We’re passionate about birds and nature. That’s why we opened a Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in our community.
Vintage Oaks at Novato,
104 Vintage Way, Suite A-7
Novato, CA 94945
Phone: (415) 893-0500
Fax: (415) 893-0511
Email: Send Message
Mon - Sat: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sun: 11:00 am - 5:00 pm
Located between Macy's Furniture/BevMo and Pier 1.
Yellow-rumped warbler eating mealworm - local photo by S. Hunt
Warblers evoke high passion from many birders—a passion often opaque even to sympathetic, but more casual bird lovers. In the eastern part of the country, spring warbler migration is the most thrilling part of the year for birdwatchers, with the treetops suddenly filled with an influx of newly-arrived and soon-to-depart species—colorful, active, challenging, gone. We have fewer warbler species overall in the west, and that group is further winnowed down in winter when most insect-eating birds head south, leaving us with two main species which pass the winter with us: the yellow-rumped warbler and the Townsend’s warbler.
Townsend's Warbler eating suet
Yellow-rumped Warbler eating Bark Butter
Without tools or furnishings, without connections or backing, without so much as a hand-bag in which to keep a few cherished belongings, this brave young Argonaut faces the world… “Ho ho! Who cares! The world is mine. Not a tree, but I shall explore it; not a canyon, but I shall quaff water from its depths; not a mountain, but I shall mock at its glaciers; not a tempest, but I shall know how to escape its fury. Ho ho!” And so this tiny warbler, penniless and homeless, threads mazes which no surveyor has ever chained, scales heights which no aneroid has ever measured, sleeps in a hundred and forty different beds, from the lowly weed to the fir tree’s loftiest pinnacle, lunches at ten thousand counters, and comes back to us winter by winter, artless, unspoiled, cheerful, and courageous.
Townsend's warbler at bath - local photo by Gary Walter
Townsend's Warbler eating mealworms
On returning, I was surprised to find Mr. N[uttall] and Captain T. picking the last bones of a bird which they had cooked. Upon inquiry, I ascertained that the subject was an unfortunate owl which I had killed in the morning, and had intended to preserve, as a specimen. The temptation was too great to be resisted by the hungry Captain and naturalist, and the bird of wisdom lost the immortality which he might otherwise have acquired.
Thornburg had been killed this morning by Hubbard, the gunsmith… This Thornburg was an unusually bold and determined man, fruitful in inventing mischief, as he was reckless and daring in its prosecution. His appetite for ardent spirits was of the most inordinate kind. During the journey across the country, I constantly carried a large two-gallon bottle of whiskey, in which I deposited various kinds of lizards and serpents and when we arrived at the Columbia the vessel was almost full of these crawling creatures. I left the bottle on board...and on my return found that Thornburg had decanted the liquor from the precious reptiles which I had destined for immortality, and he and one of his pot companions had been happy upon it for a whole day.
Sometimes, it can feel like naming birds after people is a rather empty gesture to some forgotten person’s vanity. But once you know a little of this man’s story, his deep love for birds and science, and his strong general optimism, “Townsend” begins to feel rather more meaningful.
We actually have one more, atypical warbler species that is found here not only in the winter, but all year round, albeit in reduced numbers from their winter peak: the common yellowthroat. Unlike our other warblers, including both the two above and our summer species, yellowthroats do not forage for insects in woodland and forest trees, giving observers the classic birder's ailment known as "warbler neck." Instead, yellowthroats are residents of marshes, skulking amongst the freshwater cattails or dashing down under the salt marsh pickleweed. Females are a relatively muted yellow, but males like this one have a striking black bandit mask. Look for them in marshes and wetlands around the county; probably the easiest place to see them locally is in the cattails that greet you in the first pond at Las Gallinas Ponds in San Rafael.
Photo by JanetandPhil on Flickr.
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