The world loves a warbler. This is only natural, as the recipe for attraction calls for equal parts beauty and elusiveness. Wood-warblers are certainly brilliant specimens of passerine pulchritude. The 53 North American species of the family Parulidae present a riot of colors and patterns: rich golds and subtle blues, eye stripes and wing bars, streaks and patches. One could scarcely grow tired of seeing such a parade of plumage even if warblers were common. But their scarcity, like that of gems and precious metals, makes them all the more valuable. Instead of lining up at feeders like proper birds, they lurk in the treetops and skulk in the brush. Warblers rarely seem to stick around for long and, last but not least, they’re mighty small.
One wonders how any of us ever ID them successfully.
The primary key to consistent field identification is detailed knowledge of the song, behavior, territory, habitat, and seasonal plumage of each species. Good looks at a new bird coupled with frantic flipping through a field guide may, if you’re lucky, result in an accurate, unquestionable ID. Or it may not. A more certain way to recognize a new bird is to let someone else tell you what it is. After you’ve seen a bird for the first time, really seen it and marked it well, it’ yours forever; subsequent sightings will likely be filled more with enjoyment than uncertainty. Arranging that initial encounter, however, can be tricky. Fortunately, there is a resource for those of us who find that there’s never an expert birder around when you need one. See new warblers in the comfort of your own home with Watching Warblers.
Watching Warblers is one of a series of instructional birding videos produced by skilled wildlife documentarians, Michael Male and Judy Fieth. This particular video explores the lives of all 39 species of wood-warblers that nest in Eastern North America. We absolutely loved it! Every single bird is captured as bold as life, in vivid color and full-throated song. This is as close as you can get to a personal introduction to each exquisite warbler.
In one hour, Watching Warblers provides a detailed look into the lives of its spectacular subjects. Male and Fieth do a phenomenal job of filming each species in its preferred habitat. Although they narrate essential information regarding bird behavior and range, they mostly let the birds do the talking, and these stars captivate. We are treated to intimate glimpses of warblers in the wild, including breeding behavior from nest building to chick rearing. As important as this knowledge is to a more perfect appreciation of these fantastic birds, I was more dazzled by the panoply of prismatic plumage. Warblers are among the most beautiful of birds and this video captures each one in astonishing detail. I cannot imagine ever getting a better look at a warbler than is offered here.
Although Watching Warblers is offered in VHS format, the DVD includes some excellent extras. One of its best features is the ease with which one can call up individual bird listings or a sequential chorus of songs. I take advantage of this feature whenever I’m about to venture out in search of a new warbler. The DVD also has a few shorts about range maps and other bird projects the filmmakers have worked on. I could go on about this video, but the bottom line is Watching Warblers is as good a guide to warblers as you could hope to find. Once you’ve seen it, observed the birds and heard their songs, you’ll find it much easier to identify warblers in the wild. It certainly worked for us. After one viewing, we went out and spotted more species than we have in a long time.
The filmmakers end their narration with a passionate plea for conservation. While some may be put off by this, I applaud them for closing the circle, as it were. Birding is not just about what birds can do for us, but what we as birders can do for birds. I’d also like to point out how utterly envious I am of Michael Male and Judy Fieth. Take the time to learn about them on their website and you’ll find that they’ve filmed wildlife (quite well) all across the country and many places abroad. Based on their extensive portfolio and obvious birding expertise, I conjecture that they’ve captured hundreds of birds on film and likely seen thousands more. Truly they are living the dream!
There is more superior birding video footage where this came from, including an exceptional double DVD, Watching Sparrows. Buy Watching Warblers and other Blue Earth Films videos here.