14 October 2015, Hendrie Valley, Burlington ON. Every now and then the diligent observer will spot something quite exceptional. Some birders are really good at seeking and finding the exceptional, they make a point of scouring flocks of birds looking for the odd man out. Often as not, when they succeed, it’s a near relative, for example: a Bohemian Waxwing among a flock of Cedar Waxwings, or a Tufted Duck bobbing around in a raft of Lesser Scaups. It’s almost always a species that has somehow ended up among near relatives rather than with immediate family.
All of the foregoing is to set the stage for today’s Bird of the Day, a Nashville Warbler, still bright and yellow and all around gorgeous. I thought it was exceptional in that it’s quite late in the season to be seeing little warblers on the move. Oh, sure we’ve seen dozens of Yellow-rumped Warblers in the past week or so, but they hardly count because, as warblers go, they are robust bruisers, and they’re not even exclusively insectivorous. But a Nashville Warbler in mid-October, now that, I thought, is a warbler beating the odds; something exceptional.
Well it turns out I was quite wrong. I have a number of reference books to turn to for answers to the arcane corners of bird lore. One of the best is a five-hundred page overview of all bird species found in our area containing all sorts of stuff: historical records, abundance, early arrivals and late departure dates. It turns out that Nashville Warblers are late fall migrants with the peak occurring in October and a median departure date of October 24th. and extreme late dates of December 20th,,24th and January 3rd. So much for an exceptional sighting, in fact my Nashville might just as well be characterized as a ‘Yeah, so what?’ sighting.
So what? It was a neat little bird and to it’s great credit it posed obligingly a couple of times for me to get some pretty decent shots. A pretty little bird, I know you’ll agree.
What else? Well it was a beautiful cool day for a census in the valley. The weather had turned cool, if not cold, overnight and that has changed things a bit. Many of the trees are carrying their fall colours and the small river is lively with the sight of Rainbow Trout making their way upstream to spawn. Every now and then one of them has to make a splashing burst of effort to get through a shallow gravelly stretch. Other nice birds on the census were dozens, maybe hundreds of White-throated Sparrows, a Blue-headed Vireo, a strikingly active pair of Hairy Woodpeckers working over an old willow not ten feet from me, many Ruby-crowned Kinglets and a couple of Golden-crowned Kinglets.