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It’s In Your Nature: The tree tops awaken

About now, except maybe the Pocono Plateau, many of our deciduous trees are “pushing their leaves.” Maples, sassafras, willows, birch, and aspens are all leafing out. With new leaf growth, the leaf eating insects follow. Where there are caterpillars and beetles feeding on leaves, the waves of migrating warblers will find and feast on them. Some of these warblers will remain in the Times News region to breed. The majority use our forests, stream-side thickets, and woodlots the same way we use our favorite fast food establishment to hold over our children or our drive to (let’s say) Virginia Beach.

For me this is warbler time. If I pick the correct day/s I might spy 15 to 20 different species in a just a three hour hike on an early May morning. By the time you read this column, redstarts, pine warblers, palm warblers, black and white warblers and probably yellow-rumped warblers will have already arrived. Most of these early arrivals have spent the winter here in the U.S. Their flight north is much shorter. Most of the other warblers are flying from Central and South America. Their trips are exhausting. Birding friend Dave relayed accounts to me of exhausted warblers struggling to make it to the Texas Gulf Coast after a nonstop flight across the Gulf of Mexico. Once here in North America, the warblers feed and rest by day, and continue their migration north by night.

Warblers are rather small birds, about 5½ inches to 6 inches in size. In the top of a 60-foot tall chestnut oak they are hard to identify, but add to that, they are little “Energizer Bunny” type birds. They don’t sit still very long. If looking for warblers, I recommend a wooded stream side area or a mixed forest with both conifers and deciduous trees. The mixed forests increase the variety of birds. Some warblers feed on gnats and will dart out, grab a small morsel, and back to a branch.

Some of the most colorful birds are warblers, and maybe, just maybe, a May morning catching glimpses of these birds might see you “catching the birding bug.”

I’ve included photos of about half the warblers you can find. Some I’ve identified for you and a few I will quiz you on. Good luck and happy birding.

Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: True/False. Migrating at night allows birds to avoid many predators and allows them to feed/rest during daylight hours.

Last Week’s Trivia Answer: Those trees bedecked with small white flowers now, blooming before the dogwoods are: Juneberry, aka shadbush, aka serviceberry. Fruiting earlier than most other trees, they help sustain fruit eating birds in, well, June.

Email Barry Reed at breed71@gmail.com

The palm warbler has already arrived in our area and is one of the first to test the cooler weather. They often feed low in shrubs or on the ground. Look for the nervous twitching tail. BARRY REED PHOTOS
The American redstart is an active fly catching warbler. They like shrubby areas, usually near water. This photo is a male, the female lacks the bright and black coloration. They often dart from a perch and snag a gnat and return to the branch.
Also breeding in the Times News area is the prairie warbler. Unlike its name implies, they like abandoned field areas now regrowing with trees and shrubs about 20 to 30 feet high.
The northern waterthrush is not a thrush species. It's breeding range extends from much of Canada to the northern areas of Pennsylvania. It favors damp or slow moving water areas and is usually feeding close to the ground.
I observed my first yellow warblers on April 23 at the German's Bridge area of East Penn Township. The males (one pictured here) are very territorial and will be seen perched on a branch singing or busy chasing an intruding male from its breeding area.
The northern parula warbler seems to prefer coniferous areas to breed, but this brightly colored warbler can be seen in almost any vegetation as it migrates through this area or is searching for a suitable habitat locally to breed.