The aberrant warbler and a firethroat


Yellow-breasted Chat © 2007 Drew Weber

Point counts have been good as of late. I was in Lancaster County a few days finishing up points in that area and my best find was a very outgoing chat. I had it singing during a point count near Muddy Run Reservoir so I marked the spot on my GPS and returned after my morning counts were finished. I only had to play a few phrases of its song on my car speakers before he popped up again, flying back and forth checking out who was trying to take his picture. Most shots I took were pretty bad but he landed on a utility tower long enough for me to fire off one shot and that is what you see. I had forgotten how fantastically goofy these warblers/tanagers look when doing their display flight. They have always reminded me of clowns.

I believe that chats are going to be separated from the New World warblers (Parulidae) fairly soon. I can’t remember the exact details but I think they will get their own family and be considered the evolutionary bridge between tanagers and warblers. Someone please correct me if my facts are way off.


Blackburnian Warbler © 2007 Drew Weber

In another lucky catch, I managed to photograph this brilliant male Blackburnian Warbler through my binoculars. This is not a method I have ever had much success with, and although its not a print worthy photo, and a little drabber than real life, I believe it captures some of the brilliance of the reddish orange throat these warblers flaunt. Blackburnian Warblers have a ridiculously high-pitched ending to their song and are one of the first to disappear as one’s ears lose those higher pitches. It makes me curious whether even with my good hearing I am missing parts of the song.


Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies © 2007 Drew Weber

At the same place where the Blackburnian was singing, there was a large congregation of 30-40 butterflies all in one clump. If anyone know what they were doing please leave a comment…
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Clay-colored Sparrow

I saw my 2nd state bird in as many days yesterday. Although its not very common in PA, Clay-colored Sparrows are findable in several parts of the state. They breed in some limited areas in the western part of the state and are sometimes seen in migration elsewhere.

This bird is coming to a feeder in Lancaster County and is the same bird the presumably frequented the same yard last summer. When I arrived I was greeted by the buzzy bzz bzz bzz bzz that is so characteristic of the Clay-colored Sparrows song.

It will be interesting to see if this bird continues to hang around for the summer and maybe finds a mate. Now I am off to training for my summer job doing point count surveys for the 2nd PA Breeding Bird Atlas.