More Bird Notes

Birds—especially small birds—are often obscured by stuff in the field. That makes it tricky for both bird watchers and photographers. I’m reminded of Gilda Radner’s “It’s always something,” or my friend Betty Sue Cohen’s “There’s always a stick, or a twig, or a leaf [in the way].”

Natural Stuff

Below is an adult female Northern Parula warbler (pronounced “PAR-eh-la,” IMHO). I captured it recently at Indian River Park in Chesapeake, Virginia as it was migrating through. It, too, is headed to Punta Cana.

Northern Parulas are known as “upper canopy” birds, but I usually find them close to the ground. This one was, as you can tell, (and with both its feet planted on a thornbush). I love the French name for the species: “paruline à collier.” That translates to “parula with a necklace”—a name that fits.

Adult female Northern Parula
Adult female Northern Parula

Some folks might discard the above photo. But I like it. The bird is sharp, its head is visible, and daylight is reflected off its eye. It is said that that reflection, or catchlight, gives an eye dimension and gives it life. I also like it because it’s environmental: a photo of a subject in its usual surroundings.

Here’s another example of things obscuring—and another Indian River Park bird. This is a Gray Catbird looking out over the top of a morning glory leaf. The bird appears to be undergoing a molt. I touched on that messy but essential process at the end of “Bird Notes.”

Gray Catbird
Gray Catbird

I like this photo for the same reasons that I like the shot of “la paruline.” But I also like the bird’s “peekaboo” pose. I like this raccoon’s peekaboo pose, too. It was in a tree, munching on fruit or seeds (until it saw me).


Raccoons might be primarily nocturnal and all, but I’ve sure seen plenty of them out during the day.

Built Stuff

Now, birds aren’t only often obscured by natural stuff, they’re also often obscured by built stuff.

I took the photo below at Money Point in Chesapeake during the breeding season that just ended. This is a male Eastern Bluebird entering its nest. The nest is inside a petroleum pipeline casing vent marker on industrial plant property there.

Adult male Eastern Bluebird
Adult male Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebirds are cavity nesters, as are a number of other bird species. Many bluebirds nest in abandoned woodpecker holes in the wild. But, in the absence of natural cavities, they’ll seek out artificial ones, as long as they’re close to food sources. This marker is. Critical wildlife habitat is just across the street.

Here’s a juvenile Green Heron obscured by the railings of the observation deck at Lakeside Park, the location of the Green Heron colonial nesting site.

Juvenile Green Heron
Juvenile Green Heron

And here’s another Money Point bird: an immature female Common Yellowthroat. It’s obscured, too, but only a little bit.

Immature female Common Yellowthroat
Immature female Common Yellowthroat

The Common Yellowthroat (aka the “raccoon warbler” or “Lone Ranger”) is considered to be a wren-like wood warbler. The above bird fit that description to a T. When I first saw it, I thought I did have a wren.


Though the young yellowthroat isn’t quite as concealed as the others, it does share something in common with them. It has adapted to and is using the built environment. The same thing is true of this handsome Brown Thrasher (aka the “chirpa chirpa bird”).

Brown Thrasher
Brown Thrasher

Now, this may or not apply to the above 4 species—the “built stuff” birds. But one thought I have, here, is this: Birds that are adaptable like these and can live around humans usually have far better chances of succeeding and growing their numbers. The Osprey comes readily to mind.

And a final thought I have, here, is this: The thrasher is a permanent resident. It’s not going anywhere. The yellowthroat, on the other hand, heads off to Havana in a few weeks.

And This Just In

I’ve mentioned feathers and some curious feather terms lately. Here’s a great read about those structures: the defining feature of birds.

Quip, Question, Quote

“Birds are found almost everywhere on earth and have adapted to diverse environments throughout history. Some fly, some swim, and some run really fast.” A fun and pertinent quote from

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