Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring has Arrived

Today is officially the start of spring in the USA and most people are happy to welcome the new season. For me, as for other birdwatchers, spring is rather a bittersweet season.

On the positive side, local birds are busy mating and preparing to raise new broods. In our subdivision, at the college where I work and at many points in-between, male Northern Mockingbirds are singing and performing their display dances. A few yards from my office, a Loggerhead Shrike is singing, too. This afternoon he was happy to pose for photos.

Meanwhile, in our yards, our resident Carolina Chickadees have been busy for a couple of weeks collecting nesting material.

Also on the positive side, new birds are migrating into our area. Three species of swallows have appeared in the past week, and Jim Hinson has reported the arrival of several migrating wood-warblers at the Edith L. Moore sanctuary.

On a less happy note, our winter visitors have either left for, or will soon be on their way to Canada, Alaska and other points north. Our American Goldfinches and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers left weeks ago, and our three types of winter warblers seem to have left, too.
There are now very few winter ducks or geese in the area and most of the winter sparrows seem to have gone: I’ve seen only one Chipping Sparrow at our feeders and the flock of Savannah Sparrows on the college campus is down to a handful of birds. This Savannah was less timid than usual.

I’m very sorry to see our winter visitors leave but, all being well, they’ll return in the fall. In the meantime, I need to brush up on my wood-warbler ID skills and to start thinking about trips to Edith Moore, High Island and other migrant traps.


Birdwoman said...

You're right - the changing of the season of birds is always a bittersweet moment. But nothing bittersweet about those shrike pictures. They are striking!

Jeff said...

Thank you. I love shrikes!
BTW, I was premature about our winter warblers. A Yellow-rumped is still hanging around our yards today.

Kyle said...

Love the Shrike shots, Jeff! You're right, he looks like he was posing for the portraits. (Or maybe for mug shots... "Look left. Okay, forward.")

Since this is my first spring as a serious birder, I have to admit to being a little apprehensive about all the "new" warblers and other birds moving back into the area for the warm season. I'm afraid my identification skills are not quite up to the task, but I'm looking forward to it nonetheless!

Isaac said...

Love the shrike. They are definitely cool birds.

Jeff said...

I, too, find IDing warblers very challenging. Every year it seems that I'm just getting back up to scratch with ducks and sparrows when it's time to switch to warblers.
My solution is to do something I don't often do at other times of the year: bird with other birders. There are always lots of helpful warbler experts at High Island, and Jim Hinson leads great Wednesday morning warbler walks at the Edith L Moore sanctuary in Houston.

Jeff said...

I'm with you about shrikes, Isaac. I think they're the most deadly-looking of all the predators. They always remind me of German fighter aircraft from WWII.