Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring's first Performers

Yesterday's weather was truly glorious - sunny skies and temperatures in the low 60's. I'm grateful for taking full advantage of it because the forecast calls for seven days of darkness. There's even a chance for snow this coming Friday, but the highs will be in the 40's and 50's so whatever snow we do get will likely melt the next day.

A night of southerly winds brought returning spring migrants to the Pheasant Branch Stream corridor: Great Blue Heron, Wood Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, and Fox Sparrows. Not gone unnoticed by me was the number of Song Sparrows that virtually showed up overnight at the prairie. The common and simple aren't necessarily so. After reading Donald Kroodsma's The Singing Life of Birds, I've never looked at Song Sparrows the same.

Enjoyed by birders to be among the first to report their return, abundance and ubiquity relegates them to the ordinary within a short period of time. But if you know what's going on, they're super exciting birds to watch and learn from. Naturally, I would probably never choose to spend so much time watching and photographing Song Sparrows during any part of May, but as a photographer their sweet March songs are an invitation to practice, practice, practice. And so these “little brown jobs” help remove whatever rust may have materialized in my digiscoping technique over the course of winter. But mostly, whenever I see them now, I'm reminded of the fascinating chapter in Kroodsma's book about the complexity of Song Sparrow behavior and song.

Once at the top of the drumlin, I took a break on the bench that overlooks the marsh and began to drift. Before falling asleep, I heard songs of Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Meadowlarks, an Eastern Phoebe, and Red-winged Blackbirds. The late morning sun kept my body comfortably warm as I napped for a half an hour to the songs of birds and the gentle breeze blowing through the oaks.

Location: Pheasant Branch
Observation date: 3/21/09
Number of species: 42

Canada Goose
Wood Duck
Hooded Merganser
Ring-necked Pheasant
Great Blue Heron
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Barred Owl
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Carolina Wren
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
American Tree Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2009 Mike McDowell

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