Monday, August 29, 2016

Lovely Warblers

We tend to think "yellow" when we think of summer warblers.  Perhaps because there are so many of them.   But two of my favorite warblers are mostly black, blue, and white.  Occasionally sighted in our woods, neither of these birds come to our feeders.  But last week I encountered a warbler right on our deck.  A Black-and-White Warbler.

I especially love the  black and white because its presence here signals that Spring is arriving.  It is one of the earliest migrants to arrive and it spends the summer with us.  We don't see it near the house but in the woods we see it creeping along the branches of trees searching for insects.  They may look like warblers but they act much more like nuthatches or brown creepers.

The black and whites are fierce little birds and are at the ready to attack any other small birds that invade the territory they have decided to defend.  I've never seen one come to our suet feeders, although their feet seem suited to hang onto a suet feeder.  They have an extra long back claw and legs thicker than most warblers.  Most other warblers would not be able to creep along the bark of trees like the black and white.
[NOTE:  You might wish to enlarge the photographs to see the details]

Just one quick shot before he flew
Wonder if he thought the deck wood was hiding bugs?
Yes, the photograph is in color...but it is after all, a black and white bird on a gray deck

A more delicate non-yellow summer warbler we find in our woods is the Black-Throated-Blue Warbler.  Most North Carolina birders see this bird only during migration.  Here in the mountains, we are lucky to have them nest and stay with us all summer.  The black throated blue generally lives deep in the woods and does not come to bird feeders.  They are considered foliage gleaners because they eat the insects on the underside of leaves.

We rarely see these birds near our deck, but one bird decided to try seeds for a change.  I was lucky enough to get a few photographs before he realized he didn't really care for seeds.

Here he sits on the pole holding a feeder

He looks questioningly at the feeder
You can easily see the white "pocket handkerchief" which is an identification hallmark 

As you can see, the black throated blue is much smaller than a goldfinch.
Note his black throat standing out against his blue body and white breast
He quickly decided there was nothing for him so he flew back into the woods.

I did not get a good photograph of the bird's back.  But the black throated blue here in the Appalachian mountains has a black stripe in the middle of his blue back.  Some think this might be a separate and distinct sub-species.  The more common black throated blues of the Northeast and Canada do not have the black stripe.

I have seen many male black throated blues, but I have not once seen a female.  And I've been looking.  The female is quite drab in color and has few markings in common with the males.  She does have a white handkerchief like the male but it is less distinct.  The females are so different they were at first mis-identified as a separate species altogether.  Perhaps it is not surprising that I haven't seen a female.  Interestingly enough, the females nest and forage at much higher altitudes.  After nesting, the males descend to lower elevations while the females remain at the higher elevations.  (Our house is at 3,000 feet which is not a high elevation for the NC mountains.)

Since I've never seen one, much less photographed one, here is a photograph from Wikipedia:

Perhaps one day on a trip to the higher mountains I will glimpse a female Black-Throated-Blue Warbler.  And if I'm lucky I will have the right camera lens with me.

The Autumn migration will begin before long and both these warblers will leave us to winter in Florida or points south.  Even though we don't see them as frequently as we'd like, we are delighted each time we get a glance.


Anonymous said...

What beautiful Warblers you see there. We don't see very many here, but I'm sure they must be around. How lucky that these species summer in your neck of the woods. What a wonderful thing to have them visit.

Ms. A said...

I wish I had the brains to keep up with all these identities. Birds, plants, flowers... I just don't have it!

Arkansas Patti said...

Wow, that Black-Throated-Blue Warbler is just stunning. I know I haven't seen one before for I'd surely remember. Maybe someday---

Lowcarb team member said...

I enlarged your photo's ... and they are lovely.
How nice that they were happy on your deck and feeder.
I appreciated the detail you've given in your post too, thank you.

All the best Jan

Kay G. said...

Black throated blue warbler, what a beauty!
If I saw this at my feeder, I would fall all over myself trying to get to the camera to capture it!

Cheryl said...

What a delightful selection of birds.
I love the detail of the black and white warbler. Colourless birds are often considered dowdy but I think the marking are exquisite.
We have a pied wagtail that visits the garden, and it is on my favourites list.

Thank you for sharing...........

Tara said...

I love that you know your birds so well . Were you a birder before you moved to North Carolina ? My friends in Chapel Hill get quite an assortment in the woods surrounding their house and on their deck . I am amazed at the variety that both you and they see .

KGMom said...

Lovely photos of birds. And I am impressed with your avian knowledge. I am so much an amateur birder, recognizing only the obvious ones.

KB said...

Thank you for that fabulous blast of spring and summer. I love your warblers - we so rarely see anything so exotic. Moreover, our migratory birds are already leaving. I miss them so much.

Nance said...

I am envious of your Bird Variety. We are inundated with sparrows, sparrows, sparrows, so much so that they are actually fighting bitterly at the feeders. Even my more mild-mannered cat Piper has to jump up and regulate them every now and again. Thank goodness for the variety of hummingbirds, one of which actually buzzed my granddog the other day.

Ginnie said...

I've never seen a black and white warbler. How lucky for you that you not only saw it but got that wonderful picture. Thanks.

Vicki Lane said...

I've never seen a Warbler of any sort to identify it -- nut doubtless there have been several among the little What was that?s that flit about in our trees.

NCmountainwoman said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone.

Robin - We are lucky indeed. But then so are you with your lovely sea birds.

Ms. A - I keep three bird books in the great room so that if I see a bird I can't identify I can look it up right away.

Patti - I had never seen a black throated blue until we moved here.

Jan - Thanks

Kay - I felt exactly the same way when I saw my first one, sitting in a hanging plant basket.

Cheryl - One of things I love about British movies and TV series are the different birds. You had some lovely ones that we never see.

Tara - I've always been interested in birds. My daughter was amazed that her friends in school knew so little about them when they had always been part of her life.

Donna - I am also quite an amateur but I do keep references handy so if I get a good look I immediately look up the bird and read about it.

KB - Yes, we are already receiving some of the early migrating birds. But they won't stay here and you do have them all summer.

Nance - We are lucky to be in the western strip of the Atlantic Flyway for the birds migrating from MN and Canada so we do see a variety. And since our climate is relatively mild, we have lots of year 'round residents.

Ginnie - The first time I saw a black and white, it was stuck in a screen. I was totally amazed at the beauty and was happy to get a towel and help the bird free.

Vicki - It is very likely that your have seen these two as well as the Pine Warblers and other yellow warblers which should be fairly common in your area.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

You have captured some very lovely images of these little songbirds. We used to get wuite a few at the feeders we had in the yard at our VA home, but not much chance for any of these here in the mill apts.