Wednesday Walk Warbler at Abbott’s Mill

By Jason Beale, Manager, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center

As a naturalist, one of the pleasures of having a favorite “nature spot” is observing changes through the week, month, season, and year.  The weekly Wednesday walk at Abbott’s Mill Nature Center is a great way to check in on what’s going on outside.

Palm Warbler - Photo by Chuck Fullmer
Palm Warbler - Photo by Chuck Fullmer

Having endured a few windy and sleety Wednesdays, this week’s walk, while cold was sunny and windless.  We traveled across the road to the Morton Farm tract.  This area, a mixture of fallow farm fields, park-like stands of trees, and shrubby pond edge is an excellent birding spot to see a variety of species.

Palm Warbler "undertail coverts" - Photo by Chuck Fullmer
Palm Warbler "undertail coverts" - Photo by Chuck Fullmer

One of the most interesting birds that winters here is the Palm Warbler.  This bird typically winters along the southeast coast, though small numbers winter in Delaware.  The bird’s presence is erratic,  but at least a few are found in southern Delaware each winter.  The Palm Warbler has a few behaviors that make finding and identifying it easier.  The first is its association with Eastern Bluebirds.  Both species feed on the ground, though the Palm is more terrestrial than the Bluebird, which hunts from a perch and drops to the ground after small invertebrates.  The striking plumage of the bluebirds coupled with its penchant for power lines makes them fairly easy to find.  Once the Bluebirds are located, scan the ground in the immediate area.  This warbler’s brownish back can blend in with short grass and field habitats, but you may see it bobbing it’s tail as it walks around.  This behavior, along with it’s bright yellow undertail coverts are clues to this bird’s identity.   

Eastern Bluebirds investigating nest box - Photo by Chuck Fullmer
Eastern Bluebirds investigating nest box - Photo by Chuck Fullmer

A pair of Eastern Bluebirds spent a few minutes investigating each of the three nest boxes installed on the property.  The male peeked in first and then the female entered, occasionally carrying a piece of grass.  

The mowed field areas are currently hosting a few dozen Savannah Sparrows, Horned Larks, American Robins, and a female American Kestrel is taking advantage of the plentiful prey.

We finished our walk along the Johnson’s Branch Boardwalk where we found Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and a flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers.  Our resident Pine Warbler stills visits the suet daily and was singing this morning.  Three species of winter warblers within a few hundred yards is certainly a nice primer for spring migration.  We’ll see what this week brings.

Program details:

Weekly Walk at Abbott’s Mill

Wednesdays, 8:00-9:30am

Free to the public

Please note: NO WALK on March 11th.

Call 302-593-0486 for more details

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