Bus Stop Birding


This week’s photo, taken December 16, 2013 near the University of Washington campus in Seattle, WA, features a PALM WARBLER, an uncommon species in our area.

On the morning of December 10th, a local birder is commuting by public bus to the University of Washington. When the bus stops to let someone on, the avian aficionado glances out the window of the bus and notices just a few feet away a small bird on a fence that’s pumping its tail. The tail movement and the yellow under the base of the tail convince him that it’s a PALM WARBLER, an unusual bird for Seattle. Proving that he’s a serious bird-watcher, he quickly exits the bus, even though this isn’t his stop. Soon, he reports his discovery to Washington state’s online bird group, and during the next several days, dozens of people gather at the bus stop, in hopes of spotting this special visitor. Imagine how weird things got for the bus drivers the rest of the week. A driver approaches the bus stop, slows down because people are present, yet when the bus comes to a halt, no one gets on!

Since I was in Mexico last week, I don’t show up at the bus stop until December 16. On that day, I search the vicinity thoroughly, but my efforts only produce a HOUSE SPARROW. Then I remember that the day before, someone reported that the Palm Warbler was hanging out with juncos and chickadees in a parking lot a few blocks east of the bus stop, so I head in that direction. I eventually find a small flock of DARK-EYED JUNCOS, BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES and one BEWICK’S WREN, but no warblers. After studying the mixed flock for several minutes, I decide to walk back to the bus stop for one more try; that is, until I notice on the other side of the wide boulevard a small bird foraging on the ground and out in the open. Even from a distance, I can see the bird’s tail-pumping action and the yellow near the tail, and I know I’ve got my first Palm Warbler in the state of Washington.


About Joe Sweeney

I photograph birds to share the beauty and wonder I find in nature.
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4 Responses to Bus Stop Birding

  1. Brad Snyder says:

    So we have these? Looks very familiar.

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. This is wonderful — after all of your exotic locales (such as Mexico) to find a rare bird at a bus stop in north Seattle! And I never knew that fences could pump their tails!!! (hint: displaced modifier!)

  3. Andrea Billhardt says:

    Merry Christmas to my favorite avian aficionado! And peace to all Palm Warblers on Earth. Thanks for the joy you bring through my computer and into my life. I look forward to more in 2014.

  4. mary jane carpenter says:

    still looking for a partridge in a pear tree…………………
    while enjoying the birds you find and photograph.
    thanks for the delightful education.
    merryChristmas and happy new year! mj

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