When Birding Gets Stressful – for Ron

Well, I was all ready to head out and get my run in this morning when I opened the door to sleet. Umm, where the hell did that come from!?! Normally that wouldn’t bother me much, but the sleet was essentially horizontal thanks to the 20mph wind that was accompanying the ice balls. One view of that and Inner Bri (I call him Ibbie) was quick to point out “Hey dude, you know you are retired right?”. Now Ibbie has a habit of getting me in trouble, however, this time he was right. Quickly checked out the forecast and sure enough, likely better (slightly) conditions in a few hours so waffles it is! In the meantime, what to do, what to do. Hey, I know, how about we get ourselves closer to the list goal.

Kentucky Warbler found at Shell Mound on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

I hit you with a few of the duller Warblers the last couple of posts and thought it was time to start stepping it up in the color arena – plus I promised CJ (link here) I would give her something brighter to enjoy her morning coffee with. Will quickly admit, these are not shots that will ever make it on our house walls or the galleria ledge (link here), but this featured feathered friend almost cost my brother Ron extra nights in Alabama. To set the stage, this yellowish bird with the unique highlighting comes to you from our April trip to Dauphin Island along the Alabama Gulf Shores. I’ve previously noted the incredible birding we had that vacation thanks to the fallout and this is another treasure that came home with us.

Hit the jump to read a bit more about how this one almost didn’t make it into the tin.

Kentucky Warbler found at Shell Mound on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

The interesting thing about this +1 to my birding list .. it almost didn’t happen. well, let’s just say based on the assumptions at the time, it almost didn’t happen. More on that in a bit. We drove down to Dauphin in our RV and Ron was able to fly down and meet us there so we could do some birding together. Not only is that a great chance to spend some time together (he lives in Chicago which is like light years from us downstaters)., when it comes to birding, the more eyes the better especially when those eyes come attached to a large knowledge base of birding field knowledge. We picked up Ron from a nearby airport on the second full day we were there. Got him situated in a hotel that ended up being right next to our RV spot, he grabbed his camera and we were off to explore a spot Linda and I had found the day before – Shell Mounds.

Kentucky Warbler found at Shell Mound on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

At one point during that visit we checked out the discovery board at the entrance and I noted there was a Kentucky Warbler listed. I took special notice of that as there is no mark next to the Kentucky Warbler on my life list – just a big ol’ empty box. By the early afternoon, that box was still as empty as it was in the morning. We didn’t see any sign this easily identifiable bird was hanging out in those woods. Not sure how you could ever be disappointed at Dauphin, but my hopes were pretty high and it looked like that wasn’t going to be fulfilled.

Kentucky Warbler found at Shell Mound on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Ron and I were making probably our 4th or 5th pass through trails and came upon a lady with camera in hand – our kind of people! We got to talking after the social butterfly in our group (Chicago-boy) introduced himself. I always joke about wondering where his extrovert chromosome came from, but truth is he has netted us a lot of birds with this strange behavior (hehehe). At some point the Kentucky came up – can’t remember if it was directly from us noting our incomplete quest or she brought it up as one of her favorite captures for the day – same end either way – “YOU FOUND THE KENTUCKY!?!” The amazing things about birders, they are always willing to help you out and point you in the right direction or even take you to the exact point of their last encounter – for the record, I am hearing internationally this cordial birding atmosphere may not exist, so for now I will simply state we have experienced this with all the US based birders Ron and I have had the opportunity to meet. True to course, she offered to take us exactly where she found it, which surprisingly, wasn’t that far away.

Kentucky Warbler found at Shell Mound on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Now any birder knows, being in the right spot does not mean you will actually SEE it much less tin it. They have these things called wings and the Warbler family members are quite adept in their stealthy ninja skilz. Fortunately, this lady was apparently the Warbler Whisperer and soon alerted us to its presence. Ron was faster on the draw and pretty sure he got some decent shots almost immediately – Let’s all encourage Ron to get to processing his pictures! Me on the other hand, not so lucky. By the time I had the settings where there needed to be and got The Beast in range, the specimen had taken off. We tried everything we could to continue tracking it, but eventually lost sight. AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHH. The plan for that day’s visit had just become laser focused on getting that Kentucky captured if it was the last thing Ron did – even if he has to stay all night or cancel his planned flight home which was still a couple of days away. Yeah, I know he was the one who executed, but you are probably not familiar with how birding with my brother goes. I get it and he doesn’t, no issues, he gets it and I don’t – now that is a serious problem … for him .. to make sure I find it if he wants to get any sleep the rest of the trip… hehehe.

Kentucky Warbler found at Shell Mound on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

He lucked out and we did manage to find it about an hour later. I think he gave a huge sigh of relief once I verified the pictures were good enough to claim the plus 1. That was the last time we saw the Kentucky the rest of our trip. I can’t thank that lady enough for helping us find this cool Warbler.

Through the very few pictures I managed to get from our brief encounter, so I better get to the takeaways. I must say, there are a number of Warblers that look very similar especially beyond their breeding plumage. The Kentucky male is not one of them as their dark cap paired with thick black sideburns is easily distinguishable. Add in the full yellow breast through to the under tail topped with an olive/greenish feathering on top of the wings/back, you have yourself a bird whose name incorrectly implies its range. According to Cornell, this species was first found by naturalist Alexander Wilson while he was in Kentucky. They actually winter in Central/South America and migrate into the majority of southeastern states. On the interesting characteristics front, this particular Warbler only has one song. They also sport the rather long legs similar to the Waterthrushes that I featured a few posts back (link here).

Sleet has finally subsided and the wind has dropped from 20mph down to a tolerable 17mph (positive thoughts to keep Ibbie from getting too worked up) – time to get the running shoes on and knock out today’s miles. Hope you enjoyed the latest addition to my birding list…. only 7 more to go to reach my goal.

Oh, almost forgot – turns out the added stress was unwarranted. While going through the first day’s captures in detail – the day before Ron go there – spotted a few Kentucky shots had already made it into the tin. Those are the head shots in the middle of the post. I was pretty tired after that first day (actually all the days) and didn’t have the energy to look through the day’s captures in detail – sorry Ron.

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