Monthly Archives: May 2023

Warblers without the “warbler neck”

Confession: I took this photo three weeks ago. I hope now this female Common Yellowthroat is up north somewhere building a nest or tending her nestlings.

Time flies, birds fly, I can’t keep up!

The male Common Yellowthroat has a mask like a tiny bandito. He picks insects off low undergrowth and seems uncommonly at home on or near the ground, unlike many other warblers.

Yellowthroats nest on the ground too, as I discovered in my backyard one summer back when we lived in New Hampshire.

I spotted these birds in one of the “mosquito impoundment” areas of mangroves, salty wetlands and dikes along the Indian River Lagoon on Hutchinson Island. It was a weird morning where all the birds I saw seemed to be on the ground, not in the trees.

Blurry photos but I had to include them because I have never seen and photographed a Northern Waterthrush before. They are only here briefly during spring and fall migration.

This one was at Ocean Bay Beachside in St. Lucie County, on Hutchinson Island. It was my second stop that morning of Saturday, May 6. Lots of mosquitos here too, and I nearly poisoned myself with bug spray.

The Northern Waterthrush is often an unseen singer whose rich, sweet whistles lure listeners into its attractive habitats, the wooded swamps and bogs of northern North America. These streaky brown songbirds lack the bold colors of many other warblers and don’t forage in forest canopies. They forage at the water’s edge in bogs and still water, where they hunt aquatic insects and small salamanders, all the while bobbing the rear of the body, much like a Solitary Sandpiper, another denizen of shady swamps.

Adorable! I added it to the sidebar list as #236.

I heard a waterthrush earlier in the first location and used Merlin app Sound ID to identify it.


The primary song is a loud, ringing, three-part sweet sweet sweet swee wee wee chew chew chew chew with many minor variations.

You have to look closely to spot this nicely camouflaged Ovenbird. It was along a wooded trail to the beach at Ocean Bay Beachside.

It’s another warbler that forages for insects etc at ground level… so you won’t get “warbler neck” from tipping your head back and staring up into the tree canopy for too long while watching spring warblers.

Finding emeralds in the swamp

How beautiful is the jewel tone eye of this bird?

I found this Double-crested Cormorant perched on the stilt roots of red mangrove, fluffing up and spreading its wings to dry wet feathers.

I was walking along the boardwalk through the swamp at Indian Riverside Park, mostly looking up into the trees for migrating warblers, but occasionally looking down for otters and turtles.

I didn’t expect to find a cormorant here – they are usually actively fishing in a nearby large pond, or resting on a log or branch by the edge of the pond.

But I like that about birdwatching – you go out looking for one thing, with your plans and expectations, and you find something else nice that you weren’t even looking for.

Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder. – E.B. White