I had my Sunday all planned. I was going up to that quintessential spring warbler hotspot, River Road in Kent, Connecticut. This was to be with friends in the Western Connecticut Bird Club and I had high hopes of finally seeing a Cerulean Warbler, a bird that had heretofore eluded me. A son called, reminding me that Sunday was Mother’s Day and he invited us over for a celebratory brunch. I accepted, of course. Any opportunity to receive appreciation from one’s children should not be cast aside lightly. I had a meeting that evening, and while I was there, my husband called said son and explained the situation. All agreed, it was my day, and if I wanted to go birding, I should go. Perhaps we could get together later in the day. A friend who is a superb bird photographer, sent me the terrific photo (© AJ Hand) above via e-mail, just in case I didn’t get to see the Cerulean.
I drove up with my husband and two other birding friends, reviewing warbler songs on tape, just as a refresher. The River Road is perfect for birding, part of the Appalachian Trail, it runs along the bank of the Housatonic River for about 5 miles and is nestled against the ridge of the Taconic Mountains, providing ample shelter and food for migrating and nesting warblers. The Cerulean Warbler nests here. This warbler’s population is in serious decline with about 560,000 individuals remaining. This decline is thought to be due to loss of habitat, especially on their wintering grounds in northern South America where the forest habitat they favor is being cut for coffee and coca production for the illegal drug trade. It is being considered for endangered species listing. They nest and usually forage for insects high in the canopy so seeing them isn’t easy.
We began our walk at the northern end of the road, stopping for great views of many birds, American Redstarts, Veerys, Chestnut Sided Warblers, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks among them. After about a mile we began hearing the Cerulean singing his distinctive song, a series of rising notes ending with a buzzy trill. We located him, not getting great looks and after a while the group left. My husband and I stayed behind, and casting aside fear of Lyme Disease from deer ticks, we plunged off into the brush toward the river, following the song. We located three of four in an oak tree and I got better looks, just enough to claim I had seen the bird. As we returned to the group near the parking area, our leader called “We just had one about thirty feet away!” fortunately the bird returned and I got really good looks. Happy Mother’s Day to me!