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Bay-by Love

September 10, 2007
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It’s not fancy, nor colorful, nor large, nor rare, nor at all particularly easy to identify, but there she is. My latest lifer, the Bay-breasted Warbler in all it’s female, basic-plumaged glory (not that actual bird to the left, but one like it). I would consider it a nemesis bird if I was ever in a place where it’s commonly seen. When I lived in Missouri I was too far west to get them, and now in North Carolina, I’m too far east. But the fates conspired to bring her and I on a collision course on a recent trip to Michigan, and here I am, one life bird richer. She may not be a stunner, but all lifers are beautiful in my eyes.

But I get ahead of myself. On the suggestion of Jochen over at Bell Tower Birding (great blog, very nice fellow) I went to the Nichols Arboretum, called the “Arb”, in Ann Arbor this past Saturday morning in the hopes that I could see some warblers, specifically the Bay-breasted. I wasn’t disappointed. I had had a terrible spring warbler-wise, so I had several species that I wanted to pick up for the year and I got most of them. After about 30 minutes spent getting lost and asking for directions, er… acquainted with Ann Arbor and its people, I found the entrance. It may have been a half hour later then I had hoped, but the sun was still only peaking over the trees across the river and within the first hundred meters I realized that I had nothing to worry about. The first group of warblers contained mostly Tennessees (year bird) but also Redstarts, Nashvilles, Chestnut-sides, Magnolias and Blackpolls. Also Black-capped Chickadees (year bird, nice change from my resident Carolinas) Titmice, and a squeaking family of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. Good start.

I joined forces with Matt Yawney, local birder, and we took off into the Arb. It helped to have someone there who knew the good spots and he took me to a place where we immediately found another group with many of the same birds as before but also Wilson’s (year) and Black-and-White Warblers. I was already up to 8 warblers and I hadn’t even been there a half hour, a nice morning in my book. Matt had to go to work but he suggested a couple more spots so I thanked him for his help and took off to brave the mosquitos and find more birds. Success! The best group of the day was thick with Tennessees and Blackpolls but also contained a really nice male Blackburnian (year), a tail-wagging Palm, a second Wilson’s and my life Bay-breasted. I wasn’t certain at first, Bay-breasted can look very similar to Blackpoll in the fall, and there were alot of Blackpolls around, but this bird had cleaner colors, a slightly stockier build, and a faint buffy wash on the sides. Good enough for me. A Swainson’s Thrush chirped it’s approval and I walked on, a happier birder (not that I wouldn’t have considered it a great morning otherwise, but nothing puts a spring in your step like that life bird).

I heard a single Red-breasted Nuthatch (year) on the way back to my car but no amount of searching and pishing would convince it to show itself. The sun was up by this time and things were slowing down and I had a wedding to get to so my morning at the Arb was over. The drive home was no slouch though, I came across a family group of Sandhill Cranes in the margin of the highway, and even the trip out to the wedding location produced a Olive-sided Flycatcher off the side of the road, proving you can, in fact, bird in a suit. In the end thanks to Jochen for suggesting the place and sending me updates all week and Matt for birding with me. Together it made for a really fun morning.

BABRWA by jerryoldenettel via flickr (CC BY NC-SA-2.0)

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2 Comments
  1. Jochen permalink
    September 10, 2007 2:58 pm

    Glad you had such a great time, the Arb never fails to amaze!
    Happy fall birding!!

  2. Mary Helen permalink
    September 10, 2007 9:11 pm

    Great trip. Did you do the life bird dance? I always do a little dance when I get a life bird.

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