Late summer and Autumn brings the return of the migrating birds as they travel along long known routes that bring them from their northerly breeding grounds to their winter sanctuaries. This time of year can be challenging for many of us with birds showing up in different life stages, including first year birds, non-breeding colors, stages of molting, stages of feather wear, and the list goes on. It can also be a fun time to see all of this in our backyards and at our favorite birding hotspots. Having a camera on your outing helps because a photo allows you to go to the internet or your trusted field guide to make an identification. Here this female Chestnut-sided Warbler is in her first fall plumage with only a faint hint of the chestnut coloring along her flanks to help with identification.
In leafy second-growth woods, clearings, and thickets, this warbler is often common, hopping about in the saplings with its tail cocked up at a jaunty angle. It is apparently much more numerous today than it was historically: John James Audubon, roaming eastern North America in the early 1800s, saw this bird only once. The cutting of forests evidently has created more brushy habitat for Chestnut-sided Warblers, even as it has made other birds less common.