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April 5, 2016

Cerulean warbler, Dave GraffWhen you are a Birder, any day can be a good one if you find a "good" bird. Today, I was walking across the courtyard to the ELC when I heard the "chip" call of a warbler. This quick chip was different enough that I automatically looked up in the oak tree by the entrance and thought I saw a very special bird. I saw a complete white throat and belly with a small band of black across the neck. Its back was deep blue and it had white wing patches. There is only one bird that I knew could have these marks!

One of the volunteers who knows I am an obsessive birder asked me what I was looking at and I said "I think that is a Cerulean Warbler!" A small crowd soon gathered and I asked if someone could get a camera or binoculars so I didn't lose the bird in the tree.

Education Specialist Dave Graff came quickly with his super zoom camera and I was able to look and confirm it was indeed a Cerulean Warbler. Dave got a few incredible pictures of the bird. The warbler put on quite a show and fed actively right over our heads. This was the first Cerulean Warbler I had ever seen which makes it a "Lifer" in Birder lingo and I did a little dance to celebrate.

Why the big deal, you ask?

Beyond the fact that it was a Lifer for me, it was only the second time that a Cerulean Warbler has been documented in Collier County according to eBird. Cerulean Warblers are small, weighing in at 1/3 of an ounce, and are only passing through here briefly after spending the winter in the tropical rainforests of northwest South America. Warblers are known as neo-tropical migrants and make long journeys over vast stretches of open water, dodging winds, storms, and predators such as hawks and falcons. Cerulean Warblers breed from Arkansas through Pennsylvania. The sky-blue upperparts of the male Cerulean Warbler make it difficult to observe in as they typically stay high in the tops trees. This bird was unusually low in the tree making it very easy to observe, even without binoculars! The bird itself has become harder to observe in recent decades, as its numbers have decreased possibly by up to 70% due to a variety of causes including parasitism from Brown-headed Cowbirds. This decline is the greatest of any North American warbler so finding them is getting harder every year.

This bird was a great reminder to always pay attention as nature can always surprise you. For me, it was an amazing moment with a bird that I will never forget!



Keith Laakkonen


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