If you don’t live in a big city, you still may have some great birding opportunities right in your own neighborhood. So we’re in a residential part of Rochester, and we’re just in a small woodlot. It’s only about ten or fifteen acres. And you can see that there’s a great mix of habitat. We’ve got some tall trees, more shrubs, all these different layers, and we got here on a really good day. You can hear that there’s a Yellow Warbler singing; there’s a Blackpoll Warbler singing. A Canada Warbler just sang over here. Let’s go see what we can find. I’m not even sure where to start. There are birds on both sides of the road. Sometimes these overcast days… everybody likes to go out in the spring when it’s a really bright, sunny day, but these overcast days can be really good for birds. And hopefully it will mean that bird activity stays, the birds stay more active all day long. Got a Yellow Warbler up here, just flitted right. Nice male. So sometimes we like to start out on the edge and scan, just kind of watching for motion, before we head into the woods. After spending a little bit of time out on the edges, sometimes it’s good to see if you can actually go into the woodlot and listen. And sometimes pishing inside of the woodlot can be really good. Pish, pish, pish. So this crazy sound Chris is making is called pishing and it can really help bring in warblers and other passerines. It’s basically imitating the alarm call of some other passerines. It can be the perfect weapon to see flocks of birds. So this is a really good spot. You can see how there’s these low shrubs, there’s a couple trails that go through here so it’s a little more open. So you can really look up and see all these different levels. There’s a Black-and-white on the very top. It’s a pretty late migrant. Most Black-and-whites are already through, they tend to come through early in the spring migration. So throughout the spring, warblers migrate kind of at different times than the overall spring migration. Birds like Black-and-white Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, they tend to migrate early in the season. And then towards the end of the migration season, you get things like Mourning Warbler, the Blackpoll Warbler, the Bay-breasted. Blackburnian Warbler singing. It’s got the high, high-pitched song that rises and ends on an extremely high note. So basically when we walk in here the first thing that we do is… there’s actually two things. You listen for birds calling, but then you also look for motion, and Jessie and I know basically what everything we’re hearing is. But even if you don’t know what every sound is or you don’t know what any sound is, what you can do is watch for movement. And also if you hear something that sounds interesting, just try to focus on one thing. Right now there’s so many different birds singing, it’s easy to be distracted and you sort of start looking over here, then you start looking over here, and it’s easy to get frustrated. But if you focus on maybe one bird and try to track that down, then you’ll really start to learn something about it and then when you see it, spend a little time watching it and getting to know it. Check this out. There’s a Magnolia Warbler, just about eye level. This is the type of habitat where you usually find Magnolia Warbler. It’s sort of mid-elevation, not way up at the top, but also usually not right down on the ground, just sort of about eye-level. This is a nice male, bright yellow below, black streaks on the bird’s sides and flanks. Sometimes when you are pishing to call birds in, the thing to do is to not get totally out in the open, because birds kind of figure out what’s going on if you’re standing out in the middle of an open field. So if we’re in this area, we’re a little more obscured. It’s a better place to start pishing for birds. So during migration, there can be a lot of different species moving through an area. But we’re really keyed into warblers right now and we’re looking for their small size. And they move very quickly so the combination of size and shape and their behavior is really helping us pick them out against all these other species that are in the area. So there’s a Chestnut-sided Warbler, and it’s working around…just if you follow this tree up to where it makes a big “V”. The Chestnut-sided Warbler’s a bird that Audubon only saw two of these when he was around. He went all over the eastern U.S, looking for birds. And what’s happened is with changes to the habitats in North America, there’s a lot more cut-over areas in the woods. And they like a second growth, actually they breed in habitats that are pretty similar to what we’re in right now. And for that reason, numbers of Chestnut-sided Warblers are much greater now than they were maybe two hundred years ago. So most of the birds that we’re seeing in here actually aren’t going to stay here. This is a small woodlot; it’s too small to support breeding birds. But it’s what makes checking these little woodlots so fun in migrations. It’s almost like a treasure hunt. You come here and you don’t know what you’re going to see because these birds come… they land here at night and they could be here a day or maybe two days and that’s it. But in that time, they’re able to look for insects or whatever they’re eating and gather enough fat to allow them to continue on to wherever they’re breeding. So from a bird’s perspective, these woodlots are critical habitat, where they’re able to find enough food to be able to continue on in migration. So from a conservation perspective, these woodlots are just critical for the warblers. This is a really good day.

End of transcript

To help celebrate the arrival of spring migrants, Jessie Barry and Chris Wood from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology share their warbler-watching tips:

| Find a greater diversity of warbler in layered forests
| Start at the forest edge and scan for motion
| Pish to attract birds, but not in the open
| Listen for individuals calling and watch for movement
| Focus on one bird at a time…get to know it
| Distinguish warblers by their small size and quick movement
| Discover different migrants during early and late spring

Join Chris and Jessie as they explore a woodlot in Rochester, New York, and see the treasure trove of migrants they encountered there including: Yellow Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, and more.

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