It is raining. And it’s forecast to keep raining all week.
This means not only that I’m cold and damp the entire time I’m at the ponds but also that watching my fish through the raindrop-rippled water is almost futile. Each day I put a female fish in a jar and lower her into an enclosure with a male in it. I leave her there for about 10 minutes as encouragement for the male to start building a nest (or as encouragement for him to keep tending his nest if he already has one, because I don’t have females ready for the mate choice trials yet). I have to keep an eye on the male all this time to see if he starts his courtship display and to try to spot the nest if he’s made one. This is pretty tricky in the rain because I can barely see anything. And, oddly, the fish seemed less inclined to do anything when it rains. Possibly this makes sense since there’s a strong visual component to stickleback courtship and there’s less sunlight, but possibly I’m just projecting my misery onto the fish.
In the middle of today’s attempt to watch the stickleback, I was almost dive-bombed by a bird. This is not unusual when it’s sunny because the swallows are incorrigible show-offs, but they don’t fly around as much when it rains. I tore myself away from the fish (so terribly difficult) to see a flock of brightly-coloured yellow-rumped warblers hopping around the gravel and occasionally swooping over the pond.
It’s still the early end of spring migration, so these birds are among the first warblers returning to the breeding grounds from Central and South America. According to a bird person who happened to be there today, when it rains they pause in their migration and forage in flocks like the one we saw today. Since they’re about to start their breeding season, their plumage is freshly moulted and their colours are bright. In addition to the yellow rump, the males have white patches on their tails and wings, yellow forehead, throat, and sides, and a black chest band. Females also have the yellow rump and throat but are greyish everywhere else. The biologist in me notes that the yellow-rumped warbler is actually a group of four species (which have been lumped together as Dendroica coronata or split apart multiple times throughout history), and the birds I saw today are technically Audubon’s warblers, Dendroica coronata auduboni.
These warblers are probably migrants on their way further north, but I hope they stay around as long as the rains do…they cheer me up a lot!