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By Bryan on September 8, 2013

Blackpoll Warbler / © Bryan Pfeiffer

Blackpoll Warbler / © Bryan Pfeiffer

It began on Saturday with a couple of Black-capped Chickadees in Montpelier’s Hubbard Park. In a scraggly hawthorn, which had already lost half its leaves, my morning walk then erupted into a festival of autumn warblers. They darted and called and danced in one of the most spectacular displays of fall migration I’ve seen in Vermont.

Birders know well the challenge of what Roger Tory Peterson called “confusing fall warblers.” Many of them are drab this time of year – adults molted out of their flashy spring plumage and young birds not yet dressed for courtship. But this was one of Peterson’s rare misnomers. With patience, practice, and good views on your part, these warblers are distinctive. And nothing brings them in close like pishing in the woods. Yeah, pishing.

Without pishing, I would not have seen what is a first for me in more than three decades of birding: Blackpoll Warbler, Pine Warbler and Bay-breasted Warbler together in the same tree. These three, in the fall, are a bit of an ID challenge. The Bay-breasted, with rosy flanks, made me melt. In all, 10 warbler species, many responding to my pishing, visited that hawthorn. My warbler haul for the morning came in at 16 species, including Wilson’s Warbler and Tennessee Warbler.

Earlier, along the North Branch of the Winooski River, not far from the city’s recreation field, a Merlin called and then chased a few songbirds.

The point here is that when the crisp, apple-cider winds blow this time of year, get out for birds – anywhere. Here’s my list (47 species) from a walk that went roughly from Kellogg-Hubbard Library, up North Street a bit, through the woods to the North Branch of the Winooski, around the perimeter of North Branch Nature Center, across Route 12, into Hubbard Park, and back into the city.

Blackpoll Warbler / © Bryan Pfeiffer

Blackpoll Warbler / © Bryan Pfeiffer

  • Broad-winged Hawk
  • Mourning Dove
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Merlin
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee
  • Least Flycatcher
  • Alder/Willow Flycatcher
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Hermit Thrush
  • American Robin
  • Gray Catbird
  • European Starling
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Ovenbird
  • Tennessee Warbler
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • American Redstart
  • Northern Parula
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Bay-breasted Warbler
  • Blackburnian Warbler
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • Blackpoll Warbler
  • Black-throated Blue Warbler
  • Pine Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Black-throated Green Warbler
  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • Song Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • Purple Finch
  • House Finch
  • American Goldfinch
  • House Sparrow
  1. Nice peice, Bryan!
    Here in East Montpelier I had a nesting pair of Mourning Warblers all summer, I think they have moved on though.

  2. Sue Cloutier says:

    Reminds me of birding during migrations in Wellesley near my home on Rocky Ledges about 50 years ago. Glad there are still the birds during migration, and the places to harbor them on their way. Thank you for sharing, Bryan.

  3. claudia says:

    Hi Bryan, I’m so glad you posted this. I was at Lake Elmore yesterday and saw so many different warblers in the same trees. I couldn’t identify them all, but yellow rump was definitely one of them. Sounds like the same phenomenon was happening there at at hubbard park.

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