The Friday-the-thirteenth full honey moon magic left over from our fledgling Northern Saw-whet Owl encounter continued into the early hours of the morning when I was awakened by the shrill, incessant calling of a Sora. This is a little aquatic rail species that should be breeding in a wetland up in Canada by mid-June, but for some reason was some 5000 feet up in the mountains of NC near the Sam Knob trail head having some sort of shouting match with my tent. Weird.
After decamping Johnny, Lesley and I ran into Marcus Simpson and Marilyn Westphal in the parking lot and following them up the Art Loeb trail to the spot where a Mourning Warbler song had been heard by Merrill Lynch (the naturalist, not the financial firm) on a breeding bird survey several days before.
Mourning Warblers are notoriously elusive skulkers and seeing one, even when you know it in a shrub right in front of you, is almost never easy. Small numbers pass through North Carolina twice each year on migration and occasionally a male is found repeatedly singing at the same place in summer as if he is trying to breed, though there are no definitive records of nesting in the state.
|Mourning Warbler spot, Art Loeb Trail, Shining Rock Wilderness|
Alder Flycatchers, Least Flycatchers and Chestnut-sided Warblers kept us company while we listened to Marcus Simpson's stories of Blue Ridge natural history and for the warbler to return from interminable forays down slope. After a couple hours Marcus and Marilyn left but were replaced by several other birders including a few members of the "Bird Police" (North Carolina Bird Records Committee). At this point a cloud rolled in and the Mourning Warbler finally decided to perch up on a distant snag where he sat and sang for a couple minutes.
|Morning Warbler, Art Loeb Trail|
Despite the sombre name, to see a Mourning Warbler, especially a singing male, in North Carolina is definitely worth celebrating!