[CT Birds] ID help, wish I had brought a camera

Jack Swatt jswattbirds at snet.net
Tue May 21 22:49:19 EDT 2013

A few years back I vowed to take a camera with me every time I went into the woods after I went on a hike without one, and witnessed a black bear try to tear apart a beaver lodge and the beavers came out and were tail splashing at the bear to get it to stop.  So, of course, last Thursday I went for a hike with exercise as my main objective and decided not to take the camera, but did bring binoculars, knowing there would be plenty of warblers in the woods.  And, of course, I came upon a warbler that I could not readily identify in the field, but when I reviewed my notes later that night, I came up with Townsend's Warbler. 
    My first contact with the bird was when I heard the song, and recognized that I had never heard it before. It was very buzzy, and ended in a rolling upward note. I found the tree where the song was coming from but it took a long time to find the source as the leaf cover was full.  I only had two good glimpses at the bird as it was very active and would not stay in one place very long.  I first saw the breast and wing peak out from under leaf cover.  The breast was yellow with black streaks coalescing in the throat area and it had white wing bars.  I first thought it was a Magnolia Warbler when I saw the breast, but immediately realized the song was much longer and buzzier than a Magnolia.  I followed it around the tree top and eventually got a look at it's head showing a thick black eye line with yellow above and below the eye line.  After a while I didn't get any more looks at it and decided to move on.  I thought maybe it was a
 Blackburnian and the dim light in the tree made it look yellow instead of orange, and even though I've heard a typical Blackburnian song before, I know it has several alternate songs.
     When I got home from work I listened to my Stokes CDs and realized it was not a Blackburnian song.  I looked in my Sibley's for an alternative and my jaw dropped when I saw the Townsend's.  It's a very good match to my field notes that I drew up, however, when I listened to the Stokes CD's recording of Townsend's it didn't sound at all like what I heard.  I only saw the bird twice, but heard it frequently.  It gave 4 buzzy notes followed by a rolling upward whistle.  The 3rd and 4th notes were higher pitched than the 1st two.  It was a little bit burrier than a Black-throated Green's song (one was singing in a tree behind me while I was listening to the mystery bird).  It also seemed to be a bit louder than the BTGW.
      On Friday, Saturday and Monday I returned to the area of the Tunxis trail that I had originally found the bird, (with a camera) but could not relocate it.  Can anyone identify the song based on the limited description I have of the bird?  I would love for it to be an alternative Townsend's song, but I'm being realistic that it's probably a more common bird that I'm just not as familiar with.


Jack Swatt

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