Published Sep 30, 2007

I was sitting at my computer the other day when I saw an unexpected visitor outside my window — a Yellow Warbler. Warblers are small, bright birds with lovely singing voices. They’re also classic subjects for birdwatching travels — a summer getaway to Texas or Georgia can net a Californian several exciting additions to their life list, provided that the birder is patient.

Patience is important because, for brightly-colored birds, warblers are hard to spot. They flit around, blend well into deciduous foliage, and are generally shy. I spent a couple of weeks in Texas with my college girlfriend, an avid birder, seeking out warblers for hours a day, at the end of dirt roads and far too near ramshackle homes with “trespassers will be shot” clearly labeled on the barbed-wire fences.

Yellow Warblers are common in this part of the country, but not in urban areas — Warblers in general like bucolic spots. So, seeing one in my backyard was quite the treat.

Birdwatching is surprisingly relaxing provided you’re prepared to keep your sights low. A long life list doesn’t come from spending time in, you know, places that are easy to get to. And that’s not relaxing. Staying in my backyard is relaxing.

See those bars on the wings? Those, plus, in the next photo, the vertical stripes on the chest and the dark stripe across the eye, are what birders call “diagnostics” — things that you can use to distinguish exactly what bird you’re looking at.

I’ve had a few other visitors in the past couple of weeks — notably, a ton of hummingbirds.

I guess that means it’s probably migration season — a great time for birding. I should look up some of the easy spots we used to go to, they made for nice afternoon walks in green areas, with some fun sightings along the way. A good way to use the fast-departing summer sunlight!


Hi Wade. I am happy to hear you recognize and are enjoying our birdy visitors! Hummingbirds have been visiting my patio and mourning doves come sometimes. I am shocked you saw a yellow warbler. It’s pretty. Sweet sighting. The only warblers I’ve seen were in Carmel and Big Sur but they were yellow crowned warblers, black, grey, and white striped bodies with yellow heads. What’s a life list?

The term life list in the entry is linked to a description of what it is.

From your description, maybe you saw a Townsend’s Warbler?

Hi Wade. Thanks!
Thanks for the pic. of theTownsend’s Warbler. No, I didn’t see that Warbler, so I took a few minutes and looked up Warblers common to my area and I found two that match what I’ve spotted up there, the Chestnut sided and Orange Crowned. Now, on my walks with Boony here, I’m on the look out for Warblers!