Wood-Warblers at Sterling Forest State Park
On the same day that I tracked down and digiscoped Cerulean Warblers at Doodletown Road I had the genius plan of also getting over to Sterling Forest State Park and digiscoping some of the Golden-winged Warblers that breed there.* Now those who bird in New York State regularly are probably shaking their heads right now thinking that poor Corey had gone off the deep end because, really, one might as well try to spot an Eskimo Curlew as a more likely accomplishment then getting decent images of both Cerulean Warblers and Golden-winged Warblers in New York State on one day. Despite the imaginary naysayers I made the short drive from Doodletown Road to Sterling Forest’s Ironwood Road rather rapidly, got my gear out, prepared for ticks, and headed up the power line cut in search of my quarry.
Common Yellowthroat (not a Golden-winged Warbler)
The path was a bit overgrown, the sky was a bit overcast, and I was a bit overwrought at the thought of not finding and photographing Vermivora chrysoptera.** The occasional Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, or Prairie Warbler made an appearance or sang a song but nothing remotely resembling the object of my desires made an appearance save for a single Blue-winged Warbler which had quite the brood patch and looked really ragged in general. Then a male Prairie Warbler started acting oddly, singing snatches of its song and nervously flitting from perch to perch around me as I tried to keep up with the digiscoping rig until the lightbulb went off in my head and I realized that I must be near a nest. I moved a mere three or four meters down the trail and the bird made its way by a circituous route to a nest that was just off the trail where I had been standing, about eight feet off the ground in a small tree, high for a Prairie Warbler nest. I didn’t want to cause any further disturbance so I moved on quickly.
Prairie Warbler (not a Golden-winged Warbler)
Prairie Warbler nest (not a Golden-winged Warbler)
The Prairie Warbler was nice but then the rain started to fall from the humid air and I had to beat a retreat to my car, not because I was concerned about being wet but because I wanted my camera to stay dry. Once the rain stopped I decided to try walking the other way up the power line cut in search of my quarry. A Black-and-white Warbler distracted me before I got very far at all.
Black-and-white Warbler (not a Golden-winged Warbler)
Once the Black-and-white Warbler flew off I continued up the trail quite a ways until another Prairie Warbler caught my attention. This one wasn’t singing at all but was carrying a beak full of fluffy white stuff and seemed agitated. I moved out of the way and she flew into a clump of bushes and, I am sure, used her mouthful to line her nest.
female Prairie Warbler with and without nesting material (not a Golden-winged Warbler)
Again, the Prairie Warbler was really cool but it still wasn’t what I was looking for at all. I eventually gave up on the Ironwood Road location and drove on down the road to the Blue Lake section of the park where I had success at seeing Golden-winged Warblers in the past. I walked down the trail, ignoring Indigo Buntings and Tufted Titmice. I came around a corner and into a cloud of mosquitoes that immediately called in a flock of deer flies as reinforcements just as I spotted not one but two Golden-winged Warblers foraging about two meters up on the side of the trail not ten meters away from me! I desperately tried to get either one in focus through my digiscoping rig as flies bit my neck and mosquitoes covered my hands and arms. Sweat ran in rivulets down my forehead and my glasses fogged over as I cursed the heat, the humidity, the bugs, and the birds! The birds! Where were the birds?
I took my eye out of my scope, took my glasses off so they would defog, put my bins up, cursed and pulled out the eyecups, and then cursed again as the male warbler came out into the open! Put my glasses back on quickly, put my eye back into my scope, and cursed some more as I couldn’t find the stupid little bird. Finally, there he is! Click click click click click click click click click click click click click click click.
It was a nice ride home in my air-conditioned car…though once I got home I was a bit frustrated that I only got one usable picture. Nonetheless, I think that the outing has to be considered a success, especially considering that the two ticks I found crawling on my pants while I drove home were both killed without mercy before they could latch on and suck my blood.
*Yes, I know Wood-Warbler Week is long gone but, really, wood-warblers can’t be contained in a single, seven-day period. Every week should be Wood-Warbler Week!
**Soon to be one of the only two extant species left in Vermivora.