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Keep your eye out for migrating warblers


what thoughts ramble
in the redstart’s brain
as the day draws closed
as dusk descends?
is it wormy fuel to lay on fat?
a steady southbound wind
perhaps it’s the flicker
of unseen light
the lure of tropical terrain
is it the flight plan hard-wired–
instinct etched in
by design not likely to change?
or does some warbler learned plan B
come into play
by circumstance rearrange?
fare thee well little bird
may stars bright guide you true
to thicket lush
past falcon’s hush
through dark skies inky blue
it’s my hope
that neither cat
nor glass
will spell your odyssey’s end
but that your tiny wings
some luck
some skill
will bring you back
to inspire me
once again.

My friend J. Drew Lanham is a professor of wildlife biology at Clemson University who is inspired by birds daily.  This poem is his musing on the redstart’s migration.  At this time of year, you never know which warblers you’ll find foraging in the oak trees near the landings building or along Dewees Inlet drive.  Keep an eye out for redstarts, which have been all over the island this week, and some of the warblers below.  I’ve been stopped in my tracks by the busy flitting of redstarts at eye level from the landings porch, and it’s totally worth preparing a beverage and hanging out there for a little while and watching. Exactly this time of year six years ago, I published this post about redstarts.

(This poem was published in a book of poems called “Sparrow Envy.”  (pre-order from Amazon.) Most of the ones I have seen lately have been females and young birds; my sense is that the males migrate earlier. This photo of a male was taken at the Kiawah Island Banding Center.

Other warblers (all photos from Dewees) you might encounter this time of year are:

Prairie Warbler
Northern Parula
Orange crowned warbler
black and white warbler
Black-throated blue warbler
Common Yellowthroat