Spring warblers in the treetops

I hear, and have for a week, in the woods, the note of one or more small birds somewhat like a yellowbird’s. What is it? Is it the redstart? I now see one of these. The first I have distinguished. And now I feel pretty certain that my black and yellow warbler of May 1st was this. As I sit, it inquisitively hops nearer and nearer. It is one of the election-birds of rare colors which I can remember, mingled dark and reddish.   —Thoreau’s journal, May 10, 1853

One morning this week I wandered through the woods along the path by the edge of the river. Periodically, I paused to focus my binoculars on a short, slight movement in the trees. During these moments I became aware of the cacophony of calls from the canopy overhead. Similar songs emanated from various quarters. It took a bit to tune my ear to pitch and tone. Patiently, I stood, waiting for signs of movement among the budding branches. At last I was rewarded. The canopy was ripe with small black and orange warblers, redstarts most assuredly.

Over the course of these past few mornings I have identified by sight and sound any number of species: the blue-winged warbler, the black-throated blue; the yellow-rumped variety and the black-and-white; the yellow warbler and the chestnut-sided. The warbling vireos have declared their return as well, mostly through their distinctive songs high in the treetops.

Thoreau reveled in the return of the warblers in spring, when the green forest is splashed with dabs of color—

Within a few days the warblers have begun to come. They are of every hue. Nature made them to show her colors with. There are as many as there are colors and shades.  —Thoreau’s journal, April 19, 1854

One comment on “Spring warblers in the treetops

  1. sthutton says:

    Hello Mr. Maurer,

    My name is Stacy and I am a new Physician Assistant in my first year of practice. Currently working in a primary care setting in a small corner of “no where” American rural North Carolina…HTN and DM at its finest!!

    I’ve read some of your article in JAPA and have been following your blog. I particularly enjoyed your “Words that Heal ” post from March. I have been struggling with understanding the “art” of medicine, and use writing as my outlet…hoping to be a full-fledged writer one day when I grow up :).

    I hope you don’t mind, but I was so inspired by that post that I used a quote from it in one of my most recent blog posts – I of course gave you proper credit!!

    If you are so inclined and don’t my losing about 5min of your life that you won’t get back…here is the most recent installment of my…crap-o-la …




    Stacy Drew, MS, MHS, PA-C Raleigh, NC

    sthutton@hotmail.com 919-475-5389


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