[CT Birds] migration and warblers

greg hanisek ctgregh at yahoo.com
Sun Aug 28 11:56:15 EDT 2016

I tried to send this as a reply to an original message by Riki Soucy, but I'm not sure if it went out, so here's another ry. Greg Hanisek
Thanks Riki for mentioning my weekly nature column, more often than not about birds, that appears every Saturday in the Waterbury Republican-American (where I worked for more than 20 years as an editor before retiring 2 years ago). I wrote the column throughout that period and for almost 20 years before that at the Express-Times of Easton, Pa., were I was a reporter and editor (and lived in NJ). It's not the first time that (a bit tongue in cheek) I blamed Dr. Peterson for birders' fall warbler phobia. I think there's some (at least a germ?) of truth to my theory that if he hadn't labeled a plate Confusing Fall Warblers people might not have started out in a defensive posture. By the way I don't think HE was confused (well maybe a little bit now and then:)
Anyway, here are some of my thoughts on tackling the subject:
1/ Not all fall warblers are confusing. A number of species' adult males maintain their best plumage at this time of year and beyond. Don't give up before you get started by assuming it's going to be too hard.
2/ Remember that warblers can be difficult at any time because they're small and fast moving. Every time I go out and encounter a number of warblers, some (sometimes a lot) go unidentified because I just didn't get a good enough look. Instead of being discouraged by those concentrate, on getting good looks at a few.
3/ Nothing beats quality time with a field guide or specialty book. If you study them in a systematic way you can build up a mental catalog of features such as wing bars, face patterns, undertail colors etc. that help narrow down possibilities. There are now many online resources as well, but beware that unlike carefully edited books, the Internet is rife with bad information along with the good. Always consider the source with cyper-searches
4/ In you enjoy warblers in the spring, you may already know more about fall warblers than you think. Quite a few show subdued patterns that are nonetheless shadows of the typical spring plumage. 
5/ Tackle species one-by-one. For instance Black-and-White Warblers are going to show very little change (beyond sex difference) while adult male Blackpoll Warblers are going change completely.
But none of this will be of any use unless you dive in and work at it.
Greg HanisekWaterbury 

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