Today there was a fly-over Swallow-tailed Kite at Prospect Park and a Yellow-throated Warbler at Central Park. Of course, I had biked to Riverside Park to see if I couldn’t find the Summer Tanager reported there earlier this week.

I couldn’t. I dub this season the Migration of Near-Misses.

I did get Swainson’s Thrush and Black-throated Green Warbler and Baltimore Oriole for my BGBY list, which made me happy… particularly the Black-throated Green, a bird that I list often but get really good looks at much less often. This one posed gorgeously at the tip of a flowered branch, flaunting its golden cheeks and obsidian throat in the last brief ray of sunlight before we got drizzled on all the way to brunch. That was a good sighting.

The best sighting, though, was of an American Redstart.

I’ve always been partial to Redstarts. Their name is so idiosyncratic yet perfect. Their plumage is so handily unlike anything but itself, especially of course when you’re speaking of a bright adult male, but the females are relatively easy too if you take the time to look. There was a pair back home on the farm that regularly spent the summer, I presume nesting though I never tracked down the nest, near the edge of one of our maple lots, where a stream ran through. With the Common Yellowthroat and Yellow Warbler, they were the warblers I knew well in my youth.

Today an American Redstart did me a particular favor, though, and raised the species in my estimation even more. You see, the Inimitable Todd recently confided in me that he does not like warblers. Although this may provoke gasps, when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Herons and Egrets, Hawks and Eagles, those are great birds for the birder’s non-birding partner, especially one who is photographically inclined. I mean, when they’re there, there they are. And don’t get me wrong, the IT’s totally down with passerines so long as they’re willing to make a bit of a public spectacle of themselves, like Scotty, or any of the several Red-winged Blackbirds that he’s photographed over the years.

red-winged blackbird, montreal, 2007

But warblers, for the un-obsessed, are nice in books, but in the field they are just so many lengthy intervals where Carrie is staring into the trees and occasionally cursing (in fact, sometimes they seem that way to me too.) It’s not unlike the Unfortunate Western Meadowlark Incident of 2001, which climaxed with that worst of all sentences between lovers… “Was that it?”

But today, a male American Redstart came to the edge of branch and stayed there, at eye level, in a tree that was easy to point out and a location that was easy to describe. It sat long enough for me to hand the binoculars to IT, long enough for him to get on the bird, and long enough for him to really see it. And I think, in the eyes of the IT, all those invisible, absent, and obnoxious warblers were a tiny bit redeemed.

Now to bring him around on sparrows… wait, what am I talking about? First I’ve got to bring myself around on sparrows! (I am starting to warm to Swamp Sparrows, and I like Song Sparrows and Field Sparrows, but that’s another post…)

Species List:

House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Rock Pigeon Columba livia
European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Canada Goose Branta canadensis
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
American Robin Turdus migratorius
Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis
American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottis
Magnolia Warbler Dendroica magnolia
Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata
Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
Black-throated Blue Warbler Dendroica caerulescens
Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula
Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus
Swainson’s Thrush Catharus ustulatus
Black-throated Green Warbler Dendroica virens

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