Another brief post devoted to one bird, the Magnolia Warbler, which I finally saw well on Thursday morning. I got up at 3:40 AM to catch an early train downtown so I could bird the parks for nearly a couple hours, just to test my perception that there were fewer migrants than previous years.
My perception is correct, I think, based on several factors. The populations of neotropical migrants are already in a downward spiral, and the effects of habitat loss and climate change are tipping the scales. Habitat for stopovers during migration is just as critical as breeding and wintering habitat. Locally, the abrupt changes on the downtown lakefront due to “improvements” have not helped to support migrants. Although I think eventually the pockets of recently planted natural landscaping will offer more respite, it takes years for plants to establish themselves and for the birds to know they can rely on them. Birds tend to return to places that have proven good for them before. When those places disappear, birds have to go somewhere else.
So from the reports I was getting while stuck in the office, the party invitations had already gone out and most of the migrant action was at Montrose Point, also known as the Magic Hedge, which is understandable and predictable, but frustrating when you know you can’t get there to see it.
This bird was among a few other species in the south sculpture garden at Millennium Park, where only a few years ago the planted pines would light up with brightly colored warblers resembling a Christmas tree (I give all credit for that sentiment to my friend David Johnson). For a moment I could almost trick myself into thinking it was happening again.
Magnolia Warblers, affectionately nicknamed “Maggies,” are usually quite conspicuous and I have always found the males happy to engage with the camera. So I was able to get a few halfway decent shots of this backlit but beautiful guy who was otherwise zooming in and out of the pine needles seeking insects.
I got a break today from the migrant search as the weather has dictated moderation. Our temperatures plummeted yesterday about 35 degrees and the forecast for today is intermittent rain with thunderstorms likely. With any luck I’ll be able to work in the yard a bit in between downpours. But it was nice to “sleep in” for a change on a Saturday, – until my indoor crowd woke me up at 6:00, a full half hour or so after sunrise when they began to greet the day vocally. Someday I have to be awake enough to record the indoor dawn chorus…
Thats a pretty bird! I’ve never seen it in person. Contrary to your weather, ours is going to go to high temperatures.Have a great and relaxed weekend! 🙂
Thanks, H.J.! Maggies are some of my favorites and it’s getting so lean with the birds downtown I’m not inclined to take any of them for granted. We were hot early last week before the cold. Definitely confusing for us, I’m sure for the birds too!
Great photos, but a sobering post. We haven’t seen any Grosbeaks this year for the first time in a long time.
Sorry to hear you are missing Grosbeaks. I guess your Scarlet Tanagers didn’t make up for that… It’s so hard to tell. I was surprised to read that Indigo Buntings are now considered endangered, and yet the last two or three years they have been breeding in abundance at the Portage after a lot of the trees were removed, changing the habitat. Who knows? At least Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks still breed around here, maybe you’ll see them again. But I guess the longer term forecast is to see species drift northward.