Golden-Winged Warbler
Golden-Winged Warbler. Credit: nj.gov Dennis Cooke

 [Editor’s Note: Muriel J. Smith is the author of several books relating to history. She will soon publish a book of legends set in the Bayshore. A book signing at Bayshore Pharmacy is set for Dec. 11th. A legend is a story from the past that is believed by many people but cannot be proved to be true. The following story did not make it into the book but is too good to keep from our readers.]

Mama Warbler was very distressed. She had been distressed since early spring. Sure, back then,  at first she was very proud and happy. Every bird in the neighborhood had come to visit her. Even the mourning doves, who usually didn’t fly too high, flew up to her nest in the highest tree in front of St. Agnes Church just to congratulate her and Papa Warbler.

  Bluebirds came over from Highlands, and even the sparrows who nested along the edge of the North light in the Twin Lights sent her cheery greetings. That’s because Mama and Papa Warbler had hatched not three or four, but seven eggs. Seven! It was a record in the entire Bayshore! Very few warblers could ever lay seven eggs, everyone knew. They were Golden-Winged Warbler, best known for their beautiful song, the two pitched melody that sounded like a long bussing sound, only prettier.

  Over the months, Papa Warbler was finding the biggest, juiciest and most delicious mosquitos and worms for dinners that the family decided not to fly south, but simply to move into the inner branches of a fir tree and  feather their nest with, well, feathers, of course!

   Everything was going along fine!  All seven baby warblers were hungry eaters and learned to fly early. Then Mama Warbler started teaching them the several notes they would be singing for the rest of their lives. She told them of the happiness they would bring to little children playing in the church parking lot, or how the dogs walking past very well behaved on their leashes would look up and smile at them.  She told them how the men passing along the avenue with their boats on trailers behind their cars would laugh when they saw their patches of yellow on their wings and the black around their throats. They would make everyone happy, bird, beast or human, Mama Warbler said proudly.


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   And that’s what was making both Papa and Mama Warbler so distressed today. Sure, six of the seven of their brood developed beautiful voices, all sang so well; Mortimer was especially loud and that was good because the golden dog in the yard on South Avenue could always hear him.

   But Wendy Warbler, the tiniest of the Golden Warbler family? She couldn’t sing a note! She couldn’t even make her voice sound like a beeee, let along the bs, bs, bs it had to develop to be a warbler’s song.

   “I just don’t know what to do,” Mama said to Papa, “ we have tried everything, The wise old owl in the tree at Hartshorne Woods said he couldn’t figure it out. The red cardinal that always went to that birdfeeder in the apartment across from the church said she didn’t know what the matter was. The crows merely cackled and said everybody couldn’t have a nice voice.”

  Papa Warbler tried to soothe the mother bird and stroked her feathers softly. “Don’t worry,” he said, “ something good will happen. God wouldn’t let our baby bird not be treated like every other bird. He will take care of us.”

   “Oh, that’s nice to think about,” Mama Warbler scoffed, “but why would He think of our little bird? Do you have any idea how busy God always is and how much He has to do?”  Still, Papa chided, clucking a little right next to her ear, “Don’t worry. More importantly, think of getting all those chicks bedded down for the night. It’s Christmas Eve.”

  So Mama Warbler sighed a sad sigh, but went about puffing up the leaves and the feathers to ensure the nest would be warm. Pretty soon, everyone was settled for the night, the stars came out to shine, and the moon, if you looked carefully, was smiling as if he knew something wonderful was going to happen.

  At midnight, when the lights went on over in the church across from their nest in the tree, and people started coming to midnight mass, the music in the big organ high up in the church began playing. It wakened Papa Warbler and he loved the music so much he called to his friend the mouse, whom he knew lived high up in the windowsill of the choir loft. “Could you just open that window a tiny bit,” he asked. That way I can hear the Aves and Glories when the Infant is born.”

   And so it was when the choir began to sing, their music was wafted out the window, filling the air with happy melody and hymns devoted to showing their love for the newborn Baby.  The music woke all the babies, and Mama Warbler as well, and she called them all together to cuddle and hear the sounds of Christmas in the air.

      All of a sudden, there was one more sound.  Mama Warbler, knew it right away and to her it was even more beautiful than the organ, more beautiful than the choir, more beautiful than anything she had ever heard in her life. Mama Warbler could hear little Wendy, the quiet one, the smallest one, and she turned to look at her.

   Wendy was standing proudly she fluffed her feathers and puffed out her chest. And out of Wendy’s little beak was coming the most beautiful, the most melodious bee bz-bz-bz-  anyone had ever heard.

  It was the magic of Christmas. Just as the animals can talk on Christmas Eve, so can God give a beautiful singing voice to a tiny little Yellow Winged Warbler nobody thought would ever be able to raise her voice in song.

   The moon definitely winked as Papa Warbler looked up to the sky. Mama Warbler saw it, too, as she tucked herself under Papa Warbler’s wing. And she winked back. With a song in her heart and music in her ears.


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Muriel J Smith

Muriel J Smith an award-winning journalist, former newspaper editor, book author and historian, Her newest venture is her blog, www.venividiscripto.com in...