Perhaps the most appropriately named warbler, this special bird is said to nest almost exclusively in pine trees and is one of the earliest nesting warblers within it’s range. These special birds were a thrill for us to find and watch. Closeup images of the male bird were taken at Big Spring State Park, while the nest was located in a Short-leaf Pine located on a parking lot within Shaw Nature Reserve.
The chicks were adorable and near-helpless, only able to open their gigantic craws at anticipation of a juicy insect meal.
During the time Steve and I strained our necks watching the child care from ~50 ft below, we were able to observe that when dad visited the nest he always approached from the side of the nest facing us as seen in the image below. Mom always visited on the opposite side, affording us poor looks. It was interesting to observe that both parents approached the nest in a slow and indirect manner, usually starting low in the nest tree or an adjacent neighbor. They would then hop from branch to branch, often in a spiral up the tree to reach the nest. I do not remember watching either parent make a direct flight to the nest.
Sarah helped me nab this shot of a singing Grasshopper Sparrow recently at Confluence State Park. It was interesting to me that out of such a large area of potential habitat, the only two birds we had singing this day were right on top of each other.
The Cerulean Warbler population has declined more than 80% since breeding bird surveys began in 1966? Habitat destruction, in the form of mountaintop removal and stream filling in the Appalachians, and forest destruction for agriculture in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, along with wintering grounds destruction for coffee and cocoa production in South America are responsible. Habitat preservation via cessation of deforestation in both nesting grounds and wintering forests are crucial if we are to continue hearing the Cerulean song.
At riverine locals like RMBS, the warbling song of the Warbling Vireo can be heard all day long throughout the summer. However, they have always given me grief when it came to getting a photograph – lurking shyly among the leafy branches of the Cottonwood. This year, I hit a trail where I know they set territories for nesting. Early in the spring, before the leaves expanded, I was able to follow this guy as he made the rounds and get some photos.