“Warbling”: A Photo Essay

Looking for warblers, or what I call warbling, is one of my favorite things to do early in the morning on spring weekends. According to Oxford dictionary, warbling technically means to sing with a “succession of constantly changing notes”. I, personally, prefer to think of warbling as wandering around on an early morning, neck craned to look upwards, eyes flitting about from tree to tree. I’m not alone in this pursuit, as in birding hotspots, you’ll find flocks of like-minded folk, binoculars pressed to their eyes, cameras at their side. I often think we look like our own odd species of bird. You’ll even hear whispers and fragments of our customary calls: “Oh, there’s one!” “Did you see….?” or “Darn it!”

So, if you’re not a bird of this feather, it would probably help to know that warblers are small, often colorful, active birds that migrate in the spring. I’m still relatively new to birding, and I only recently learned that most birds migrate overnight. Isn’t that the coolest thing!? I love to think of waves of warblers moving through the night skies while we’re sleeping! In the morning they’re hungry from all their exertions and need to fuel up for the next leg of their journey. As the sun warms the treetops, they glean insects from the newly emerging tree foliage. In pursuit of prey, they rarely sit still–or at least when they’re not blocked by a leaf or a branch! Spotting them, much less identifying them is a challenge!

poster illustrated by Jada Fitch

Trying to take photographs of warblers is an exercise in patience and optimism. You spend a lot of time looking up at this…

or at suspicious looking clump of leaves like these…

hoping to see a flash of movement or a splotch of color like this (though preferably when one’s camera settings aren’t off!)…

indigo bunting (messed up my camera settings…again! lol)

And then (if you’re lucky!) there are lots and lots of birds around and many “almost got it!” moments like this (unlucky timing, poor camera settings, bad lighting, etc)…

Still, there are many consolation prizes. You get to spend time here…

and here…

and here…

And sometimes you bump into some other old friends along the way…

Both feathered…

and not…

If you’re really lucky, you get a few pretty good warbler photos to show for all the effort…

and then sometimes a few that feel deeply satisfying…

palm warbler
northern parula with breakfast
yellow rumped warbler
black and white warbler

All in all, whether you get a photo or not, it’s a wonderful way to spend a spring morning.

13 thoughts on ““Warbling”: A Photo Essay

  1. The pictures add so much to your post, helping illustrate the beauty of the setting! Birds are such fun to observe, and their chatter brings such joy. You are blessed to be in a place of such breathtaking natural beauty.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh wow, this piece is crafted brilliantly. I love the set up. It’s both funny and inviting. I also love that the pictures aren’t all the warblers– there are themes within this piece of celebrating the everything elses and the places you are! I wonder where else you could share this piece? It’s not just the pictures, and they’re beatiful– it’s about life.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fran Haley says:

    Molly, I find myself drawn to birds more and more these days. There’s something in the spirit, I think, that craves their flight and bright song.I could be content going a-warbling for the remainder of my days. All the photos are amazing…this, too, is something that brings soul-satisfaction: noticings of the awe surrounding us and the quest to preserve it with the camera. Nothing is wasted!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      This is new for me too, Fran. I recently said to my husband that I find it fascinating that I’m so grounded by something that takes flight. The more I notice and learn, the more drawn I am. It’s a source of great joy in my life.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Debbie Lynn says:

    Take me ‘warbling’ with you any time! I always enjoy your outdoorsy stories and can relate to every incident you mentioned when trying to photograph birds. And yes, I’ve also photographed ‘clumps’ that turned out to not be a bird. Wonderful warbling walk! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the playfulness in your post. While I am not a birder (I wrote about this today, too – in an indirect respect), I had to lead a birding hike in 2019. It was awful for me but wonderful for those who knew what they were looking for. We also get warblers here and many other migratory birds along the Mississippi flyway in both the spring and fall. I am slowly learning to appreciate some of the species. Thanks for sharing all those photos! What fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. mbhmaine says:

    There’s always something more to learn! 🙂


  7. maryleehahn says:

    Thank you for unpacking your process and even showing us your “messy drafts. Everything that came before those “deeply satisfying” shots makes them even more precious.


  8. margaretsmn says:

    I love this! I remember asking you how you got so many perfect shots of birds and you said it’s because you take a lot of imperfect shots. This photo essay shows just that! I was so lucky to catch the prothonotary sitting on a branch. And I took a lot of dud shots.


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