Migrants of the human kind have been in the news here for most of the year, but this week, we began seeing migrants of the feathered variety stopping over in the Queen City for some rest and refreshment.
I drove to the Rincon Del Diablo on Saturday morning after the sun had already been up for an hour or so. The morning sky was cloudy, a moving impressionist painting in blue and gray, and I had to wait for a time before it was light enough to take photos.
Despite the change in seasons on the calendar, it was still warm – 78 degrees Fahrenheit, according to WeatherUnderground, with 78 percent humidity. Relief came in the form of a southeast breeze that started blowing shortly after sunrise.
I really thought it was a little early to start looking for migrating birds, but never think for a minute that you have Mother Nature figured out because she’ll prove you wrong every time.
I was watching a group of House Finches in the branches of a dead hackberry tree when I noticed a slightly smaller, thinner bird on the other side of the tree.
I looked at it through my binoculars and saw that it was a young female Yellow-rumped Warbler, the first of – hopefully! – many migrating warblers I’ll be seeing along the creek this year.
Yellow-rumped Warblers are one of our most common fall and winter migrants, with many of them spending the winter here.
These warblers are considered short- to long-distance migrants, as they nest and breed in Alaska, Canada, the Rocky Mountains and the far northeastern U.S. states and winter in the southern U.S., Mexico and Central America.
These lively little birds can be identified – predictably – by the patch of bright yellow feathers on their rumps, leading many birdwatchers to refer to them as “butter butts.”
The bird I saw on Saturday was very pale, with a yellow throat that identified her as a member of the “Audubon’s” subspecies of Yellow-rumped Warbler.
There is also a “Myrtle’s” subspecies that can be identified by a white instead of a yellow throat.
These birds can be found throughout Del Rio, but will be especially prevalent in any area that has big trees, like the pecans than be found along the creek and in some of south Del Rio’s residential neighborhoods.
Yellow-rumped Warblers are also very easy to see because they seem relatively comfortable around people. So keep your eyes peeled for these sprightly little guys.
Field Notes: Two of my good friends, David Harrison and Frank Larson, who both live in south Del Rio, reported some extraordinary activity at their hummingbird feeders over the past week. David said he and his wife Connie have five feeders they refill weekly, and Frank sent the following: “The hummer travelers are here. They are doing a gallon a day right now.” Frank also noted his feeders have been up for the past 15 years, and the hummingbirds return to the same ones every year.
Karen Gleason is the senior staff writer for the Del Rio News-Herald. She loves nature and the outdoors and has been an avid bird watcher since childhood.