Sunday, February 24, 2008

Late Winter Song

Harbingers of spring come in many forms, whether a birder or not, it's often a sighting or song of a particular species of bird. Today I saw my first American Robin of the year at Pheasant Branch Conservancy (pictured above), but I know that they can be found throughout winter around the Madison area – one simply needs to look in the right spot. Still, hearing that calming thurp thurp thurp call of the robin makes it seem like spring is closer than tomorrow's snowy forecast.

With their trilly songs filling the woods, feisty Dark-eyed Juncos by the dozens were zipping up and down the stream corridor chasing not only each other, but doves, finches and nuthatches, too. Birdsong...listen carefully to the layers. The standout singers are cardinals and titmice, punctuated by the rhythm section of nuthatch and chickadee chatter. Listen closer and you can make out the creeper's high-pitched call as it forages up the side of a tree. House Finches offer a melodious contribution - expert players adding to the cheery choir of woodland birdsong.

So, perhaps the most gratifying presage of spring is noting just how much more birdsong there is by the end of February. Some choir members will depart as we advance toward spring, but even more are on the way to replace them. The Great Horned Owls have other business to attend to, including keeping a watchful eye on all who pass along the stream corridor trail.

All images © 2008 Mike McDowell

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