A Transect of Warblers

warbler road

“A bird book for poets, precisely and evocatively observed, beautifully written. Would that such a eulogy existed for every family of birds.” — Peter Matthiessen on The Warbler Road

It’s hard to think of a more patient and perceptive observer of our country’s vast and lonely places than poet and essayist Merrill Gilfillan. In his latest book, The Warbler Road, Gillfillan goes in search of a darting diversity of wood warblers as they flit across the North American landscape. Gillfillan’s quest leads him east and west, north and south — but seemingly, always on the same road:

I first heard of the Warbler Road just three years ago, read of it in a used bookshop in Carolina, and have thought of it regularly ever since. I was taken with the term itself: the very idea of a human byway, or most anything else for that matter, named after the wood-warbler group was rousing — no matter that only a few bird people called it that. I began to envision the place in the western Virginia mountains not only as a good area to see birds, but as a juicy conceptual transect in a most gifted part of North America, a transect or a partaking, in the tradition of Fuji viewing or honoring the solstice at Chaco Canyon. And gradually, inadvertently in truth, I began daydreaming the Warbler Road as a sort of Way, a way of ordering one’s priorities in life so as to proceed, at a core aesthetic level, from warbler to warbler…

In twenty-six short essays, Merrill Gillfillan goes off in search of “the charged saturation of a treefull of warblers.” In its quiet way, The Warbler Road is a thrilling journey.

Over the years, the Land Library has gathered each Merrill Gillfillan book as they are published, titles such as these:

the seasonschokecherryrivers and birds
The Seasons (poetry), Chokecherry Places: Essays from the High Plains, Rivers & Birds (essays).

And, before you start following your own warbler road, you might want to take a look at these helpful books:

of the americaschasingwood warblers
Warblers of the Americas: An Identification Guide by David Quinn, David Beadle, & Jon Curson, Chasing Warblers by Vera & Bob Thornton, The Wood Warblers: An Introductory Guide by Barth Schorre


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