The Quest for Two More Warblers

Kentucky Warbler

Kentucky Warbler

Toward the end of the work week I had been thinking of only two things: sleeping in on Saturday to get my sleep for the year, and possibly visiting McGinnis Slough for birds on Sunday.


A Kentucky Warbler sings at Swallow Cliff Woods

KEWA-4488 KEWA-4466

As luck would have it, tales of a Kentucky Warbler and a Cerulean Warbler emerged on the IBET (Illinois Birders Exchanging Thoughts) list-serve toward the end of the week, and with the birds being seen at Swallow Cliff Woods, which is just up the street from McGinnis Slough, I decided to try for these two warblers that are unusual in this area. Warbler migration is pretty much over with anyway, so the chance to see these two special birds was irresistible.

Cerulean Warbler

Cerulean Warbler


Thanks to birders already on the scene I had no problem finding the two birds, and several mosquito bites later, I had pictures and recordings of their songs as well. The Cerulean was harder to photograph even when it dropped down to less than neck-breaking level, because the backlighting made it impossible to capture his delicate blueness.

Cerulean Warbler

Cerulean Warbler

Thanks to all the good-natured, generous birder souls who helped me get on these birds.

By the time I got to McGinnis Slough it was getting hot. I didn’t know what to expect this time of year, overlapping passerine migration and the presence of breeding birds. I didn’t have a scope with me, but there did not appear to be much action in the water anyway. The main action occurred overhead with Red-Winged Blackbirds chasing Red-Tailed Hawks. I managed to get a few pictures of one Red-Winged Blackbird catching a ride on the raptor. Have to wonder how that feels, to be a small bird riding on a predator of all things. The Red-Tail was not happy about it.

Red-Tailed Hawk chased by two Red-Winged Blackbirds

Red-Tailed Hawk chased by two Red-Winged Blackbirds

Click on the pictures to see larger images.


Shortly after the Red-Tailed Hawk/Red-Winged Blackbird saga, I ran into a friendly couple, Julie and Jim, and their new shelter puppy Annabelle whose mother was a Border Collie and the father was undetermined (but probably safe to assume it was not the mailman) – she’s a very pretty dog – and we had a very nice visit. I hope to encounter Julie and Jim again, and welcome them to my blog. There is definitely a magical quality to McGinnis and the nicest surprises happen when I least expect them.

There were other species besides these two at McGinnis but most were either distant or heard only. As the mid-day heat approached and weekend chores beckoned, I took a few shots at a Red-Winged Blackbird guarding his territory and headed back home.

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

In the next few days and weeks I hope to get caught up with all the travel pictures for inspiration.

But for now I will sing the Sunday-evening-gotta-go-to-work-tomorrow blues, succumb to general exhaustion and get ready for bed.

Thanks to all who follow this blog and check in every once in a while. I will try to be a better blogger (I get twinges of guilt every few days when I haven’t posted or managed to even read anybody else’s blog)…

Good night and sweet dreams.

My Cerulean Warbler Quest

I rode with three friends to Hastings, Michigan last Thursday for Michigan Audubon’s  Cerulean Warbler Weekend. The goal was to get good looks at Cerulean Warblers, and we did after several tries.


However, Friday’s weather was miserable. The rain was constant and temperature below normal. This shot of an American Redstart leaving was a typical view.

Cerulean Warbler

And here is a typical look at a Cerulean Warbler high up in the canopy. About all you can tell is that Ceruleans are white underneath. Fortunately, the looks would improve the next day when the weather did.

Red-Eyed Vireo

The rain never stopped the Red-eyed Vireos from singing. I stood under this bird’s tree and listened to him sing for a long time. In the background, my brain was playing the Bach I’m learning, and the Vireo’s song fit perfectly over it. I wished I could have played for him, we could have had a great jam session.

“Drowny” Woodpecker

This Downy Woodpecker was pretty well-soaked.

Saturday started out cloudy but when the sun came out around 11:00 a.m., the birds woke up and we started to get our first really good looks at Cerulean Warblers. Unfortunately I had few photo opportunities. The birds like to stay up high in the canopy, and just when you think you’re on them, they fly. Rather than stay in one area, they  move from limb to limb or tree to tree. So my best shots turned out to be extremely backlit.

Cerulean Warbler

But now that I have had great looks, I plan to concentrate more on the photography next time.

This Chestnut-Sided Warbler was backlit too, but he had a bit more color to show.

Sunday morning we got up very early to take a bus tour of some birding hot spots of Barry County. I finally managed to get a few pictures.

Acadian on Nest

This Acadian Flycatcher was on her nest right by the road. Still pretty dark in the woods.

Turkey Vultures

Out in a field later, there were six Turkey Vultures in the sky at one point. Here’s two of them.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebes win my award for This Spring’s Most Cooperative Bird.

Indigo Bunting

This Indigo Bunting was so busy singing, he sat still.

There were a lot more birds than pictures, but that’s okay. We had a good time.

You know you’re on a birding trip when everyone in the bus yells “Dickcissel!” simultaneously.


We got great looks.