Many people think of the American robin as the first reliable sign of spring, but for seasoned birders, there are a few other species who herald the new season.
Veteran birder and naturalist Julie McCormick has been seeing quite a few of these early spring species in the last week. Here’s her rundown:
- Early last week, before the migrants arrived, the woods were full of active woodpeckers. I saw a downy woodpecker enter a cavity in a tree, and red-bellied woodpecker pairs active outside a cavity in a tree. I’ve seen pairs of pileated woodpeckers calling and flying over.
- Wednesday afternoon I saw a Northern shrike.
- Thursday morning, robins were singing for the first day.
- Friday afternoon marked the arrival of spring with red-wing blackbirds! I saw eight small flocks of 5- 30 birds flying in at dusk. They are all males, because the males arrive first and fight for territory, and later when the females show up the male has rights to breed with all the females in his territory
- Friday evening also brought in flocks of ducks: mallards, shovelers, gadwalls, Canada geese and coots..Also, a pair of great horned owls were calling to each other at dusk.
- Saturday morning, I saw a bald eagle sunning itself with its wings out to the side; it must have gotten wet while hunting for ducks or fish. I have never seen this before with a bald eagle. I did observe eagles still sitting on nests.
- Sunday morning brought First of the Year (FOY) grackles, and singing song sparrows, as well as Canada geese, mallards, green wing teal, shovelers, pintails, buffleheads, golden eyes, ring-billed ducks, coots, and common mergansers.
- The highlight of the morning came when I stopped along Prairie Island road to look for ducks and heard a crane calling repeatedly. I spotted it standing on top of a beaver dam, calling for over ten minutes while its mate was walking around feeding. Ten minutes is a long time for a bird to stand and call. This type of call was a guard call and my best guess is that it was claiming its territory. I saw two other pairs along this road.
- Also, we tapped our silver maple tree in our yard on Saturday and sap was flowing!
If you haven’t signed up for the Spring Migration Birding Sessions with Julie and Eric yet, get over to the program page and register!