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Behold the blackburnian warbler – the fire throat you must see to appreciate

Blackburnian warbler; the fire throat; the one warbler that even non-birders thumbing through a field guide will pause upon seeing its picture; the one warbler that everyone makes a special request for trip leaders to produce. A bird that you must see in person to fully appreciate.
Blackburnian warbler; the fire throat; the one warbler that even non-birders thumbing through a field guide will pause upon seeing its picture; the one warbler that everyone makes a special request for trip leaders to produce. A bird that you must see in person to fully appreciate.

Everyone who likes to look for birds should visit Latta Park in Dilworth at least once every spring. If you haven’t already, think about going today or tomorrow. Migration is at the tail end of its peak right now and the diversity of migrants will start to dwindle but there are still some migrants to wing through the area.

I spent three and a half hours there last Sunday. While the park wasn’t quite at its best, there was still lots to see and enjoy. Throughout the morning the creek that bisects the park delivered extremely well. Periodically along its whole length small bands of warblers, many of them species you would normally expect to have to crane your neck skyward to see, descended to the creek to bathe. Point-blank looks at brilliant Cape May warblers, Northern parulas, black-throated blue warblers, common yellowthroats, American redstarts, black and white warblers, an ovenbird, and blackpoll warblers were had by all who had chosen to bird there that day.

Birders who had arrived a bit earlier than I reported a tantalizing male Blackburnian warbler that had been seen shortly before I arrived. Blackburnian warbler; the fire throat; the one warbler that even non-birders thumbing through a field guide will pause upon seeing its picture; the one warbler that everyone makes a special request for trip leaders to produce. A bird that you must see in person to fully appreciate.

A couple of hours went by without another sighting, then a movement high in a southern red oak caught my eye. Through binoculars the unmistakable, blazing orange throat and head jumped into my brain. After a quick alert to the other birders close by, everyone was able to get satisfactory views.

We weren’t through either. Later a brilliant scarlet tanager and some rose-breasted grosbeaks put in appearances. A family of white-breasted nuthatches made for good entertainment. A red-breasted nuthatch even showed; a late holdover from the winter. A wood thrush sang from a thicket while a hermit thrush foraged through the leaves.

I ended up tallying 48 species for the morning, with 12 of those being warblers. That’s a few warblers shy of what I had hoped for but a male Blackburnian warbler is worth two or even three extra.

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

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