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Catching the sound of warblers

By Taylor PiephoffBy Taylor Piephoff
Taylor Piephoff
Taylor Piephoff writes on birding in the Piedmont.

I spent last Saturday morning walking through Dilworth’s Latta Park in search of spring migrants. The date was too early to hope for the trees to be full of neotropicals passing through, but a modest variety could be hoped for nonetheless.

As soon as I arrived and descended the hill down to the creek, I heard the buzzy songs of returning warblers such as the Northern parula and black-throated blue warbler.

A complex high, thin song from the treetops confused me for a few minutes until the tiny singer fell silent. I never could get a good look and was left to only guess at its identity. I finally decided on the Blackburnian warbler, but was not at all confident.

Each spring it takes me a few outings to get my ears tuned to recognize many of the songs from the travelling warblers. Birders in this area only get to hear them once a year as the birds quickly move through.

Latta Park is a great place to get a remedial lesson in spring bird song. The combination of diverse tree canopy and running water makes the park one of the best spots for viewing spring migrants in the region.

From now until mid-May, birders will converge on the park to try to get looks at brightly plumaged warblers, orioles, grosbeaks, and tanagers and more subtly plumaged thrushes, vireos, and flycatchers.

I ran into five other birders and together we found things such as palm warbler, prairie warbler, black and white warbler, ovenbird, red-eyed vireo, great-crested flycatcher, ruby-throated hummingbird, hermit thrush, wood thrush and Swainson’s thrush, as well as the aforementioned species. Daily species lists will steadily increase in number of migrants as the peak date of May first approaches.

The number of warbler species we found was a respectable number for April 20; certainly there was enough action to keep things interesting.

The best part was at the end as I was preparing to leave. One of the other birders came up to me and said he had just seen a brilliant male Blackburnian warbler.

Taylor Piephoff is a local naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.
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