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Spring’s Gauntlet

April 11, 2011
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It is on.

At least according to the birds.  Mid-April is an exciting to be birding in the southeast, and every single day brings additional arrivals.  We’re still a couple weeks away from the mad dash northward of so many of the boreal breeders, but summer residents have been making their way into the area in even increasing numbers.  It was only Friday, while dropping my son of at daycare, that I heard my first Red-eyed Vireo.  The very next day they seemed to be everywhere, and they’re hardly unique.  This past weekend I was able to touch base with many of the returning breeders, the vanguard of spring migration and a sign of hope to birders farther north still dealing with the lingering effects of a particularly snowy winter.

Mason Farm on Saturday was cold and wet, but Ovenbirds were there in force, calling for teacher in every stand of promising woods, and a couple not so promising.  One particularly avid singer was quite close to the trail and offered good looks, which is great but has the unfortunate side-effect of drowning out every other bird you’re trying to hear for at least 200 meters in either direction.  Ovenbirds are the Spinal Tap of warblers, they go to 11.

Once past the Ovenbird and able to clear my ears, I heard what I was certain was a Hooded Warbler in a seep on the southeast side of Mason Farm.  Eager to see one of my favorite warblers again and more or less confident of this classic, if a bit thin, Hoodie, I pished until the bird revealed itself.  Into the budding trees came a beautiful male American Redstart.  As sure a sign of spring as the first pitch of the baseball season is the first time you’re fooled by a singing Redstart.  Make no mistake, with my mistake Spring truly is upon us.

The first Chimney Swift of the year, recently arrived from their Amazonian haunts, was a bonus, and while driving with family to Pittsboro in Chatham County for lunch, I chanced to find a Broad-winged Hawk getting a rather rude welcome to the area from a committee of crows.

Sunday, the rain and damp moved off to wherever that stuff goes, and summer arrived.  Fortunately, the Prothonotary Warblers did too. A quick run down to the Ellerbe Creek section of Falls Lake to look for some early shorebirds or terns turned into the Prothonotary Warbler show.  A pair of males were singing on territory and my dad and I watched one checking out an cavity in a broken off snag.  The recent rains had cause the lake level to swamp the mudflats that had been clear since last fall, so shorebirds were out, but the Double-crested Cormorants were looking sharp with crests flaring.  For an afternoon out, it wasn’t, but any day that involved Prothonotary Warblers can’t be that bad.

126 down, 90 to go.

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3 Comments
  1. BirdTrainerRobert permalink
    April 11, 2011 10:06 am

    I had the opposite experience – a singing bird I was sure was an American Redstart turned out to be a Hooded Warbler! lol

  2. April 11, 2011 12:25 pm

    It’s on here, too. Just this morning, I heard and saw my first Northern Parula of the spring.

  3. Nate permalink*
    April 12, 2011 11:12 am

    @Robert- Those two are consistently the ones I have the most trouble with, especially early on. I’ll take small comfort in the fact that my gut said Redstart and I convinced myself of Hoodie.

    @John- Very nice! You guys are just over a week behind us.

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