2021-04-29 Mini-Fallout at SPI

Canada Warbler - Cardellina canadensis
Because they are warblers, and because they forage low in the understory of wooded areas, Canada Warblers are quite difficult to photograph. Spring visits to South Padre Island can produce unexpected results. Sometimes there are lulls in the migration, and other times there are spikes.
Blackburnian Warbler - Setophaga fusca
This was not the first time I met the Blackburnian Warbler, but it was the best. My first meeting was one year ago (to the day) here on South Padre. 
Blackpoll Warbler - Setophaga striata
I met this warbler for the first time in Alaska in 2005. Spring visits to South Padre Island can produce unexpected results. 

Thursday morning started off slow, and stayed that way most of the day, but ended with a flurry of activity, when a new batch of warblers fell from the sky. I arrived at the Convention Centre early, but I didn’t take very many pictures. The birds I met were lovely, and other visiting birders were excited to meet them, but I’d already captured my fill of their images (for now). Besides, there was a deep cloud layer, and the light was not good for photographs. When I could, I tried to offer the other interested birders tips on where they might find their target birds. The Painted Bunting seems to be the most sought after species folks visiting here want to see.

Things being slow, I took time out to relax in the RV and work on the images from my last outing. After working and resting for a bit, I noticed the day had brightened. I gathered my gear and sauntered out to discover what other delights besides the sun might be in store for me. 

The Mesquite trees planted behind the Convention building often attract new warblers as they take an intermission from their long distance travels. Sure enough, someone called out “Blackburnian Warbler”. I’d met this bird last year here in south Texas, despite the restrictions of the pandemic. But that was a female bird. This bird was a boy. I set up my tripod and folding stool near the tree where the bird was last reported, and sure enough, in typical warbler fashion, the bird dodged and darted through the dense foliage. I captured a few obscured images and waited for the bird to make another appearance. Then a friend reported a Canada Warbler out on the boardwalk in the mangroves. I wanted to get better images of the Blackburnian, but the Canada Warbler was a bird I’d missed with my last opportunity. So I picked up my gear and walked out to the mangroves, hoping to find the elusive bird.

Out on the boardwalk already was my friend Mary. She’d not found the Canada Warbler yet, but after joining her, we found the bird working low in the trees. So low, in fact, it was difficult finding an angle that wasn’t behind a branch, a twig, or railing. This was a situation where a hand-held camera had the advantage over a tripod mounted one. I captured a few satisfactory images before something remarkable happened. A Blackburnian Warbler showed up in the same grove. The male Blackburnian is a stunning bird to behold, and unlike the Canada Warbler, it preferred to forage on branches at or above eye-level in these mangroves. Getting this bird in my sights was much easier for my tripod mounted rig. Soon there were more photographers joining us. So compelling was this new bird, everyone seemed to forget about the Canada Warbler.

It rained hard Thursday night on the island, and there was a light wind blowing from the north. This combination of meteorological events tempted me out to the SPI Convention Centre on Friday, hoping to experience a big warbler fallout. It was not to be. The north wind was not strong enough to bring the northbound birds down to meet us. When I realized there would not be a new crop of migrants, I headed back to the RV to take my leave. Then a funny thing happened on my way to the van (apologies to Larry Gelbart and others). I met the Blackpoll Warbler from yesterday’s visit. I’d reviewed my images from Thursday and knew the Blackpoll images were not up to par. It was only a few steps further to the RV, so I grabbed my gear and spent another 45 minutes with the birds. I got the Blackpoll Warbler. It seemed to fancy the trees in the lawn area near my parking place. While waiting for the warbler to appear, a Scarlet Tanager paid me a visit. I took advantage of the opportunity to photograph this bird too. I’ve included these images with this post.

The birds I met were American Redstart, Baltimore Oriole, Blackburnian Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-Throated Green Warbler, Canada Warbler, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Magnolia Warbler, Northern Parula, Scarlet Tanager, and Wilson’s Warbler, and Yellow Warbler.

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