It snowed at least 8 inches here yesterday and it is pitch black by 5:30 p.m. This morning it warmed up enough to be about 35 degrees, so there is also a good deal of slush. I have to face it: the days of long, warm days are a ways away.
On these days of cold and drear, I dream of warblers.
Previously, I started my ranking of all the North American Wood Warblers, starting with the top 14 along with an explanation on their ranking. I won't go through all the rules for ranking (you can read the previous post for them), but obviously this is a subjective list, albeit the best damn subjective list ever made.
Today I go through the next segment of warblers, you know, those that were pretty good but not good enough to sit at the cool warblers' table in school. If you want to think of a theme for this post, it is: black and yellow.
15) Magnolia Warbler. The Magnolia Warbler provides a difficult test. You see, it is just another in the long procession of yellow and black marked warblers. Ho hum, right? But it is actually a striking and nice looking bird. With lots of black and gray and white along with the yellow, you get some good contrasts and patterns. The obvious necklace along the breast really stands out, both for beauty and for ease of identification.
16) Yellow-rumped Wabler. Ok, this is partially and apology to all the Yellow-rumped Warblers out there that have to live through the constant comments of "oh, it is just a Yellow-rump." It isn't your fault that you are the first ones through in the spring, the and last ones through in the fall, such that when you are around there aren't many other warblers around. It isn't your fault that when you are around there are dozens, if not hundreds of you everywhere. It isn't your fault that you are winter residents if I go a little south of here. Much like Yellow Warblers in the summertime, you guys are taken for granted and dismissed, but that shouldn't be a knock on your actual attractiveness. In both your Audubon and Myrtle forms you have a handsome coloration and pattern that isn't dependent on an excessive use of yellow. And your females look nice too.
17) Prothonotary Warbler. Yeah, I wonder why this one is so low? I made this list months ago, and for some reason I wasn't as impressed with them as I probably should have been. They are nice looking birds, but the annoyance with their name (pronunciation and spelling) pushed them down some. Also my bitterness over the fact that I didn't see one this year probably had something to do with it.
18) Black-throated Green Warbler. Boldly colored and patterned, with bright yellow and bright (?) black. Oh yeah, yet another yellow and black warbler. Listen, if black and yellow were rare amongst warblers, then the Black-throated Green would be higher, but life ain't fair. A nice looking bird nonetheless, though I will forever be dubious about the 'green' part.
19) Golden-cheeked Warbler. Like above, but with less yellow and more black. I haven't seen it (Texan bird), but everything about it seems to be "somewhat less nice looking Black-throated Green."
20) Hooded Warbler. I didn't get one this year and there is absolutely no excuse for that. I know exactly where to go where they nest, and it is relatively nearby and nearby where I stay in New Jersey when I visit there. No excuse. They are nice looking birds, with a somewhat slightly different take on the "yellow and black" theme. It isn't such a wonderful plumage to catapult them into the top tier, but it definitely is a solidly nice looking bird.
21) Cerulean Warbler. Finally, a break from the yellow and black monotony! A handsome little bird, with its blue coloration and white underneath parts. The color is a bit muted as compared to the top tier of warblers (it can't compete with the Black-throated Blue), so I can't give it too high a rank, but I still like it.
22) Townsend's Warbler. I am having a difficult time thinking of things to say of the black-throated warblers that I haven't already said. It is sort of like the Black-throated Green, but more generic with a less descriptive name?
23) Pine Warbler. This one will be controversial, I know! Pine Warbler, the definition of generic looking muted yellow bird, higher than these other ones? I can't help it; I've always found Pine Warblers to be beautiful. The pictures you often see of them don't do them justice, and the yellow isn't quite muted but more as a pervasive saturation. What really stands out to me is the yellow eye ring, which always seems to me like it should be white, but the yellow just got everywhere.
24) Blue-winged Warbler. Always grouped with the next one because they hybridize frequently. I put the Blue-winged higher because I like more yellow and less black, but feel free to flip-flop them to suit your own tastes. I really like the black stripe through the eye (it stands out more in real life than in any field guide).
25) Golden-winged Warbler. The black on the throat is like so many other warblers with that trait that it makes it sort of non-striking. What is neat, however, is that the hybrids with the Blue-winged are often really nice looking birds. I had a lab-mate in grad school who worked on Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers and their hybridization, and I was always more fascinated by the variety of hybrids. I think that the hybrids are better looking than the parental species.
26) Hermit Warbler. Great name (if not very descriptive), but yet another black-throated warblers with some yellow on it, only this yellow is on the face and not much place else.
27) Nashville Warbler. Not a bad looking bird, but pretty low-key in terms of color and pattern. Gray and yellow with a little bit of red, it stands out more than many of its closer relatives (they are further down). It just doesn't have the special "oomph" to make it stand out in this crowded field of warblers, but it nice enough looking to not be dismissed. Eye-rings are always appreciated though. It seems unfair that Tennessee gets a warbler named after the state and its capital.
28) Cape May Warbler. I love Cape May. I go down there frequently and I am never disappointed. It includes some of my very favorite places in the whole world and the people I meet there are always nice and friendly and welcoming while still being excellent birders and good naturalists. You would think that the Cape May Warbler would be as great as the place it was named for, right? It is a nice looking bird, but (like most of the birds on this section of the ranking) it isn't too strikingly awesome to compete with the Bay-breasted and Black-throated Blues of the world. It is nice, but it sort of looks like a Blackburnian Warbler that didn't quite develop enough and decided to just add yellow instead.
We now have gone through the good warblers. Next time we head into the "ok, I guess" warblers and then eventually make are way to the "these aren't very showy, are they?" warblers.
Do note: I love all the warblers and would be happy and glad to see any of them. Even the ones that are another iteration of yellow and black.