Swainson’s Warbler, Westmoreland County PA

On 05/22/2012 after I dropped off my daughter at school I decided to do a transect count along Linn Run Road from near Rector, PA going up to the top of Laurel Summit. For those of you who have not been there, it is an extremely diverse area with 15-17 species of wood-warblers that breed along this stretch. It’s like spring migration all summer… Blackburnian Warblers are literally dripping off the trees, Cerulean Warblers are common, Canada Warblers are singing in the thickets and also very common, Louisiana Waterthrush song flows loudly from the stream…. an incredible place! I used to bring the 2nd Pennsylvania Breeding Bird Atlas field crew here for training, a test of anyone’s abilities! I was about 3/4 of the way up the mountain along Linn Run Road, near Fish Run Trail when I stopped dead in disbelief. Did I just hear what I think I did? I got out of the car and stood on the edge of the road for several minutes. Nothing… I thought to myself “that it really seemed like a good candidate for Swainson’s Warbler”.

I was sure enough that I grabbed my camera and headed into the woods to check it out. Several minutes later I got my confirmation, up on the hill behind Linn Run I heard it call again, a definite Swainson’s Warbler! Wow, what a surprise!!! I quickly got out my phone and started recording, of course it did not call again for about 5 minutes at which point I had already stopped the recording. It was now calling further up the hill. I walked down the trail towards it and heard it several times again, still too far to see it. I started recording again, it was calling more now, but was drowned out with all the other birds singing. I got several recordings and then tried to track it down. After quickly sending a note to Facebook and attempting to post to PARBA, which was not working for me, I walked further down the trail to try and get a look. I could see the area it was singing, but could not actually see it. I tried many different angles, but nothing. At some point it moved back down where I was earlier so I headed back, by the time I walked down to the area it was not singing anymore. I waited for some time to get a bead on it when it sang again, but it never did (at least while I was there). I am hoping that this bird will stick aroung and possibly find a mate, enough of these routinely overshoot you would think someday one will get lucky and find a girl 🙂

Please if you go there do NOT broadcast playback to get it to come in for photos or whatever, it would be very nice if it stuck around and bred, and doing so could drive it out of the area!

The recording from Fish Run Trail is below the picture. You can also hear calling Red-eyed Vireo, Veery, Black-billed Cuckoo, Tennessee Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Canada Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and Swainson’s Warbler. In addition a lot of birds singin, the stream noise is loud. This song is much shorter than some I have heard. The ones at Powdermill had a similar song to this, not sure if its diagnostic for these Appalachian Swainson’s Warblers or not. The SWWA calls are tough to hear in the beginning (one around 8s and 20s), but two easier ones are at about 32 and 39 seconds. Its a very abbreviated song.

Spectrogram showing one of the Swainson's Warbler songs