Winter Gifts

Though Christmas has come and gone, there are still many winter gifts to enjoy.  Around the East Bay two of my favorites are thriving in this dry, La Nina season.  The camellia trees are painting yards around town with showy flowers that attract some of my favorite birds.  Among the camellia's shiny, large green leaves, Audubon's warblers, also called yellow-rumped warblers or sometimes just "butter butts," are hopping from flower to flower catching insects.  It's almost like watching a circus show on these clear, crisp mornings with flashes of yellow, white, and black as the small birds work through the  red flowers and bright green foliage.  The birds have an unusual adaptation to being able to digest waxy berries such as wax myrtles and bayberries allowing it to winter further north than other warbler species.  On the East Coast, they winter as far north as Newfoundland where the waxy berries persist into winter.  They're in the Bay Area mostly during the late fall to early spring with some of their species migrating southward into Central America.  When the days lengthen, flocks move northward with some heading to the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska to mate and nest in pine forests.  Their range spans all across North and Central America.  It'd be interesting to track individuals to see if they stick to portions of the range or if they change from year to year.  "This year I'm wintering in Costa Rica for a change!"  I'm glad to see both the flower and the bird each winter as they add color, birdsong, and life to a sometimes dreary time of year!

To learn more about Audubon warblers see: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Yellow-rumped_Warbler/id/ac

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