Chestnut-Sided Warbler (Photos by Don Reimer)
Chestnut-Sided Warbler (Photos by Don Reimer)
Around 4:30 a.m. each morning, I anticipate that a resident male cardinal or a particular chirping robin will launch their dawn chorus that rises to a crescendo within an hour or so. A resourceful Blue Jay also mimics the two-syllabled whistles of the Broad-Winged Hawk pair that nests in a nearby grove. One theory is that, by imitating an imminent predator, the jay clears away other competing birds from my feeders.

As we enter the final days of June, nesting birds have established territorial footholds in our local woods and back yards. So for the next few weeks, the old maxim “What you see is what you get” truly applies to the Maine birding scene. Barring predator attacks or catastrophic weather events, June through July is a predictable, stable period for most birds.

Song-wise, some characteristics have changed slightly as the nesting season progresses. Some warblers have altered their earlier song types, switching from intense, accented songs to sedate, scaled-down versions.

Of the eight species of nesting warblers within earshot of my back deck, the male Chestnut-Sided Warbler is a good case in point. Upon his mid-May arrival, this bird was all about establishing and advertising his territory and attracting a mate as he proclaimed his repetitive, emphatic “Pleased, Pleased, Pleased to MEETCHA!” message. These days he often uses a toned-down, loose trill to maintain territorial contact with his mate.

By contrast, the Black and White Warbler’s thin, squeaky wheel song varies little with the seasons. Its habitual pursuit of larvae and live insects among large branches and tree trunks also persists throughout summer. Creeping up and down and probing bark crevices with its pick-like bill, this warbler’s behavior could easily qualify as a nuthatch. Despite their devotion to limb surfaces, Black and Whites nest on the ground near the base of a tree, stump or rock.

Another ground-nesting warbler of deciduous forest, the Ovenbird issues his ringing “teacher, teacher, teacher!” song from a mid-level branch. Methodically he bobs along the branch, acting as if his feet were stuck in glue. This warbler’s song actually builds in volume and intensity near the end. The female Ovenbird constructs her well-concealed, dome-shaped nest in a depression of dead leaves, lining it with grasses, plant fibers and rootlets. Shaped like an old-fashioned oven, the nest is nearly invisible from above.

Several American Redstarts inhabit the second-growth woods behind my house. Redstarts are renowned for their showy, active behavior, flashing the yellow or orange patches on their sides, wings and tail during courtship and daily foraging activities.

The yellow-toned female Redstart typically constructs a cup-like nest within about a week’s time. One unusual nest was built in less than three days, representing 650 to 700 trips to the nest with construction materials in tow.

The adult male Redstart’s distinctive black and orange plumage makes it hard to mistake it for other warblers. However, it’s always worth checking individual birds that don’t quite match those picture-perfect patterns in your bird guide. Hearing a Redstart singing close by, I spotted what first appeared to be a yellow-patterned female.

With closer observation, I learned that the Redstart in question wasn’t a female at all. It was a young male that had hatched last spring and had only partially acquired its adult plumage. Its gray head and a few emerging black feathers on the face, throat and chest were the convincing evidence. As with most warblers, full adult plumage is achieved in the second year of life.

Be listening for the bird voices in your woods or neighborhood and seek out those that are singing.