A Northern Parula Warbler in a Backyard Oasis

Northern parula sitting on a tree limb in Toronto, Ontario

It was this past spring that Bob and I finally visited the Long Point area of Ontario during the peak period of songbird migration.  We had a long wish list of new birds that we would like to see, and on this list was a Northern Parula.  We failed to spot any when in that area of the province but did have one spend the afternoon in our Toronto backyard soon thereafter.  What a pleasant surprise!

Northern parula sitting on a plant leaf in Toronto, Ontario

The Northern Parula’s presence first was noticed by Bob when the warbler appeared suddenly on one of the Hosta leaves where drops of water had accumulated from the splash of the fountain.  I didn’t immediately know what species this bird was, but I recognized it as something new for our record book.

Northern parula sitting in an apple tree in Toronto, Ontario

Two shots were all that Bob had time to fire off before the Northern Parula took flight to the back of our property.  I was keeping my fingers crossed that it would stick around for awhile.  I had pruning to do on the Annabelle Hydrangea so planned to remain in the back garden, and I told Bob that I would keep the camera handy while he proceeded to cut the grass in the front yard.

Northern parula sitting among leaves in Toronto, Ontario

It is hard to get any work done in the yard during spring migration because we find our eyes always turned to the trees.  Any flicker of movement draws our attention from what we are doing.  I kept a keen eye on the furthest apple tree and was delighted to see that the Northern Parula was remaining within its branches.

Northern parula sitting on a tree branch, in Toronto, Ontario

The Northern Parula was energetically searching among the leaves for insects, so I had frequent views of its posterior, and while the warbler was so engaged, I was emboldened to try to sneak a little closer.  I’m always trying for a better vantage point and closer look.

Northern parula looks to camera in Toronto, Ontario

Knowing that the Northern Parula’s ideal breeding habitat includes coniferous forests adjacent to marshes, lakes or ponds, I knew that our glimpses of this bird would be brief before it took flight to locations further north.  I felt extremely lucky to have such clear views of this bird since often they keep to the dense foliage of the canopy when feeding.

Photo of a Northern parula in Toronto, Ontario

Northern Parulas are among the smallest of the warblers next in size only to Kinglets and Gnat-catchers.  Seen here, the brassy-green back patch is quite pronounced.  It is this trait that gave rise to the original name of the species, Blue Yellow-backed Warbler.

Photo of a Northern parula taking flight in Toronto, Ontario

Even as I crept furtively around the yard making halfhearted attempts to remain hidden, the Northern Parula went about its business.  As is the case with all warblers, its own movements were quick and erratic making for a challenge to photograph.

Photo of a Northern parula sitting on apple limb in Toronto, Ontario

After snapping a good number of photographs, I had to get back at the yard work.  The Hydrangea wasn’t going to prune itself!  The camera remained at arm’s reach because I never could tell what might show up in my garden next.  Spring was a very busy time.

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