“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.