Northern Parulas End the Morning

Continued from Trying to Spot an Ovenbird.

The prime time for birding had passed, but that didn’t mean we were done for the morning. Passing a low tree just beside the office building, we heard a strange buzzing.

“Is it a bird call?” I asked, and Mom nodded, approaching the tree with her binoculars.

We were in full view of the whole camp, staring at a few branches with our binoculars. No one said birding looks cool. In fact, in the documentary “The Central Park Effect” about birding in New York City, one interviewee noted birders are particularly vulnerable with binoculars raised, unable to see anything around them. Still, I normally don’t care if others see me while I am looking for birds, even if they are not birders themselves.

nature, northern parula, maine, birding, bird, warbler

This is the way I see it: humans care a lot about really unimportant things. Have you ever seen people get worked up over a fantasy football draft? You probably have, because everyone gets worked up over their fantasy baseball teams, which I should remind them is not real. If your team does poorly you might lose a few bucks among your friends or office mates, but there are no other negative ramifications. Yet, no one gives them flack for their hobby, and so I accept no flack for mine. At least my birds are alive and their well-being does have important effects on their ecosystems. Not to knock fantasy football aficionados – as long as they don’t mock me!

Back to birding. I was determined not to be foiled again by a bird smaller than my palm, and I desperately scanned the tree canopy above for any sign of movement.

Lucky for me, Northern Parulas are not difficult to spot. Arguably one of the most beautiful birds to set foot – er, fly – in America, the parulas have white bellies, brilliant yellow and orange throats, blue heads and backs, and bright white eye rings. Our particular little Northern Parula could not have cared less about us; it was breeding time, and breeding time meant a ridiculous amount of energy expended finding food. The tree it had alighted on was rich in insects, and we were able to have a few very satisfying looks at the bird as it stuffed a large green caterpillar into its beak.

Erika Zambello

About Erika Zambello

Erika Zambello is a writer, birder, and photographer, born and raised in Maine. She has a bachelor’s degree in Government and Anthropology from Cornell University, and a master’s degree in Environmental Management from Duke University, specializing in ecosystem science and conservation. Her love of the outdoors was inspired by her childhood in Maine, and she returned for her National Geographic Young Explorer grant in 2015-2016.