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Dear Kentucky Warbler

June 27, 2011

Its Saturday morning.  I ‘m finishing up on another trail in northern Orange County.  When I’ve been in town, I’ve spent the better part of the last six weeks looking solely for you, and as such I’ve seen a lot of pretty good Kentucky Warbler habitat, the mature hardwood forest with the dense understory that you guys seem to like so much elsewhere in your range, but no Kentucky Warblers.  And this is strange to me.  I, after all, should be living in in the midst of some pretty seriously epic Kentucky Warbler action, or at least it seems, but I have never found you particularly forthcoming when it comes to locating you in and around my home.  Feel free to stop me if I’m asking too much, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to make our acquaintance at least once a year.  In fact, I haven’t really complained all that much even though I haven’t seen you in the Triangle since that Spring Bird Count back in 2007.  That was a great morning, wasn’t it?  We can still have that.

I mean, I admit I don’t really go out of my way to find you like I used to.  Part of that is your strange disappearance from that site off of Stagecoach Road that I usually hit at least once a year.  Seriously, what’s up with that?  That trail used to be crawling with you guys.  But in thinking about the years that have slipped by since that one wonderful May morning, springs anymore are always summed up wistfully.  It was a good spring, but I missed Kentucky.  I’m ready for a great spring, one that can only be graced by your rolling churry churry churry.  All others are sub-par.  That’s just the way of it.

Now perhaps I’m being a bit too greedy.  After all, I have seen you this year.  Multitudes, even.  Early in the spring at a site in Johnston County.  But I admit I was not looking for you, the object of that search was Swainson’s Warbler, your duller, skulkier cousin down the street.  We missed that one, but the highlight of the day was seeing double digit Kentuckies; singing, nest-building, drowning out nearly every other birdsong with your incessant chatter.  It occurred to me then, as I was walking through another tract of fine Kentucky Warbler habitat this past weekend and striking out again, that I may have been given a quota of Kentucky Warblers for the spring.  Foolishly, I ran through them without even thinking about the ramifications of my actions, a kid in an arcade with an allowance’s worth of quarter burning a hole in my pocket.  This site, at the confluence of two branches of the Eno River, is the best looking patch of woods I’ve been to since that morning.  There are loads of Summer Tanagers and a fearless Ovenbird.  Cuckoos are thick and the Indigo Buntings are carrying food,  but no Kentuckies.  This is getting old, friend.  I just want us to cross paths in my home region.  I told you about this Big Year, remember? I thought we had a deal.

What is it precisely, that turns you off about this arrangement?  Is it the fact that I’m unable to keep from belting Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman” when on the path of Geothylpis formosus (it does wound me that you’ve been kicked out of Oporornis, now a solo act with that pretentious Connecticut Warbler, as if it ever really goes to Connecticut…)?  I told you, I can’t help it. Is it wrong that I change the words to “warbler” every time the erstwhile Mr Diamond says woman?  The lyrics need to be relevant, right?  Is it inappropriate that Jewish Elvis’s weapons grade muttonchops remind me in no small way of your own sartorial display.  These things are no coincidence.  But I suppose I could understand if you took them personally.

And so, I’m within sight of my car, having spent another couple hours at a site that eBird assured – assured me –  me that someone has come across you in the last week.  But I’m still coming up empty.  There’s a little stream up ahead, I’ll walk down to it, stand on the side of the road, and have a listen.


What’s that again? Distant.  Maybe it’ll sing again.

Maybe a little pishing? And lo…

Not just one, not just two, but a whole family of recently fledged Kentucky Warblers.  And in Orange County, no less!  A county tick!

Is it really supposed to be that easy? Did you just need me to work for it that little bit more?  The cars are rushing past at regular intervals, but still there are four Kentucky Warblers, hugging the forest floor as if drawn by a magnet, but popping up often enough to give views of a ragged adult and at least two very confusing, molty, youngsters. Thank you.

What was that I said before?  I take it all back.  But would it kill you next time to sit up in the light just a little bit? I do have this camera now, and It’d be great to shoot some photos…



  1. June 27, 2011 7:08 am

    Great post!

  2. June 27, 2011 7:25 am


  3. David permalink
    June 27, 2011 10:47 am

    You should see my love letter to the Blue-grey Gnatcatcher. It however, does not have the happy ending. It usually devolves into frustration and bitter french cursing. (This being Canada and all).

  4. June 28, 2011 11:15 am

    Thanks for the tip! Went out and found them within 5 minutes this morning, no pishing required. One male, one female, and one molty youngster with great looks up in the box elder at the top of the bank. Don’t usually go chasing, but your post just made it so tantalizing! (and easy!)

  5. Nate permalink*
    June 29, 2011 2:00 pm

    @Corey- Thanks!

    @Derek- Thanks!

    @David- It’s a feeling I know all too well. Not with the Gnatcatchers, but there are a few birds…

    @Allen- Nice! I’m glad you found them, and without the 45 minute detour down the trial on the other side of the road. Well done!


  1. A Love Letter

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