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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Magee Marsh/Crane Creek Warblers

Here are more of my photos from our recent trip to the Magee Marsh/Crane Creek warbler hotspot. One of the most abundant warblers we saw there was the Bay-breasted Warbler, quite a treat since they're not as commonly seen elsewhere as are some other warblers. This one's a male, you can tell by his big, black mask. The name "Bay" refers to the chestnut color on his sides.

Here's an adult female Bay-breasted Warbler looking similar to him, but note her mottled blackish cheeks and split eye-ring, a good way to tell the adult female. The nice thing about spring warblers is that they're so colorful, unlike fall, when many change to duller and more difficult to ID plumages.

Here I am with hubby on the boardwalk that goes through a small patch of woods where all the warblers are, right at the edge of Lake Erie. For you camera tech heads, I have my Canon 1D Mark II camera with a 300 mm IS lens, and a 1.4 teleconverter. I also have a Canon flash with a flash extender on it. Since the warblers were often in shadow, or dim light, I used the flash for a soft, "fill flash" effect and bumped up the ISO to 400 in order to use a faster shutter speed. Using a fast shutter speed is essential because, as you know, warblers move fast! Using a slower shutter speed would make their photos blurry. I was struck by how many, many birders had cameras with them, maybe about a third to half the birders there. I often got asked about my flash unit and what that thing was on it, the flash extender, sometimes called the Better Beamer.

Here's a male American Redstart. Love the way his tail is fanned, something Redstarts frequently do. Look at the interesting undertail pattern of black undertail coverts, then an orange band, then a black tip. The majority of looks at warblers in this environment is from the underside. So knowing the pattern of the undertail coverts of warblers can be a big help in identifying them. That's why we put a drawing of each warbler's undertail coverts in our Stokes Field Guide To Warblers.

Here's a beautiful, female Black-throated Green Warbler, but where's her black throat? She's a first year female and does not have as black throat yet as do many adult females. The throat on females is variable, from less to more black, but not as much as the adult male shown below. First year spring female warblers often have more subtle colors, and their identification is more diffcult. We heard a number of birders struggling with the ID of some of the first spring female warblers.

Adult male, Black-throated Green Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler. We saw lots of these.

Northern Parula Warbler, male. The males vary in how much black and chestnut they have across their breast.

This adult female has only a trace of chestnut

Magnolia Warblers were plentiful. Sweet, since this is one of my favorite warblers.

High in a tree we saw this Cape May Warbler, male, with his striking chestnut cheek patch. You can see why we call warblers the crown jewels of the avian world.

Warbler photos, © Lillian Stokes, 2007

4 comments:

mon@rch said...

You continue to post so many amazing warbler photos! I can't wait to see what you photograph next!

Sanderling said...

Hi Lillian,
I love seeing all the photos you post of the birds you see in your backyard and on trips. These warbler shots are all beautiful. For that reason, I'm reluctant to say I think the Bay-breasted Warbler you've labeled a female is actually a young (second-year) male. This is a photo I have of a known after-second-year female (bright for a female): http://chickadeewoods.symbiotic.ca/pic5.JPG - she shows considerably more streaking in the crown and considerably less bay in the breast. Peter Pyle says in his guide, "SY males: Forehead, lores and auricular blackish, sometimes (especially lores) washed buff". Peterson's warbler guide indicates first spring males show gray in the face and cheeks. Although neither mention eye-arcs, it wouldn't surprise me for some rogue individuals to show weird plumage features like that (I've seen a number of weird things in recent seasons while banding).
Again, wonderful photos! Thanks for continuing to share them.

Lillian and Don Stokes said...

Glad you like the photos. In the Petersen Guide To Warblers, the eye-arcs of the female are specifically mentioned. On page 78, authors Jon Dunn and Kimball Garrett say the spring adult female (ASY) Bay-breasted Warbler is “told from males by split buffy eye-ring and mottled blackish cheeks” (italics, theirs) and the illustration plate 18 is on same page. Your photo also shows eye arcs on your bird. Dunn and Garrett also say, on page 381 under Spring Adult Female Bay-breasted Warbler: “Quite variable in plumage, with brighter individuals almost resembling first spring males and duller birds having very limited chestnut...Crown moderately to extensively chestnut. Lores and auriculars mottled grayish buff and slaty. Supraloral area and eye-arcs creamy.”
According to this, my photo could be of a bird at the far edge of brightness for a female, almost resembling a first spring male.
The newest (hardcover) National Geographic Complete Birds Of North America, ed. by J. Alderfer mentions the “buffy split eye-ring” as a clue to the spring adult female Bay-breasted Warbler. p. 538
Pyle, page 491, also notes an “auricular dusky” on the ASY female.

Helen said...

Hi Don and Lillian,

I was thrilled to see that you have recently been to the Magee Marsh, it is one of my and my husband's favorite local migratory observatories. You'll be happy to be aware of the growing populations of bald eagles in north-east Ohio as well, and we both have noted two separate sitings of the Eastern Meadowlark on casual "drive-by" observances. I'll be frequenting your blog more often, now that I am aware of your online record of observances.