The long part of Spring
Spring, at least the part of it that involves the arrival of the resident breeding birds back to North Carolina, is a prolonged affair in the southeast. I talk sometimes about how spring goes by so fast down here, but that’s really the last hurrah, the final push of transients to the boreal woods of Canada. Our residents have been sneaking in little by little since the first Purple Martin in late February. By the time the Yellow-throated Warblers start singing from the tops of the pines things start arriving steadily, ramping up to the last week, more likely weekend, where all the flashy visitors we get to see for those few special days zip through on the way to breeding grounds far to the north.
We’re still about three weeks away from that madness, but the resident breeders are slotting in nicely, at about a couple new species a week. I had my first Barn Swallow of the year hawking insects over the grocery store parking lot. For the fourth straight year I’ve had Osprey soar over my suburban neighborhood on their way somewhere with water. The first Gnatcatchers were singing from the willows near the Common Gallinule of a few days ago. And I had my first really springy morning at Mason Farm this week, and the first time my species list at one site has tipped towards 40 in the Piedmont since last fall.
The White-eyed Vireos are back in numbers, singing along the canal trail at Mason Farm where they camp out all summer. We’re mostly leafed out here, but this is still the time to see them. The territorial males, hopped up on testosterone and caterpillars, respond to pishing with a punishing sonic attack. And if you’re lucky, they’ll key right up for you.
Those white eyes are other-worldly. And these birds with tolerate no encroachment on their territory.
Northern Parulas have finally arrived in the Piedmont in significant numbers. I heard at least a dozen of them on my two mile walk, which was probably a conservative count as they seemed to be everywhere. While I was photographing the Vireo, this male sneaked down in to the brambles below me, closer that I’ve ever had a parula before, apparently coming to figure out what the fuss was all about.
I’ve never found spring a particularly good time for pishing. It works better in the fall, when the foraginf flocks are augmented by first year warblers who wouldn’t know a dude spitting at them from a owl mob. Spring birds are generally too savvy to fall for it. But this bird was having none of it. Having decided that I was no longer a threat, it perched in a sweetgum and gave it everything it had.
So a good start to spring, and with new stuff arriving almost every day, the time for birding is here and the herping, though it has been fun, can take a back seat for awhile. Time to get ready and remove my distractions. No doubt the Great Crested Flycatchers and Yellow-throated Vireos and Hooded Warblers are right around the corner.