Saturday, May 15, 2021

Golden-winged Warbler serendipity


A stunning male Golden-winged Warbler perches in a horseshoe-shaped twig - the best perch in an otherwise cluttered scene.

Last Tuesday, I traveled to Hocking County (Ohio) to meet with Cathy and Paul Knoop about a writing project that Paul wants to take on. It was a great visit capped by a hike around the Knoop's 70-acre property. We saw a bonanza of biodiversity, and maybe I will get around to posting a few especially notable finds later.

I went down really early, to photograph birds beforehand. One of my quick stops was Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve. I wheeled into the parking lot, not intending to spend much time, and soon saw a few White-crowned Sparrows. I love these dapper, well-dressed sparrows so out came the photo rig. As soon as I had the camera and lens ready for action, a Golden-winged Warbler sang once, from dense cover. A bit of pishing got him to pop from cover, and he gave me a few shots as above, before resuming active foraging. One shot I missed, that would have been awesome, was of the bird doing its acrobatic chickadee-like foraging: hanging upside down from leaf petioles while probing into leaf clusters. Just wasn't quick enough on the draw.

It's always good to actually clap eyes on this species, to ensure that the bird isn't a hybrid. This bird is not, but both Brewster's Warbler and Lawrence's Warbler can sing songs similar to the parent species. Blue-winged Warbler is the other parent. Brewster's is the more frequent of the hybrids, and I've seen it a number of times. The Lawrence's Warbler - which expresses recessive traits of the Blue-winged Warbler and is utterly stunning - would be the grand prize. I've only seen one, and that was many years ago, before I was into photography.

This has been a grand spring for the rare Golden-winged Warbler. Probably a few dozen reports have come from Ohio, the most I can recall since I don't know when. That's good news. Of the 38 species of warblers breeding in eastern North America, this is the third rarest, eclipsed only by the Kirtland's and Swainson's warblers.

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