26.5.16

Mourning Warbler

I saw my first mourning warbler nearly 15 years ago, on wintering grounds in Costa Rica. I don't actually remember it, partly because I saw 70 other species that day which included some of my favorite antbirds and other furnariids. And probably because as a South American birder I didn't really register that this was one of those 'special' warblers on the opposite side of the hemisphere.

Now I know why, as nemesis species go, mourning warbler seems to be a popular choice.

A friend of mine found one in lower Manhattan last year, by which point it was a bird I still hadn't seen in the States, so deigned to chase.

Instead, I found two Connecticut warblers, which most people would be stoked with.

But I just wanted my Mourning.

Then, 10 days ago, I heard one sing.

A week later I saw one. In flight. WTF. This is not a bird you want to see in flight.

Finally, today, one was being as cooperative as a MOWA can get. Which means people saw it, people heard it. People heard tape from other people. People saw other people see the bird.

I walked round the pocket of water (Upper Lobe in Central Park) for a few hours. It would only sing at hourly intervals. Usually just once. Less than helpful. Taunting, even. 

Gradually, people started to see it.

But, in the spirit of all great nemesis birds, wherever it was, I wasn't. And wherever I went, yellowthroats tricked me with rustles in the groundcover.

I even blithely ignored a gray-cheeked thrush that sauntered past.

Then, around midday, as I accepted it was 90 degrees, I needed food, and it hadn't sung for hours, it popped up.

I saw it sally. I saw it sing. I saw the sombre cloak of mourning. It lasted 5 seconds, but it was enough.

I even got a shitty iphone recording of the one song I actually saw it sing....

Mourning warbler song

Postscript: I realized looking through my records that I'd seen all of the 'wanted' warblers - golden-winged, prothonotary, kentucky etc first on wintering grounds (even after I'd moved to the USA, in the case of those three). Odd? I don't really know. I was probably lucky with the golden-wingeds given its population size and large wintering distribution.  


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NYC, Buxton, Buenos Aires
I work in NYC and own a wildlife and wilderness agency specializing in the southern cone of South America. I still do some guiding down there, especially looking for Fuegian and Patagonian avifauna. I'm particularly interested in the wintering ecology of neotropical migrants, and in avian biogeography in general. You can follow me at - @domhall And find me at - AventuraArgentina.com