Twitching for Black-throated Green Warbler in Pasadena

“Are you going to try for the Black-throated Green?” my fellow sapsucker-searcher asked. I had seen the reports, but hadn’t thought it would be possible, so hadn’t made note of the specifics. However, the day was still young, so why not?

The Black-throated Green Warbler, that breeds from the central plains east, should be south of the border at this time of year. A year ago I was observing them in Costa Rica. It must have strayed north in the prior week’s storm that streamed into California from Mexico.

“I don’t know where the location in Pasadena is,” I replied.

He whipped out his iPhone where he had programmed the location into its GPS. After looking at it, it seemed easy enough to find – so off I went. He was going to tarry at Veteran’s Park awhile longer and hope to see the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

The Panda Inn where the bird had been seen turned out to be an upscale northern Chinese restaurant, not a motel. I parked in the back and started hunting for warbler habitat. Out front another birder was peering into one of the large trees along the street.

“All I’ve seen are kinglets, yellow-rumps and Townsend’s,” he reported, “but it is quiet for the moment.”

Before long the other birder arrived, and the three of us strained our necks following movement in the trees. We must have provided quite a spectacle. As people approached the restaurant’s door, they stopped to find out what was so intriguing. Each conversation went something like this:

“What are you looking at?”
“A bird,” one of us would answer.
“What kind of a bird?” they would respond as they gazed into the green leaves not seeing anything.
“A little one.”
“Why are you looking here?”
“It’s not supposed to be here.”
“Why?”

It sounded like a conversation with my three-year old grand-daughter. They then shook their heads and walked on.

“We need to come up with a more creative answer,” I laughed.

A waiter walked out. “Is it here today? There have been bird watchers out here every day for a week.” He explained that it was a restaurant patron – a birder – who first spotted it. “Let me know if you see it,” he asked as he returned to the restaurant.

“My neck will ache tomorrow,” the San Pedro birder commented.

“Just consider it a warm-up for spring migration,” I responded. We were following flashes of yellow, straining to follow the flitting movements to determine whether it had the yellow face of a Black-throated Green or the black mask of a Townsend’s, the clear distinguishing difference between the two species. All three we spotted had black masks.

“I almost called the police. You looked suspicious,” a patron said as he was leaving. “When we mentioned it to our waiter, he explained.”

My legs were aching after standing on the sidewalk for an hour and I wished I had taken time to use the restroom at Veteran’s Park. It would be just my luck to leave and have it appear. I had missed birds before from taking a potty break.

At 2:00 the two of us who had some distance to drive called it quits. The Pasadena birder stayed on.

When the L.A. Rare Bird Report came out two days later, it stated that the stray warbler had not been reported since January 31. We had looked for it on February 2, so it must have gotten enough sustenance to head south where it belonged.

Even though the bird never appeared, the twitch was an interesting experience.

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