My Life’s Birds: #453
May 5, 2008 – Blue Ridge Parkway, NC - Is it appropriate in the middle of winter to consider one of the jaw-droppers of spring? We’re going through one of the coldest Decembers in recent memory here in North Carolina, and we’ve already had three snows. Most old-timers around here can’t even remember when we’ve had more than one before the end of the year, and most years not even the one. It certainly appears that the residual moisture in the atmosphere from what was the hottest summer in years is returning to the ground in the form of the white stuff, it’s been a bipolar last six months for sure.
So let’s ignore all that. The solstice is behind us, after all, the days are getting incrementally longer. For the purposes of this post, it’s early May on the Blue Ride Parkway. I camped out the night before, and a National Park campground near Linville Gorge, and even though the temperature at home is rapidly pushing towards 90 degrees during the day, up in the high country it’s cold enough at night to make your intrepid blogger glad he packed extra socks. Extra socks that, in addition to keeping my feets nice and warm, also provided support for an ankle that I’d turned on a rocky riverbed the day before; one that had swollen to the approximate size of a regulation softball and prevented me from walking long distances (it took nearly 8 months to get back to normal, though it still creaks and pops at odd time).
So my birding was from the car only, which is fine on the parkway where regular overlooks offer a canopy view from the driver’s seat. I still got out from time to time though, and I’m glad I did. Because if I hadn’t stopped and hobbled down the road a bit, I wouldn’t have heard the unfamiliar warbling song coming from a budding maple. I wouldn’t have turned to see the amazing male Canada Warbler singing not more than five feet from me. And I wouldn’t have a new contender for my favorite Parulid, though admittedly, that’s a title that changes with every new one I see.
It’s not just that Canada Warbler is such a handsome bird, with that clean gray back and yellow front broken by a necklace of black, but that it’s one that was more difficult in Missouri, in the western part of it’s migratory range. The Appalachians though, are crawling with them at the right time year which is a real treat. In fact, this very day, I ended up with two more, for a total of three singing male Canadas in three different spots along the parkway. Even though the entire May camping trip was more or less a bust for many of my target species, this one alone made it stand out looking back. A fine memory for a cold winter day.