[Tweeters] Hermit and 39 other warblers.
xjoshx at gmail.com
Thu May 28 15:14:18 PDT 2015
Thanks to everyone who sent me tips on finding Hermit Warblers near
Seattle. While Spanaway Marsh, on the north end of JBLM, did sound like
closest known spot I realized that I'd need to wait out morning traffic in
the south end anyway so I drove the extra miles to Capitol Forest.
I had been warned about possible Townsend x Hermit hybrids so I gave pretty
close scrutiny to the first bird I encountered. Although it did look
exactly like a Hermit Warbler in just the right light I caught some
apparent streaking on the flanks. At some point I also caught a glimpse of
the top of its head which seemed to be darker than a "pure" Hermit Warbler
should be. I honestly would have probably counted this bird in many
circumstances, but I pressed on and at the next stop I found several birds
at the next few stops, none of which showed any visible trace of Townsend
genes that I could find.
Capitol Forest was very birdy as expected. Other nice birds for the morning
included MacGillivray's Warbler, several flyby Evening Grosbeaks, a singing
Hutton's Vireo, and a heard-only Northern Pygmy-Owl.
Hermit Warbler was not only a new state bird for me, but it was also my
40th warbler species of the year (not counting the taxonomically
questionable Yellow-Breasted Chat, or a "Brewster's"
Golden-Winged/Blue-Winged hybrid). This past winter, with a couple of good
trips on the horizon I did the math and figured I might have a shot at this
My push started pretty poorly as I dipped twice on wintering Palm Warblers
in Renton and Seattle, but from there it was all up. A trip to southern
California in March produced a singing Lucy's Warbler in their small and
shrinking western outpost in Borrego Springs California.
In late April I spent a week in Texas, splitting my time between the High
Island area and the Lower Rio Grand Valley. High Island was, overall, a bit
slow for passerine migrants, but one perfect afternoon thunderstorm brought
us a very good evening of drop ins. My only major warbler misses were birds
I was pretty confident I'd be able to see a few weeks later in North
A side-note to anyone thinking about a Texas trip: planning a trip to High
Island and then deciding to add a side-trip to south Texas is roughly the
same as saying, "As long as I'm in Seattle I should probably do some
birding in Grants Pass, Oregon. Oh and I should do all the driving at night
so I don't miss any good birding." That said, the LRGV leg of my trip went
better than I had any right to expect when I planned it so I have no
regrets. I picked up both a long-staying Painted Redstart at a rest stop 90
minutes north of the valley and a singing Tropical Parula (ABA #500)
at Anzalduas Park in Mission, TX. The absolute highlight of the trip, and
likely my birding year, came two days later when I was able to refind a
Slate-Throated Redstart that appeared on South Padre Island.
A week after returning home from Texas I flew to Charlotte, NC for work for
two weeks. Here I picked up lots of warblers I'd managed to miss by a few
minutes at High Island (Prothonotary, Blackpoll, Canada) and lots of
others. The highlight of the trip was a day spent birding the Blue Ridge
Mountains area around Asheville where I managed to see 15 species of of
warblers in a day, only two of which normally occur in WA. I highly
recommend a visit to this area during breeding season if you ever get a
chance. Along with all the warblers (including Swainson's, Worm-Eating, and
Cerulean) that occur in summer, birds like Alder Flycatcher, Yellow-Billed
Cuckoo, Scarlet Tanager, and Blue-Headed Vireo are relatively easy to find
and most of the birding can be done from within a few yards of paved roads.
After driving out to find breeding Golden-Winged Warblers at the eastern
tip of Tennessee (I had one GWWA at High Island, but it was seen so poorly
as to make me question the ID) I came home from NC needing only
Macgillivray's and Hermit Warblers to hit 40. MacGillivray's was an easy
get on Monday and the Hermit today put me over the top.
I never did see a Palm Warbler.
There's a few photos on my flickr page, however many/most of the warbler
photos have been too grainy/blurry to be worth posting.
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