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The Birdsong Cometh

April 21, 2008

Finally, and I mean finally, the songs of spring are coming into the area in real numbers. They always seem to come late. I don’t know whether there’s anything really to take from that except that I tend to expect things to happen faster then they really do. I guess I just get excited about neotropic migrants every year, and in the doldrums of March birding just wish they would get here already. They may seem behind, but the truth is, they’re right on time, just like every year. With the CarolinaBirds listserve buzzing with exciting sightings all over the triangle, I headed back again to the Eno River State Park.

A lot had changed in just a few short weeks. The birdsong was louder and more strident. The trees were greener, and best of all, the bird activity had increased ten-fold. I stepped out of the car in the parking lot near a field dotted with 15 foot cedar trees and immediately heard a singing Prairie Warbler. The first new bird of the day. The trail turned into the forest and the birdsong quieted a bit, but loud and proud sang several Yellow-throated Warblers. They’re residents here and, while I’d seen a few earlier in the year, it seemed as though the balance of the local population had finally arrived to take charge of the pines and sycamore that lined the river. I rarely get a look at these birds, but I saw at least five of the dozen and a half I heard singing along the trail. They were, by far, the most evident warbler on the day.

A turn through a forest thick with green undergrowth netted me a Summer Tanager (I had gotten my very first of the year the previous evening) and a singing Worm-eating Warbler, another pair of nice early migrants. When I hear the Worm-eater I always think of these birds as Chipping Sparrows of the woods, which obviously make Chippies Worm-eating Warblers of the fields. Anyway, I stepped off the trail to get a look and the bird promptly shut up. I’ll have to find another if I want to catch a peek.

The trail wound around to the other side of the cedar field where I spotted my first House Wren of the year and a pair of Great Crested Flycatchers engaging in some pair bonding. One would deftly pick some tent caterpillars from within that webby fortress and feed it to the other. Once completed the pair would share a mighty wheeeeep?. Great birds with a lot of personality, and it’s good to see them back.

I managed to track down a single singing Prairie Warbler, who was so preoccupied with controlling his territory from the other not-yet-arrived Prairies that he didn’t seem to mind me sneaking up below him to take the poor excuse for a record shot to the left. Always nice to put the face to the song, and the Prairie, as so many of you know, is a real stunner, and so tiny. In the next couple weeks, this singing male will likely be joined by several more in the cedars here. it’s one of the better places in the area to consistently find them.

A quick swing by the river itself produced a tail-bobbing Spotted Sandpiper, and before I got back to my car a single Wood Thrush sang from far off in the distance. In the last two days I’ve picked up a whole eight new bird for the year, all of the above and some Chimney Swifts cruising by. Looks like things are finally starting to heat up. It’s going to be an exciting next few weeks!

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