Here we are in the middle of spring already, with a cold front facing us as we speak on Tuesday. Some people are not aware of this, though migration actually begins in February with waterfowl, swallows, and Sandhill Cranes just to name a few. We’ll see more activity with the shorebirds that have been visiting for the past month with some early birds, including several that we don’t normally catch in these parts like Tuesday’s Piping Plover. Neotropic migrants are pushing down on the gas pedal and there have been several first of the year aficionados posted in the usual spots.
Just yesterday (Monday the 19th), my back door was open to hear the calls of the Warbling Vireo and Baltimore Oriole, as well as several of the usual suspects in the back yard. The vireo was just a hop, skip and a jump from water, and it arrived pre-cold front, as its warbling strains were more than apparent.
I await the male Yellow Warbler, who arrives before the female, which is common practice, as the males pick out the territory or get their last year’s areas all picked up and spic and span for the females that should arrive in two weeks or less. The juveniles from last year will get last choice, but that is par for the course. Not too much is bad around here, but as they will see when they arrive last and get to pick over what’s left up north, it will be quite apparent. Welcome them to the wet deciduous woods near you.
The Gray Catbird is an early arrival already in these parts. You’ll hear the slow jumble of sounds with the meow within that, but you might just spot the thin, slate gray individuals with the chestnut patch under the tail and the black cap. Don’t necessarily consider that it is a mockingbird, as its phrase will be repeated only one time.
Watch for those flycatchers coming inbound, especially the Olive-sided Flycatcher, who will be sporting a lovely dark vest and if perched, white rump tufts. It may well be in the most conspicuous area, so don’t fret. Don’t forget its common, “Quick, three beers!”
Also right around now, we’ll begin seeing the Eastern Kingbird, and if you’re really lucky and can get him to flash his orange crown stripe, you’ll see an unusual sight. They will also be very conspicuous on a branch, seeking insects in semi-open locales.
Vocalizing just before a storm, keep an eye peeled for the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. The raincrow will also give you its familiar ka-ka-ka-ka-kyow-kyow-kyow-kowlp-kowlp greeting. Watch for that beautiful white-spotted inner tail, and admire that lovely neotropic migrant.
Another common sighting should be the Blue Grosbeak with the catchall brown wingbars. That stout seeking-cracking bill says it all along forest edges, weedy fields, and brushy zones. It also enjoys orchards and thickets complete with its loud metallic chink call.
Keep your eyes on the ground and your head in the clouds. Happy birding!
Deb Hirt is a wild bird rehabilitator and professional photographer living in Stillwater.