Cape May Warbler

After two dark, cool, rainy days, by noon today the clouds were breaking apart, leaving blue sky and a bright, warm sun. In the trees around our back yard, a Red-eyed Vireo sang very clearly and close, weaving its way through the treetops. A Wood Thrush sang from much further away, down the wooded hill toward a creek. A Great Crested Flycatcher called deep Breets. An Eastern Phoebe, Easter Bluebird, Northern Cardinal, and Yellow-throated Vireo sang in the trees nearby. A Downy Woodpecker called its silvery whinny.

Yellow-rumped Warblers also were singing in the nearby trees, their pretty, softly chanting notes sounding as if the leaves themselves have begun to sing.

And then I heard a different song, almost like an echo of the Yellow-rumped Warblers but much more quiet and softer. A string of notes on mostly one pitch, high and almost whispery. I had no idea what it was, but when I used the Merlin app, it quickly identified Cape May Warbler. Wow. A male Cape May Warbler is a small, very colorful neotropical bird. A chestnut patch on the cheek and a yellow collar create a distinctive face, and its breast is yellow, streaked with black in a tiger-like way. It might be passing through here in spring migration, on its way from a winter home in the Caribbean to its summer, breeding home in forests of the far north. Though they are fairly common migrants in the eastern U.S., I haven’t seen them often. It would be a wonderful bird to see.

I searched the leaves of the trees from which the songs were coming. It sounded as if there were at least two or three birds somewhere very close, in a particular white oak tree or other trees beside it. In fact, the songs seemed to come from the oak leaves right in front of me. And yet – I couldn’t see any sign of a bird. They stayed hidden among the leaves. 

I watched and listened for several minutes, at first determined to stay until I’d found them. But then I stopped hearing the songs, and it seemed they had drifted away. Frustration – but at the same time, it was a delight just to have heard the songs and to know Cape May Warblers are here in our trees for this day.

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