Eastern Bluebirds and Sandhill Cranes — It Must Be Spring!

bluebird
The eastern bluebird is a sure sign of spring, and Eric saw one…ergo, it must be spring! Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

Eric Nelson went birding out at Briggs Farm last week, and brings us this report. If you haven’t signed up for the Spring Migration Series yet, there are still a few slots — sign up here.

An afternoon walk along Cedar Creek and into the apple orchard revealed both resident and migrant birds. Resident downy, hairy, and red-bellied woodpeckers were drumming territories, but no pileated today. Red-winged blackbirds have arrived from southern US. Today, I saw males only; they arrive first; females will drift in a few days from now. Some male red-wings were already staking out their nesting territories at field edges. Other males remained in a flock of about 40 birds, feeding and resting in the mowed field before they continue their migratory push further north.

 

Other migrants included 4 male cowbirds, up from southern US and Mexico, and turkey vultures (which winter as close as Missouri and Florida, or as far south as Tiero del Fuego Argentina; I saw “kettles” of a hundred or so earlier this month in Costa Rica). A group of 7 bald eagles, and later, 2 red-tailed hawks circled over the valley; the warmth made it a good day to leave their nests and catch some thermals for a while. Song sparrows were scattered along field edges; they arrived about two weeks ago from south-central US.

 

Still lingering, after spending the winter in southern MN, were flocks of 20 or so dark-eyed juncos mixed in with a few American tree sparrows; these two species await longer day length before they head for their nesting grounds in the tundra of northern Canada and Alaska. True signs of spring were the appearance of an eastern bluebird, and the bugling of sandhill cranes, heard off in the distance to the north. Today’s birding was a warm up; the big push of vireos, orioles, tanagers, warblers, and more is yet to come; get ready!