Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the February 18, 2008 Newsletter written in the community of 28 de Junio, in the Central Valley 8 kms east of Pujiltic, Chiapas, MÉXICO
about 800 meters in elevation, ± LAT. 16° 18'N, LONG. -92° 28'

Each day at 10 AM Eliezar comes studying typing on my computer. While he's at work I sit in my door writing and looking around. Next to my door in a spiny, Senna- like shrub absolutely glowing with abundant, yellow, bee-buzzed, Bean-Family flowers and sheltering a little Inca Dove on her nest of two white eggs, each morning an Orange-crowned Warbler comes foraging hard for tiny arthropods.

It took awhile to be sure of this warbler's identity. In the best of times Orange-crowned Warblers are probably the most drab-looking of all wood-warblers. It's the only warbler I know whose best fieldmark is the absence of all decent fieldmarks.

With its form, unceasing nervous energy, sharp and slender beak, my morning visitor is definitely a warbler, but beyond that there's nothing but hints of vague streaking on the breast, the rest being all grayish, brownish nondescriptness. During spring migration sometimes you can see a small, orangish crown-patch, but you can't depend on it. I've seen it once or twice in Mississippi, just before the birds headed north. The species spends its summers in western Canada, Alaska and the western US.

The interesting thing is that I've never seen my Orange-crowned Warbler in the yellow-flowered tree any other time than when Eliezer is studying. The bird isn't there during my campfire breakfast at dawn, though other species come and go, nor is it there in the afternoons. My Orange-crowned Warbler is like me, keeping to a regular, predictable schedule.

However, I'm sure that before long, also like me, one morning he'll simply not be there, and won't ever return. I've seen such behavior in lots of overwintering warblers down here: For awhile they make routine rounds like clockwork, the same every day, but then they vanish, and I assume that they have simply switched to regular routines someplace else.