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A brief and precious visit

Updated: Jun 1

They’re the last to arrive and the first to leave. It’s only been in the last two years that we’ve learned to find the Canada warbler. We have often heard the call and searched the trees to no avail. By the time they arrive, the trees have leafed out, and these bright yellow birds are usually hidden. Standing on a boardwalk in a marsh with three other birders, I finally located this one very vocal male, singing along with the northern waterthrushes. His striking black necklace confirmed the identification. Recently arrived after a 3,000-mile trip from South America, he was wasting no time calling for a mate. The Canada warbler’s population has declined by 62% between 1970 and 2014, according to Partners in Flight. Learn more about the challenges facing this warbler here. Like so many of the birds I paint, the Canada warbler is precious. The joy of seeing them in their gorgeous breeding plumage is tempered by the knowledge that they are in decline, and without some unforeseen breakthrough in habitat management, we will find them more precious each year. The next time I visited the marsh, he was gone. With luck, another long trip to spend the winter in a shady coffee plantation had already begun. I only hope that he was taking his new offspring with him.

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