Tuesday, August 23, 2011


The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are now "en masse" at my feeders, fueling up for their long flight. The brilliant lavender fireweed has reached it's finality... when the bloom spirals to the top of the flower, it signals fall... at least that is the lore shared by many "Northshorites."
There are many harbingers of fall, but none so abrupt and timely as the waves of warblers heading south. My Cedar Ridge has been taken over by many species of wood warblers, as well as a host of other song birds. Some species, such as the White-throated Sparrow have been here all spring and summer... now being joined by dozens of juveniles from points north.

The title of this thread "Birding in One Spot" is applicable to most bird photographers. Many have captured stunning images from perch setups and the beauty of backyards. In the past couple of weeks since the start of what I call the "reverse migration," I have ventured to a spot in the Superior National Forest. In my view, it is a magical spot, because of many reasons. The first is that it has a variety of habitat... mountain maple, hazelnut shrubs, white birch, spruce and deadfalls. All conducive to excellent feeding spots, for the ravenous migrants that are passing through in large numbers. Secondly, I now have my second generation of chickadees and Rb Nuthatches, swarming around me, eating sunflower hulls out of my hand. Plus the loyal White-throated Sparrows that flutter around my feet, eating the seeds I toss to them. I have stood in this same spot for many days in the early mornings, watching and waiting for the migrants to fly in.

Northern Parula

They come in waves and like clockwork, they watch the numbers of chickadees and nuthatches land on my shoulders and eat out of my hand.

Chestnut-sided Warbler Juvenile

Curiosity then takes over and they fly in, ever so close to see what my bird friends are doing.

Mourning Warbler

Each day I watch as the warblers fly in, how they accept the presence of the chickadees. Some mingle in a friendly manner, while some chase the chickadees through the boughs in winding, laser flights... almost comical, but certainly entertaining.

American Redstart

Most days I spend around three hours standing in my spot observing the coming and going of the birds. When a wave of birds fly in, it is instant chaos. The term "head on a swivel" applies here, for missing good shots is a given... it seems impossible to catch all the action... but what a blast! The warblers seem to work the immediate area for about fifteen to twenty minutes, then they are gone. It becomes quiet and even my chickadees take a break and rest out of sight.

Tennessee Warbler

Wilson's Warbler

Myrtle Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

The most prolific warblers have been the Nashville, Tennessee, Chestnut-sided, Blackburnian, Mourning, Magnolia, American Redstart and the Black & White. I generally see up to 23 species of wood warbler through the spring, summer and fall seasons... the past couple of weeks around a dozen or so. I mentioned to my friend Al the other day... where the heck were the waves of warblers this spring, as it was very quiet with small flocks. I guess it makes sense to note, that a high percentage of the warblers are first year birds or juveniles. Making it difficult to discern the species of these nondescript warblers.

As always and as the days shorten, I will miss my warblers. It is certain as the sun rises and sets, that they will return home to their nesting grounds in April. Until then, I wish them a safe journey.

Lying under an acacia tree with the sound of the dawn around me, I realized more clearly the facts that man should never overlook: that the construction of an airplane, for instance, is simple when compared [with] a bird; that airplanes depend on an advanced civilization, and that were civilization is most advanced, few birds exist. I realized that If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.

— Charles A. Lindbergh, interview shortly before his death, 1974.