Wonderous Warblers

Cool, clear mornings in the upper 40’s mean big fall migration nights for neotropical migrants. I took advantage of the recent weather on September 20 to check the streamside brush at Chantilly Ecological Preserve along Briar Creek, and as predicted, the action was fast. Within five minutes of arriving I had close views of six species of warbler while standing in one spot: Northern waterthrush, Northern parula, common yellowthroat, American redstart, palm warbler, and Tennessee warbler. The birds seem to gather in the low vegetation early in the morning before elevating to the larger trees by mid-morning.

Hooded Warbler
Photo by Jeff Lewis

Even after they left the brush it was still great birding. A low hanging pecan bough attracted another redstart, a brilliant male hooded warbler, and a colorful Nashville warbler. The latter is a regular but uncommon migrant through our area in fall. Indigo buntings were in evidence with several males in various stages of transition to brown winter plumage seen. About half a dozen rose-breasted grosbeaks showed up, of course none in the showy spring attire the males are known for. A single Baltimore oriole loosely associated with the grosbeaks.

Nashville Warbler
Photo by Jeff Lewis

Another tree hosted three Cape May warblers in various plumage. This species is extremely variable in migration with immature females being almost totally gray with blurry streaking to adult males which are almost as showy as the spring Cape Mays. The trio I saw was one of each with an intermediate bird which was probably an immature male. While watching, a bright all-yellow warbler joined them, an aptly named yellow warbler.

Yellow Warbler
Photo by John Ennis

There is an area of mowed, shorter grass that is popular with palm warblers, house finches, chipping sparrows, Eastern bluebirds, and Eastern phoebes. I will be checking this area as the fall advances in hopes of finding a rare sparrow or two mixed in.

Chantilly Ecological Preserve is a stream reclamation area at the edge of the Chantilly neighborhood, adjacent to Chantilly Elementary School. Parking is available along Colonnade Dr or at the end of Wyanoke Avenue (few spaces). Check it out, good birds are generally on the ground or in the low streamside brush for easy viewing.