One of the greatest pleasures of summertime is standing in my Wisconsin backyard, not far from the maple and the busy finch feeders that hang from it, and simply listening. As the sunlight dapples and young wings shake overhead, the incessant calls of begging fledglings fill the air.
In “Jewel of the Swamp” in this issue (see page 16), author and photographer Mac Stone describes standing in a different place — on an elevated boardwalk in South Carolina’s ancient and beautiful Francis Beidler Forest, in Harleyville — and hearing a similar ringing sound: the clear, high song of Prothonotary Warbler, the species pictured on our cover. The bird is one of North America’s best-studied and most charismatic warblers, and Beidler is arguably the best place in the country to see, and hear, adults and their young. About 2,000 pairs nest there.
Naturalist, environmental educator, and photographer Laure Wilson Neish has savored the sights and sounds of new bird life, too. As she relates in her article “Invitation to Observe” (page 26), between 2008 and 2012, she lent her considerable observational skills to British Columbia’s successful first Breeding Bird Atlas. The volunteer work made her a better birder, she says, and provided countless opportunities to photograph birds in breeding plumage as they displayed, squabbled, foraged, built nests, and engaged in other behaviors. Then, at the end of each season, she was rewarded with a delightful, musical parade of goofy-looking youngsters.
According to Contributing Editor Kenn Kaufman, identifying the members of that parade is one of the most challenging and fleeting ID challenges of the entire birding year. Yet, as he explains in his column “ID Tips” (page 36), there are telltale signs that you can use to identify juveniles. His tips are what I’ll be thinking of as the songs and calls of the young of the year brighten the days and weeks ahead.
Chuck Hagner, editor