Attempting to read on the back deck this afternoon, I looked up to see the first migrant warbler of the season, flitting about, high in a neighbor's tree. Don't ask me what it was.
I immediately knew it was not one of the yellow-rumped warblers that winter in our area; they are somewhat larger and more methodical in their feeding habits. It seemed to have a yellowish breast with no streaking and I think it had a faint wing-bar or two; from some angles, it seemed to have a narrow eye ring. I know it had a brownish-green back or maybe it was a dark shade of olive. Watching from a distance with my binoculars, I am reluctant to be more precise, especially since the bird never sat still for more than a second. I'm guessing it might have been a female pine warbler or maybe an immature female bay-breasted warbler. Such is the joy and challenge of warbler watching!
One might think that after 40 years of birding I would be embarrassed to admit my confusion but I've never mastered the art of identifying warblers at a distance; I'm satisfied to just call it a warbler, the first of the season. Its visit offers reassurance that the parade of migrants and summer residents is well underway and that the threat of more winter weather, though not out of the question, is fading with each day. Listening to the homesick tune of the white-throated sparrows, anxious to return to Canada, I know they share my sentiment.