Birders speak in a language all their own, one that is not only incomprehensible to outsiders but requires a fair bit of experience within the tribe before all the in-jokes and abbreviations and conversational scientific terminology become more or less clear. But once you’ve gotten the hang of the manner in which we speak, you soon notice that there’s no example of birder jargon that’s greeted with quite the level of excitement as FOY (with the possible exception of “mega”, which is a topic of another post).
FOY means renewal. It means bird listservs blowing up. It means trip reports packed with new arrivals and the sudden ease in which 30 species days become 50 become 70. All because of these three little letters attached to the end of nearly every neotropic migrant in April and May. F O Y. First of year.
Mid-April is when FOYs really start making an impact in North Carolina, and while this past weekend wasn’t the first day that I turned up multiple new birds, it was the first that really felt like real spring. The nasty weather system that passed through here Saturday afternoon dropping more than 60 tornadoes across the state was an ominous presence throughout the morning, but I managed to get out ahead of the front, which meant traveling to Wake County, specifically Yates Mill County Park. The wind and drizzle kept many of the birds down, but my dad and I managed our first Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the year, bizarrely working a hedgerow along an agricultural field, and a couple Great Crested Flycatchers in the hardwood forests of Yates Mill and Lake Wheeler park.
The nasty weather left behind an absolutely perfect April morning for Sunday. Chilly, but clear and sunny and Mason Farm in Orange County was absolutely dripping with bird song, 90% of it Yellow-rumped Warblers. It was like being in the middle of a crystal chandelier what with the constant tinkly vocalizations completely enveloping us. Despite the fact that it was nearly completely one species, the atmosphere was electric. The very best of what spring birding is.
In the midst of the Myrtle surround sound the birding was excellent for early spring. Redstarts were everywhere too, as were Parulas. A couple Palm Warblers made an appearance to keep things interesting. Several Yellow-throated Vireos sang from the treetops, I even got a quick look at one, though the only Vireos that came close enough for photos were the resident Red-eyes, already here in force and on territory.
An Indigo Bunting sang once and never again in a marshy slough. Notable now, but less so in a few weeks when it will be nothing to get 25 of them here. A Scarlet Tanager piped up from the top of an oak, but remained unseen. We had better luck with a vocal Summer Tanager though, preferring the margin between forest and field.
With a FOY Black-throated Blue Warbler we ended the day at 9 warblers, just shy of double digits, a marker probably no more than a few days away.
And just in case you’d think that birds were the only think on our minds, my dad spotted a small spread of Jack in the Pulpits in a cleared patch of forest floor. Such a nice and understated flower.
A FOY too, if you count plants in such things.
134 down, 82 to go.