A Little Adventure in Birding

By John McFerrin

The photograph which illustrated the story in the September Voice about the Brooks Bird Club and its 85th anniversary is of a Sutton’s Warbler.  In searching for a picture, I came across a story about a group of West Virginia birders who adopted as their mission a sighting of the Sutton’s Warbler.

It seems that the elusive bird was only known to be found, in West Virginia at least, around Harper’s Ferry.  A group of birders, named the Sutton’s Seekers, made annual field trips to that area in hopes of seeing one.  In addition, the Brooks Bird Club does an annual “foray”, (their equivalent of summer camp) to different parts of the state.

During the 1975 foray in Raleigh County, the group heard the call of a Sutton’s Warbler.  They knew it was a Sutton’s Warbler because its song repeated.  The song is very similar to that of the Northern Parula.  Since the Northern Parula’s song does not repeat, they knew they were dealing with a Sutton’s Warbler.  They called in more expert birders (as if anyone who knew this song detail was not expert enough) for a positive identification.  They then netted the bird, stared at it, photographed it, and released it.

The whole story, with more detail, is in American Birds, Volume 29, Number 4 (1975).  Should you not have your issue handy, you can read it at  https://sora.unm.edu/node/2587.  There is no known record of the encounter from the bird’s perspective, although it may have appeared in the Alien Abductions section of the bird equivalent of The National Enquirer.