Sunday, June 5, 2022

Lucy's Warbler

On May 21 I went out to Big Morongo Preserve in Yucca Valley with the hope of finding two new birds. My recently developed lifetime bird list stood at 498 and I wanted to get to 500. I'd found six at Big Morongo just the week before and felt like there was a good chance I could find two more. 

That morning I met two people that I spent a good part of my time there with. One was a man who is a volunteer at Big Morongo and keeps the bird feeders full. He initially pulled up to me in his pickup truck and told me that there was a Lucy's warbler nest in a tree about 30 yards away (I'd probably only first heard of the Lucy's warbler about a week ago when I looked at some photos of birds at Big Morongo). The warblers had a nest in gash in a lightning scarred tree. Then he pulled up to a woman about ten yards from me and told her the same thing. The three of us spent the next 30 minutes or so watching the tree and for the parent warblers to come in and out of the nest to feed their young hatchlings. These birds were so small I would never have found them on my own - as it was I only got a couple of decent photos after watching them for 30 minutes. 

I've started to get into birding but don't hold a candle to either of these other two. She lives southeast of the Salton Sea and is an officer in some birding organization and had come to Big Morongo specifically looking for Lucy's warblers and a couple of other birds. After looking at Lucy's warblers he took us around to show us some of his other finds. We spent time watching a Bewick's wren going into and out of a nest in a hole in a dead tree, he tried to call a couple of nesting birds of some other kind, that I don't remember, then we went to another area where he knew of nesting blue-gray gnatcatchers and then went to the bird feeders where I got my best ever photos of a California thrasher (I'd only ever gotten one poor photograph of one before). The entire time these two birders were listening to and identifying birds by sound and discussing the traits of birds I know nothing about and I realized my knowledge level was pathetically below theirs. 

Lucy's warbler is the smallest species of New World warbler. It is only 3.5 to 4.7 inches in length. It is pale and nondescript. Its head and upperparts are pale gray and the underparts are whitish. It has a rufous rump, a white eye-ring and a small pointy bill. Males have a small rusty patch on the crown. It is also only one of two warblers that nest in a tree hole. 

Anyway, at some point she mentioned that she was at something like 445 on her lifetime bird list and he was at something like 275. I told her that I'd just hit 500, that the Lucy's warbler was number 500. Because it was so obvious that my bird knowledge was well below theirs, I mentioned that I've done a lot of traveling and seen many big birds in those travels. These two knew the small birds, the ones that are hard to see and hard to find, and knew lots about them. At some time later she was telling him about people that are trying to identify 200 birds in each county, etc. Amazing. 

1 comment:

  1. How serendipitous to have run into the experts in your search for #500, and how crazy that you should have so many more birds than the experts. You do live a privileged life.