May 22 2017. Paletta Park, Burlington, ON. I had to run a ten-minute, early morning errand and as I left the house I could hear warbler song coming from the old cedars in our back yard. Thin, wispy hey-I’m-here notes tied together in a cascade; probably Yellow-rumped Warblers, although this late in the migration month it could be any of half a dozen species. I made a mental note to self: probably a good birding day. A little further up the street I caught another song, a Swainson’s Thrush, singing a hauntingly beautiful stop-you-in-your-tracks arietta that defies description, you’ll be far better off if you follow this link and listen, far better than me doing it an injustice. With two hard-to-ignore calls to action I set a few domestic chores aside for later and visited a nearby park.
The park was busy, busy with people and busy with birds, but it was not easy birding. Over the course of several hours I saw with some difficulty four place-name warblers: Nashville, Canada, Tennessee and Cape May; two named for the early shotgun-toting ornithologists: Blackburnian and Wilson’s and others self-descriptive: Yellow, Yellow–rumped and Black–throated Green Warblers; and in that latter category My Birds of the Day a few Bay–breasted Warblers.
There were other heart warmers: a demure Swainson’s Thrush (the songster noted above) Warbling Vireos and Red–eyed Vireos, Least Flycatchers, a Yellow–bellied Flycatcher, an Eastern Kingbird and an oddity, a Fish Crow. This latter species is very common in a broad band along the Atlantic coast, but hardly ever is it seen far inland. Yet over the past couple of years several reports tell of solitary Fish Crows heard rather than seen (usually) around this end of Lake Ontario. Fish Crows are only slightly smaller than the ever-present American Crows and are only told apart by voice. Fish Crows don’t waste breath on multiple, long, drawn out ‘Caw’s, instead they limit themselves to an abrupt nasal ‘Hah!’ – or maybe two.
The Bay–breasted Warbler, my Bird of the Day, is usually a tough bird to see well. They are fairly late migrants who seem to favour the upper branches of deciduous trees which are usually fully leafed out by now; however this spring remains cool and the forest canopy still has a long way to go. Bay-breasted Warblers fit into the handsome and restrained category. A little on the chunky side and clothed in muted tones of cream, grey and chestnut, they are well-mannered, more like Jeeves than Bertie Wooster or his Drones Club chums. For that I salute them.