If I had read my bird books more carefully, the suet eating would not have been surprising. This bird and the yellow-rumped (myrtle) warbler - another very early migrant, are both known to come to suet feeders. This habit may be a life-saver for them if there are lots of cold spells after they arrive. The females and young pine warblers are pretty impossible to identify by sight without having one in your hand and measuring. The males, however, are bright yellow from the bill on down the breast, have two white wing stripes, and are large for a warbler, over five inches. The tail has long white areas underneath. The song we heard was the more common slow, musical trill, rather like the chipping sparrow, four to seven per minute. They also do a very fast trill, I read. They continue singing into the fall, so how on earth did I miss it all these years? It is true, however, that the pine warbler is more common in the Adirondacks than it was years ago, according to the latest NYS Breeding Bird Atlas.
The pine warbler moves rather "sluggishly", it says there, as it moves along branches probing for insects. This sluggishness is relative as most warblers are pretty frenetic. I have seen it move like this, mostly in the tall pines nearby. As it has been here for over a week, I am hoping it will find a mate and they will build their nest far out on a pine branch in a cluster of needles and 25 to 100 feet up. What a treat to get to know a new species in my own front yard.
I will be leading a bird walk in the next week or so, after most of the warblers are back in the cedar swamp across the road and in the upland woods. Let me know if you want to be told when it is going to happen. It will be around 8 a.m. and we will walk along River Road near my home. If you are a little late, you could drive along until you see us and park along the road. The exact day will depend on the weather forecast, when the birds get here and the ringleaders can come. We will look at wild flowers too. If you are really serious, you will need a waist pack to put your bird book and notebook in, leaving your hands free for binoculars.
By the way, you can tell a really great birder by how grimy their binoculars are!