related Adventures: Looking for Spring Migrants (2014), Little Jewels (2014), Warbler Wonderland (2015)

Any new birds in your yard this Spring? or nests in strange places? Let me know in the comments below. 

Summer Tanagers

Summer Tanagers

Photo Art

Photo Art