Blackpoll Warblers came to the trees in our yard this week. They’re on their way to the boreal forests of Canada. I don’t know a lot of people that have seen a Blackpoll Warbler and when I mention them I get funny stares – I’m a birder.
Blackpoll Warblers are tiny – only 5 ½ inches long. They migrate this time of year from South America all the way to the boreal forests in Canada. They’re just passing through Swoope and the rest of the mid-Atlantic flyway right now and it is a real treat to hear and see one of these long-distance travelers.
It’s a spiritual connection for me when I see a visitor like the Blackpoll Warbler in my backyard; they are one of the millions of birds in the Great Avian Migration that we know so little about. The Blackpoll Warbler brings up the tail end of the migration – it’s almost over. Most of the neotropical migrants are now on their nesting grounds for the season.
I can hear them
I see Blackpolls every year because I can hear them. They have a distinctive buzzing song and as soon as I hear them I can locate them with my binoculars. The first one I ever saw was from the parking lot of the liquor store in Staunton, Virginia. My birding mentor at the time had me listen to their high pitched buzzing song and sure enough there they were, up in the trees over the parking lot.
Sixty percent of the birds you hear in Virginia in May are migratory birds – they are only here for the summer nesting season. The birds are singing because they are in breeding mode – looking for a mate and a territory to raise their young. By August they will have completed their mission and will begin their long journey back to their wintering grounds in warmer climates; for the Blackpoll Warbler, it will be in South America.