Birds abound as spring arrives
The week of March 28 to April 3 was a wild one for arriving birds. It began with a classic “fallout”. Strong southerly winds blew for 48 hours straight, followed by severe weather. A huge wave of early-spring migrants took advantage of those southerly tailwinds to make their big move, flying high in the middle of the night, and landing by dawn. Then the severe weather on March 27 and 28 forced them to forage and rest for a few days before continuing their journey.
I was having my Saturday morning coffee outside and making a list of birds observed. I heard birdsong I didn’t recognize and went to one end of the porch to take a look. It was a Dickcissel — a grassland bird of the Great Plains! I had to look it up, never having seen one.
The “fallout” brought this bird into our area briefly during its thousands-mile journey, from wintering grounds in Colombia or Venezuela, to its summer range in perhaps South Dakota or Nebraska.
Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds also came into our area on this wave. Early-arriving males are all over the place, so hang your feeders!
A wave of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers is also here. Hear their typical calls at a website such as “All About Birds,” (www.allaboutbirds.org), then listen in your yard to find these little birds that look like miniature mockingbirds.
Yellow-Throated Warblers arrived in this wave, as did Parula Warblers (zzrreeeee-up!)
Common Yellowthroats and White-Eyed Vireos are here, though not as numerous, and prone to seek brushy cover. White-Eyed Vireos are the “R2D2 bird” and you will understand why if you listen to their song at the website mentioned above.
Most of these little birds will be heard much more often than they are seen, so listen and learn their songs on the web to find them in your yard and beyond.
To take advantage of the wave, I went out for a day-long birding trip March 29 from around Bath to the edge of the Pungo River. By day’s end, I had 66 species, including ruby-throated hummingbirds, common loons, an American white pelican, 25 royal terns, common terns, and Forster’s terns.
I had several each of prairie, pine, yellow-throated, yellow-rumped and parula warbler, and common yellowthroat, as well as white-eyed vireo. Barn swallows, tree swallows, and purple martins were also around.
Lots more excitement is coming, as wave after wave of spring migrants will bring a new batch of species every couple of weeks through May. I will continue to highlight in this column what to expect and what I observe.
Finally, Beaufort Community College is offering a short class in local birding. It’s for those who’d like to go from beginning birding to expand beyond “feeder and yard birds.” The class is April 27 and 29, and it can be found in the continuing education / adult enrichment part of the course catalog.
First, we’ll have some classroom time to learn the basics of birding – identifying species, field skills, birding ethics, and helpful resources and tools. Then we’ll go on a local field trip to explore what can be seen easily in our area. This will be a moderately easy visit to a hotspot not more than 15-20 minutes from Washington.
You’ll need a pair of binoculars (borrowed from a friend are fine, as long as you are comfortable adjusting and using them). The end of April is about the “peak week” for bird species, so this is a good opportunity to start or add to your “life list” and achieve the next level in your birding journey!
Betsy Kane is a Washington resident who enjoys the outdoors.