Spring is an odd and fickle season in Maine and certainly not my favorite as the temperatures rise and fall like a roller coaster and mud is everywhere. There is one special part of spring that I look forward to each year though, the return of the warblers! Like the swallows to Capistrano, these tiny jewel-like birds return to New England each spring after wintering in more gentle climates. There are over 30 species of warblers that will pass through on their way further north and a handful that will stay here to raise their families but once the leaves are fully out on the trees, these little gems can be all but impossible to spot.
The Palm and Pine Warblers are the first to arrive in April with more species following right behind; and since the trees aren’t usually fully leafed out until mid-May, now is the time to get out there and try to spot some of these beautiful little birds. There are many places in our area where warblers will be gathering. Right here in York, the water district trails and Mt. Agamenticus trails offer great birding opportunities. Plum Island just off the coast of Newburyport, Massachusetts is a mecca for warblers. With the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and the Massachusetts Audubon’s Joffa Flat Education Center, it’s also a perfect place for birding all year long for many different species of birds, from songbirds, hawks, and owls to shorebirds and waterfowl. Plum Island is on the “Atlantic Flyway”, the path millions of migratory birds follow heading south for the winter and returning north in the spring. It’s well worth the 45 minute drive down I-95.
The Blackburnian Warbler is one of my favorites with its brilliant orange and black plumage but the Yellow-rumped (or Myrtle) Warbler is one of the most abundant with its handsome gray, black and white coloring and bright yellow patches on its head, wings and, of course, its yellow rump.
If you’re an experienced birder, you probably already know the fun of finding these little guys before the tree canopy hides them away, and you might even be able to identify them just by their distinctive songs. Those of you who haven’t tried birding yet, stop by York Public Library and check out one of our Birding Backpacks, complete with binoculars, field guides, a link to Cornell University’s Bird Lab and more. You can also check out other field guides and books about birds and birding:
“Best-Ever Backyard Birding Tips: Hundreds of Easy Ways to Attract the Birds You Love to Watch” by Deborah L. Martin
“Birding in Maine” by Tom Seymour
“Maine Birding Trail: the Official Guide to More Than 260 Accessible Sites” by Bob Duchesne
Birding is a great activity for the whole family. Check out these birding books geared toward kids:
“Bird” (DK Eyewitness Books) by David Burnie
“Birdwatching” by Rob Hume
“The Birdwatchers” by Simon James
– Jeanine Means
Jeanine Means is a Library Assistant at the York Public Library. This article was originally published in the Library’s weekly “Shelf Life” column, which is featured in The York Weekly and SeacoastOnline.com.