A young male Common Yellowthroat, showing a faint black facial mask.

Birds of Nakusp

This week's column looks at two warbler species native to the area.

Early this summer I wrote an article about the several species of warblers that occur in our region. All warblers are primarily insect eaters; since such food is more-or-less impossible to find in BC winters, they leave us in the late summer and head for more tropical locales. I was quite surprised a couple of weeks ago when I encountered two warbler species on the same day in Nakusp.

I was walking through the long grasses between the village and the lakeshore, just to the east of the boat launch, when I heard a familiar call note coming from deep in the grass. I was quite sure it was a Common Yellowthroat but wanted to see it to be sure. After a bit of searching, I did manage a quick look as it moved from one hiding place to another. Like most warblers, this bird had already lost its bright and colourful breeding plumage. Adult males in the spring and early summer have a bright yellow breast and a bold, bandit-like black mask through the eyes. By September, their colours are much more subdued. Common Yellowthroat is a fairly common breeding bird in our valley. They are often found in marshes, but also manage quite well in other damp habitats; roadside ditches, for example. They breed regularly in the marshes at the east end of Summit Lake, but also in the ditches of Brouse Loop.

The second warbler I encountered, just moments later, was an Orange-crowned Warbler. Contrary to its name, you would have great difficulty seeing any orange on its head! There are a few orangey-brown feathers on the centre of the crown, but they are rarely visible when observing this bird in the field. Compared to most warblers, the Orange-crowned is not particularly colourful. Most individuals are a drab yellow-green colour, although some are brighter than others. At this time of year they are greyer in colour except for some yellow retained on the underside of the tail. Orange-crowned Warblers breed throughout most of BC but their occurrence is somewhat patchy. In our valley they seem to avoid the valley bottoms. I do see them around Summit Lake sometimes, but they are more likely to be found along the Forest Service road leading up from the valley.

The most likely warbler to occur here in late October is the Yellow-rumped Warbler. This species is known to be the hardiest of the warblers and does sometimes over-winter in southern BC. On a few occasions, I have seen them during mid-winter in Nakusp.

 

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