It’s hard to believe how far we are into the year already—I just saw my first Rose Breasted Grosbeak and Baltimore Orioles of the year yesterday! Spring is truly rolling in, as are all the migrants. A few days ago I spotted my third Chimney Swift of the year; it was alone but its friends won’t be far behind! I’ve seen goslings and ducklings and even a fledgling American Robin and Northern Cardinal. The Yellow-rumped Warblers are happily finding insects in the trees and a pair of Brown Thrashers (the first I’ve seen in my neighborhood) has made a home here. Today I was able to observe a flock of foraging White-throated Sparrows as they all lighted down on the walking path and started eating. Their ‘oh sweet kimberly’ songs are ringing through the trees! Speaking of songs, those joyous little Chipping Sparrows are trilling from every branch, and so are the robins.
I’ve found a friend in a male American Robin I’ve come to call Flute… he is partially leucistic and so gorgeous. He is approachable and I’ve been able to recognize his territory. I always know where to find him! I’m actually quite proud of my initial sighting of him- I was walking in early evening and saw a pair of birds running in the grass across the street. I knew one was an AMRO without my binoculars and almost kept walking without checking, but that second bird just didn’t seem completely right for an AMRO. Just something about it seemed off. They were far away and sort of silhouetted, so I thought I was just seeing things, but as I raised my bins I found the most beautiful robin I’d ever seen! It’s a testament to how far I’ve come in just a year of bird-learning… I could tell something wasn’t quite ‘right’ from even far away and without bins!
Speaking of being proud of myself (which I’m not often), today on my daily walk around the neighborhood I was able to identify a female Eastern Towhee (only the second I’ve seen in my neighborhood, ever. The other was a male last year.) by just a quick glimpse of her tail alone! She ducked behind a treestump when I was looking at a Brown Thrasher, and in literally a second she was hidden again. But sure enough I waited and she emerged on the other side, a beautifully light chocolate female Eastern Towhee. I was amazed at how I could ID her species with barely a sight! It’s probably based on where she was in her habitat and the angle she was going at… I don’t know, I suppose I’m really perceptive to these sorts of subtle cues!
In other springtime news, my pond has a trio of swallow species—the Trees, Barns, and Northern Rough-wings are sweeping the skies and keeping the bugs under control. It’s always so exciting to anticipate who’s going to appear next…
Perhaps the most surprising thought of all, however, is that it’s already time for the best birding event in the world—the Biggest Week in American Birding! This weekend, can you believe? I’m going to some of Kenn Kaufman’s talks, as well as planning on attending some bird walks and just hanging out with all the truly wonderful friends I’ve made in the past year. Yes, this International Migratory Bird Day will mark a year to the day I first met Kim and Kenn Kaufman, Ken Keffer, Kayla Parry, Greg Miller, and a whole lotta life birds. I joined the Ohio Young Birders Club soon after that fateful day, and my life has changed for the better. In this past year I’ve met incredible people, seen an awe-inspiring array of birds, learned an amazing amount about birds and their habitat, and had the opportunity to have some really awesome experiences, like bird banding and the OYBC conference.
If I hadn’t plucked up the courage to go to Magee last May, I don’t know where I’d be now. I didn’t think I was really good enough of a birder to join the OYBC, and I didn’t know what to do with myself when I walked past the book table at the Biggest Week and there was Kenn Kaufman himself! I was a nervous wreck when I met him and then Greg Miller, and later I saw Kim and I was again starstruck. I couldn’t believe such amazing people I’d admired from afar were right there! Then it was time for the bird banding demonstration with Ken Keffer and I was starstruck again… this time because of the birds! These little beings were like celebrities I’d only seen in magazines—now they were bright and real before my eyes. Their stunning spring plumage melted my fears away into a pool of admiration. They had just flown all the way from South America and now were being held and banded…it was spectacular to think about.
It is this incredible journey that our migrants make each spring and fall that inspires me to continue watching, loving, and teaching about their beautiful lives. I only hope this coming spring and summer will grant bird encounters as new and exciting as last year!
Happy birding to everyone.
PREPARE FOR FALLOUT and WARBLER NECK is contagious, so watch out!! J