What’s Next: Warblers
The Northbound Procession of Color
Leaves. I’ve got nothing against leaves. To be against leaves is to be against life itself. Leaves are food for everything from insects to humans. They make Vermont glow red and orange and yellow every autumn. And leaves are the way a forest breathes.
Yet I am grateful that the leaves are taking their time arriving this spring. That’s because the warblers are coming. Well, actually, the warblers are already here. So please go outside to see them — now.
It is no coincidence that warblers and leaves arrive on the scene together in spring. Warblers are for the most part forest birds. They bring sparks of color and song to hardwoods and softwoods alike.
Perhaps the only time to be against leaves is when they block our views of warblers. In New England and the Midwest, where warmth has been reticent this spring, the warblers now arrive to lacy trees. Fear not for the warblers, however, nor for the trees. They’ll manage this spring (the usual abuses we perpetrate on them notwithstanding).
But this state of easier warbler viewing won’t last but another week or so here in the north. So carpe the warblers. In my earlier homage to warblers, I offer up my own definition of these small migratory songbirds:
warbler |ˈwôrb(ə)lər| — noun. (1) A bird you must see. (2) A force of nature, like gravity or sex or chocolate, like a Schubert piano trio or shooting the moon in hearts. Once you’ve experienced warblers, you want more warblers. (3) A polytheistic religion capable of inducing transcendence and confusion among North American birdwatchers, as in: Lord God! What’s that warbler?
Meanwhile, in other spring news, the Red Alert continues as trees go from flower to fruit. In my montage below, for example, that’s a Silver Maple starting to show its red samaras (the helicopter-blade fruits of maples and ashes and a few other trees) beside Lake Saint Clair here in my temporary outpost of Michigan. Our northern forests still display their gaudy vernal flowers, which get their business of reproduction done before those hardwoods fully leaf out. And the first little sparks of blue — the azure butterflies — are just now flickering and fluttering across much of the northern U.S.
If we divide spring into micro-seasons, here in the north we’re just past peak of the “Salamander Orgy Season,” near the apex of “Shocking Spring Wildflower Season,” and now at peak “Lacy Forest Season.” Most of the warblers, along with scores of other songbird species, will reach highest abundance and diversity during the last week or so of May (when it will be a bit tougher to see them).
But, like I said, I’ve got nothing against the leaves. After all, leaves are caterpillar food. Which means leaves are moth and butterfly food. And many of those warblers are now gleaning moth caterpillars from those leaves. Here’s your mid-May montage.