Monday, April 12, 2021

Episode 572 (4-12-21): Warblers Announce Spring Bird Migration

Click to listen to episode (4:26)

Sections below are the following:

Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.)

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 4-12-21.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of April 12, 2021.  This revised episode from April 2013 is part of a series this year of spring-related episodes.

MUSIC – ~ 18 sec – Lyrics: “I went outside, the rain fallin’ on the branches bare.   And I smiled, ‘cause I could feel a change in the air.”

That’s part of “The Coming Spring,” on Andrew VanNorstand’s 2019 album, “That We Could Find a Way to Be,” featuring Kailyn Wright on vocals.  It opens an episode about the feathered “changes in the air” that take place each spring in Virginia.  We start with a series of mystery sounds.  Have a listen for about 15 seconds, and see if you can guess what’s making these three different high-pitched songs, each heard just once.  And here’s a hint: These small creatures make big journeys, twice a year.

SOUNDS  - ~12 sec

If you guessed warblers, you’re right!  And if you’re an experienced birder, you may have recognized the songs of a Bay-breasted Warbler, Palm Warbler, and Tennessee Warbler.  These three species breed in Canada and the northern United States, but they winter in Central and South America, and they’re among the birds that may pass through Virginia during spring or fall migration.  Virginia’s location along the Atlantic coast and Chesapeake Bay allows Commonwealth birders to have a chance to see songbirds, waterfowl, and birds of prey that migrate along the broad, eastern North American route known as the Atlantic Flyway, one of four main migratory routes on this continent.  For example, while about 100 bird species breed in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, over 200 species have been identified there, particularly during the spring migration from April to June.

The Colorado-based organization Environment for the Americas, which has helped coordinate an annual World Migratory Bird Day, has called bird migration, quote, “one of the most important and spectacular events in the Americas.”  Virginia’s part of that spectacle, every spring and fall.

Thanks to Lang Elliott for permission to use the three warbler species sounds, from the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs.  Thanks also to Andrew VanNorstrand for permission to use part of “The Coming Spring.”  We close with part of another song, whose title captures how many people may feel about spring’s arrival after a long winter.  Here’s about 20 seconds of “At Long Last,” by the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, Va.-based band, The Steel Wheels, from their 2011 album, “Live at Goose Creek.”

MUSIC – ~ 22 sec – instrumental


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close this show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This Virginia Water Radio episode revises and replaces Episode 157, 4-15-13,

The sounds of the Bay-breasted Warbler, Palm Warbler, and Tennessee Warbler were taken from the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs-Eastern Region CD set, by Lang Elliott with Donald and Lillian Stokes (Time Warner Audio Books, copyright 1997), used with permission of Lang Elliott.  Lang Elliot’s work is available online at the “Music of Nature” Web site,

“The Coming Spring,” from the 2019 album “That We Could Find a Way to Be,” is copyright by Andrew VanNorstrand, used with permission.  The music was used previously by Virginia Water Radio in Episode 509, 1-27-20.  More information about Andrew VanNorstrand is available online at

“At Long Last,” from the 2011 album “Live at Goose Creek,” is copyright by The Steel Wheels, used with permission.  More information about The Steel Wheels is available online at

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at


North American migratory bird flyways.  Map by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, accessed online at, 4/9/21.


Bay-breasted Warbler painting originally published between 1827 and 1838 by John James Audubon in Birds of America (plate 154).  Image made available for public use by the National Audubon Society, online at; specific URL for this image is

Palm Warbler painting originally published between 1827 and 1838 by John James Audubon in Birds of America (plate 163).  Image made available for public use by the National Audubon Society, online at; specific URL for this image is

Tennessee Warbler painting originally published between 1827 and 1838 by John James Audubon in Birds of America (plate 154).  Image made available for public use by the National Audubon Society, online at; specific URL for this image is


Used for Audio 

Chandler S. Robbins et al., A Guide to Field Identification of Birds of North America, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2001.

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, “All About Birds,” online at
The Bay-breasted Warbler entry is online at
The Palm Warbler entry is online at
The Tennessee Warbler entry is online at

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, “Birds of the World,” online at (subscription required).
The Bay-breasted Warbler entry is online at
The Palm Warbler entry is online at
The Tennessee Warbler entry is online at

Environment for the Americas, “World Migratory Bird Day,” online at 

Stan Tekiela, Birds of Virginia Field Guide, Adventure Publications, Inc., Cambridge, Minn., 2002.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Great Dismal Swamp National Refuge, “Wildlife and Habitat,” online at  The Refuge’s bird brochure, with checklist, is online (as a PDF) at

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “Migratory Bird Program,” online at  Information on bird migratory flyways is online at

Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (formerly Department of Game and Inland Fisheries), Fish and Wildlife Information Service,” online at  Warblers are online at this link.
The Bay-breasted Warbler entry is online at
The Palm Warbler entry is online at
The Tennessee Warbler entry is online at

___, “List of Native and Naturalized Fauna in Virginia, April 2018,” online (as a PDF) at

For More Information about Birds in Virginia and Elsewhere

Chesapeake Bay Program, “Birds,” online at

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, “Merlin Photo ID.”  The application for mobile devices allows users to submit a bird photograph to get identification of the bird. Information is available online at

Cornell University Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society, “eBird,” online at  Here you can find locations of species observations made by contributors, and you can sign up to contribute your own observations.

National Audubon Society, online at

University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, “Animal Diversity Web,” online at

Virginia Society of Ornithology, online at  The Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the study, conservation, and enjoyment of birds in the Commonwealth.

Xeno-canto Foundation Web site, online at  This site provides bird songs from around the world.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Birds” subject category.

Following are links to other spring-themed episodes.

Eastern Phoebe – Episode 416, 4-16-18.
Frog and Toad Medley – Episode 408, 2-19-18.
Rhododendrons – Episode 574, 4-26-21.
Spring arrival episode – Episode 569, 3-22-21.
Spring forest wildflowers – Episode 573, 4-19-21.
Spring Peepers – Episode 570, 3-29-21.
Spring reminder about tornado awareness – Episode 568, 3-15-21.
Spring signals for fish – Episode 571, 4-5-21.
Spring sounds serenades – Episode 206, 3-14-14 and Episode 516, 3-16-20.
Virginia Bluebells – Episode 521, 4-20-20.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2020 Music SOLs 

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2018 Science SOLs

Grades K-4: Living Systems and Processes
2.4 – Plants and animals undergo a series of orderly changes as they grow and develop, including life cycles.
3.4 – Adaptations allow organisms to satisfy life needs and respond to the environment.
4.2 – Plants and animals have structures that distinguish them from one another and play vital roles in their ability to survive.
4.3 – Organisms, including humans, interact with one another and with the nonliving components in the ecosystem.

Grades K-5: Earth Resources
4.8. – Virginia has important natural resources.

Life Science
LS.3  – There are levels of structural organization in living things.
LS.7 – Adaptations support an organism’s survival in an ecosystem.
LS.8     – Change in ecosystems, communities, populations, and organisms over time.

BIO.6 – Modern classification systems can be used as organizational tools for scientists in the study of organisms.
BIO.8 – Dynamic equilibria exist within populations, communities, and ecosystems. 

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.
Episode 250, 1-26-15
– on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15
– on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15
– on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16
– on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16
– on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18
– on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18
– on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18
– on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18
– on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19
– on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20
– on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20
– on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20
– on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.