Visitor on the Deck

This morning, I was sitting on our back deck in Columbia, Missouri, listening to the calls and songs of unseen birds echo from the dense May canopy.  The air was warm and humid, destined to fuel showers and thunderstorms later in the day.

Suddenly, a small, colorful bird darted from the woods and landed on the chair next to me; the attractive visitor was a yellow-throated warbler, perhaps planning to search for spiders and insects in crevices of our house and deck.  Among the first warblers to arrive in the spring, yellow-throated warblers breed across the southeastern quadrant of North America, from the southern Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic region to the Gulf Coast.  They favor open pine woodlands, cypress swamps and riparian groves; in the northern part of their range, they are most often found in stands of sycamore along streams and lake shores.  Like black and white warblers, these insectivores often creep along limbs in the manner of nuthatches, searching for prey in the knots and bark crevices.  Nests are usually placed high in trees and two broods are generally raised during the spring-summer breeding season.  Come autumn, these warblers head for Florida, Mexico or the Caribbean islands.

Similar events have surely been experienced by all veteran birdwatchers.  Had I set out with the purpose of finding a yellow-throated warbler this morning, I would likely have spent many frustrating hours and, in the end, been unsuccessful; after all, they are not among the more common avian species in most parts of their range.  This morning's sighting was pure luck, a matter of being in the right place at the right time.  Nevertheless, the warbler's unexpected visit was both exciting and appreciated.