First Spring Migrants

March 31, 2008

The first spring migrants (talkin’ birds here) arrived in my yard yesterday.  Several of them, actually.  There were no fewer than four Black-throated Green Warblers singing in the bare oaks surrounding our house, their five note song seesawing with buzzy precision.  Beautiful birds:  bright green on their crowns and backs, golden yellow faces, and jet black spreading from their throats down to their breasts.

A couple of Black-and-white Warblers were singing as well, thin high-pitched notes that for me are the sound of early spring here in the Appalachians.  Black-and-white Warblers are tree climbers, like nuthatches but sleeker, dressed smartly in pinstripes.

And finally, there was a single Blue-headed Vireo (formerly known as the Solitary Vireo) singing from the very top of a white oak.  Vireo song is the avian equivalent of Muzak.  Sweet notes, simple melody, and the birds can be singing for five or ten minutes before you even realize that the sound is there.  Their song blends, provides background for the more dynamic songs of their fellow migrants.  This vireo’s appearance is as unassuming as his song.  The blue of his head is closer to slate than it is to the electric blue of an Eastern Bluebird, and his white eye-rings and lores give him a spectacled appearance.  The warblers are dashing, handsome; the vireo has a geekish look.  This may be why he’s one of my favorites.

Spring migration.  There is no better time of year to be a birder.  These three species are just the beginning; an appetizer, if you will.  In a typical spring I’ll see twenty-five species of warbler, three or four species of vireo, and an assortment of tanagers, orioles, grosbeaks, buntings, flycatchers, and others.  I’ll post my sightings here as the spring progresses.  

And if any of you out there are birders as well, I hope you’ll share your sightings with me.  Happy birding.

Today’s music:  Bruce Cockburn


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