An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter of September 8, 2008
issued from Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula


A hint of a cool front moved through late this week so on Saturday afternoon temperatures didn't exceed 94° F, (34.4° C), which felt good. Saturday morning I heard a familiar TCHIK, TCHIK from a spreading acacia, saw a familiar kind of nervous, flitting bird-movement not observed since I've been here, and I knew instantly that the first migrating warblers had arrived with that cool front.

It was a female Parula Warbler, her olive back-patch spread like a neat cape across her blue-gray upperparts, white wingbars flashing, yellow throat and chest blending into white below, a quintessential Parula, and I was so glad to see her. During my hermit days in Mississippi, Northern Parulas were among the most common birds in the Spanish-Moss-hung Pecan and Loblolly-Pine trees around my trailer.

Up there, Northern Parulas were among the first migrant warblers to arrive in spring, along with the Black-and-whites. In my March 17th, 2002 Newsletter, I speak of them arriving around my camp in "huge numbers, singing their heads off."

So, Northern Parulas appear to be early birds, both coming and going. Here in this heavy heat and sweaty scrub, a warbler's nervous energy adds a whole new element, one of airiness and lightheartedness. Maybe lightheartedness because down here they don't have to reckon with courtship, nesting, territorial defense and such. Before them now spreads a whole season of simply eating and staying alive -- until next February or so when hormones will inject frenzy and obsession back into their lives, discomfiting them to the point that in early March they'll abandon their tropical paradise, and head back to Mississippi and beyond.