Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

I decided not to make any stops on the way home from work so I would have time to mow our front yard this evening. It was the first mowing of the year, and, to be truthful, was a bit over-due, as our front yard has a southern exposure. I had to make frequent stops to empty the grass catcher.

When I finished mowing, I fed Samba and decided to sit out in the backyard for a while to enjoy the evening air and give Samba the opportunity to enjoy it too. Or, more accurately, to eat grass. Why do dogs do that? Before Elly and I became wise to the ways of dogs, we imagined they ate grass because they felt sick and throwing up made them feel better. We have since realized that they make themselves sick by eating the grass, which they like for some unaccountable reason. Anyway, it takes a lot of grass to make Samba sick (he is big!), and he wasn't going after it in earnest so I didn't worry much about the matter.

Instead I sat in my La Fuma lawn chair, sipping a glass of white wine, reading a bit from American Mania by Peter Whybrow, and congratulating myself on not being caught up in the rat race. Elly is in Florida for the week, and Samba and I have been doing the best we can without her. (Not that well, really.)

Still, it was a fine evening and glancing over at our neighbor's mullberry tree, which hasn't leafed out yet, I saw a bird hopping about and new immediately it was a warbler. I can't say just how I knew this, only, after watching lots of birds for a few years, one becomes surprisingly adept at sorting them out. Of course, there are about a zillion different warblers, and warblers are tiny birds, so I couldn't identify it naked eye. I popped inside for binoculars and the bird obliged me by hanging about until I came back. It was a yellow-rumped warbler. These come in two varieties, apparently, and this one was a Myrtle male. (The other variety is know as Audobon's.) These used to be classified as separate species, but the discovery that they inter-breed has resulted in a reclassification. Apparently, the two types were separated by glaciation during the last ice-age, which has caused subtle differences in their plumage. A fine article about them can be found in the Wikipedia. Lots of nice pictures are available on the web, too.

I haven't seen one of these before, though they are said to be fairly common migrants in our area. I've come to realize that if one only spends time outside, relaxing and looking about, all sorts of birds can actually be seen during migration periods. The trouble is we so rarely take the time to look. A few minutes won't do it. You actually need to sit still for half an hour or more and watch patiently. Of course, it helps to have mature trees about. Our neighborhood is about 100 years old, so we have plenty of those.

As the twilight began to deepen I noticed the waxing gibbeous moon was high in the eastern sky, and not yet covered with clouds, so I brought out my 4-inch telescope and spent an enjoyable 20 minutes refamiliarizing myself with some of its features. The forecast is for thunderstorms after midnight, and by the time I was putting the telescope away I could smell rain in the air. Still a few hours away.

I was struck by how hectic the last few nights have seemed, and how this evening has been so relaxed and rewarding by comparison. Coming straight home from work made the difference. I got home before 6:00 pm and had the front yard mowed by seven. Plus, I already had dinner prepared (left over shrimp creole from the other night).

No comments: