Why I Try to Spot the Y

Greetings everyone! I must say, this has been a great month for my bird count. At the end of October I was sitting at 290 which isn’t stellar by ANY means when it comes to the birding community, but something that has taken a decent amount of work to get to – note each of those had to be photographed at an identifiable level of quality. That number put me a mere 10 from a goal I set at the beginning of the year. For simplicity I spread that over the two remaining months making intermediate goals of 5 new additions to my count for each remaining month. I learned early in life to set a goal and then immediately focus on smaller accomplishments that get you to the end point. That strategy has served me well at work, home and my numerous hobbies. Want to get through an ultra-marathon race – NEVER think about the total amount of miles to the end – focus on getting through maybe 5 miles marks or hell, the next tree when the mental darkness starts to set in. The uplifting feeling of accomplishment on the little goals is what keeps you motivated to keep pushing. Well folks, I am happy to say with today’s featured feathered friend I’ve made it to November’s target.

Blue-Winged Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Today I am excited to bring you #295, the Blue-Winged Warbler. It should be no surprise by now, this cute little Warbler comes to you thanks to our trip to the Alabama Gulf Shores. We made our way down there back in April of this year. Like several of the recent posts, this addition to the life list was found at Dauphin Island. I would have been in a world of hurt if we had not caught the fallout down there as that visit really gave a steroid shot to my count. I have to give big kudos to Linda who planned our spring trip around this previously unknown birding location.

Blue-Winged Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Hit the jump to read a bit more about the “Y” bird.

We were actually alerted to this place thanks to a kind birder we met earlier in the year while visiting Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco TX. Apologies, but I cannot remember their names, but we met two ladies while I was tinning the Elegant Trogon that had a made a surprising visit while we were there (link here). While chatting, one of the ladies recommended we check out the island and even invited us to come to her house to check out her feeders complete with address and phone number. I’ve heard horror stories about how “competitive” some birders are and always refreshed when I have a wonderful encounter with a complete stranger that shares the same enthusiasm about birds.

Blue-Winged Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

She did caution us to avoid the second week in April as the place is crazy congested with their annual bird festival. Taking that advice, Linda scheduled us down there the third week which ended up being absolutely the best week thanks to storms that raged over the two weeks prior. This Blue-Winged was one of those Warblers that were replenishing after fighting the storms as they migrated up from Central America.

Blue-Winged Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

In my last post on the Chestnut-Sided, Brad M. commented that he liked the shot where the bird was looking right at me. I responded that I rarely show my straight on shots because they generally “creep” me out. If you don’t believe me, check out an American Bittern from the front with its bill up …shudder! Whoa, stop the presses – apologies, I thought I had already posted the American Bittern shots from earlier in the year – went to reference it and was shocked to see I had forgotten it – will definitely get on that!. You will have to trust me on how goofy they look until then. Anyway, I wrote my response hesitantly knowing this post was on deck which included not one, but two straight on shots. The primary reason for including these head on shot is it provides a distinctive field identifier for this Warbler. They have a very defined black eyeline that starts just behind the eye and extends to the bill which is also black on adults giving them a full face mask look.

Blue-Winged Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Now, if you can get them to tip their head downward a bit – that is when you will notice the large ‘Y’ against the yellow background. When I see that, I am fairly confident I have a Blue-Winged in the tin. Follow it up with two rather large white wing bars and then the bluish grey coloring on the wings. Now for some nitpicking on Cornell’s site. As a general rule, I have no issues with digital darkroom manipulations to refine a particular shot. I might correct white balance, remove a piece of trash in shot or try to pull the subject out from the background and other techniques to present a better product. What I try very hard not to do is mis-characterize a bird especially when it comes to coloring. That means, being very careful with saturation, hues and vibrance. I can tell you for a fact, the bluish hue in this Warbler’s wings does not look like the bright blue that Cornell has in their 7th image and the same image used farther down when it describes the coloring on their ID Info Page (link here). When their black eyes go blue, that’s a clue you are going rogue with the saturation/vibrance slider.

Blue-Winged Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

I’m sure you realize I tend to rely a lot on Cornell’s Overview page for interesting tidbits to pass along in appreciation for you spending time reading my post. One of their Cool facts was related to the hybridization that occurs between Blue-Winged and Golden-Winged Warblers which produces two distinctive and apparently common versions – the Brewster’s and the Lawrence’s. One line caught me by surprise. “Brewster’s have golden wingbars and a white belly (Golden-winged features), but a white throat (a Blue-winged feature).” It is possible they really meant a white “undertail” and not a throat as Blue-Winged do NOT have a white throat. Note, my specimen is not a hybrid. There were Golden-Wings in the area, however, I did to come away empty tinned on that species (you can verify with Ron, but that was not for lack of trying hehehe). I did learn from Cornell that the Blue-Winged and Golden-Winged are 99.97% genetically identical (does that mean I can take 99.97% of a check for the Golden-Winged on my bird count hmmmmm). As a last bit of reference, the Blue-Winged migrates from their wintering grounds in Central American and the Caribbean to the upper eastern half of the US (minus the states north of New York). Once again, a Warbler supposedly available locally but NEVER seen here.

Hope you enjoyed the latest addition to my birding list. I know I am excited – thanks to this post I now know how to get another +1. Time to go process a certain set of pictures from our January Texas trip!

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