Everything is changing quickly. When Buddy and I went for our morning walk in George Rogers Clark Park, I could tell that we had new aerial visitors, just since yesterday!
For many of these birds, I heard them before seeing them. While the dog sniffed and snorted around, I stood perfectly still so that I would be alerted by the flash of a wing, and hoped that more birds might reveal themselves to me.
Here are some of the newer birds that were busily feeding, showing breeding displays, and staking their territories:
BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER - I heard the sweet burry "pweee" of this fella before spotting him. The Blue-grays used to live near my mountain cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, so it was like hearing the voice of an old friend again. The burry call was rather quiet today and endearing.
GOLDFINCHES! - The call of the Goldfinch, to me, is the song to accompany the dipping flight of a swallow. It is so plaintive and distinctive, especially when they "sweeee." I adore this call and also their gentle and elegant flight patterns. Usually, I've seen them in larger groups than today, but there were a few. Most were blending into the yellowish catkins where they were eating the hatching worms. In the morning chill, their feathers were fluffed to provide warmth, and looked very healthy.
WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS - These birds also have a beautiful song and call. The odd thing is that I've counted six White-crowns and all of them have a Big-Bird yellow patch between their inner eyes and their bills. I can not find this marking in my National Geographic field guide, and so am stumped. However, I recognize their singing and they have the distinctive black and white striping on the head, along with the somewhat rosy wing feathers. The throat is white ... anyone have any ideas? I still need to consult with some more guides.
CHIPPING SPARROWS - I was walking by a dell of cherry trees and was startled by the sweet scents and so stopped to deeply breathe and enjoy the moment. It was then that I heard an almost shy "chip" and then spotted the male nearby. He had the tell-tale rusty cap and then let out a louder "chip," as if in greeting.
CAROLINA WRENS - Let me tell you that I had difficulty hearing past the Wrens because they were so gung-ho about singing this morning! It was as if they had a contest to see which bird among them could call or shout the loudest. Their boisterous song belies their tiny size, and always makes me laugh when I see the tiny body with the head thrown back and suddenly this gargantuan voice bursts out. The equivalent in the dog world would be for a Miniature Chihuahua to have the bark of a St. Bernard.
YELLOW-SHAFTED FLICKERS - They were particularly busy today. I saw 16 and they all seemed more productive than usualy - flicking from tree to tree (are they hoping to "steal" a nesting hole of another or from a previous year?) and foraging constantly, flying from the base of trees and then to the older trees and snags for their particular delicacies.
BROAD-WINGED HAWKS - There is now a pair. I have been keeping my eye on a male for some time now and was very pleased to see him joined recently by a female. The hawks seem determined to fit in ... I know this is odd for me to say, but the male really has seen like an outsider for some time. I have a pair of Cooper's Hawks who are nesting in my back yard pine trees and they immediately seemed to belong. The claimed their feeding branches, and began the routine of building their nest and snatching songbirds out of our feeders. The Broad-winged hawk never seemed comfortable and was skittish even to humans walking far beneath him as he perched on a branch. I've been watching him and he didn't seem to pick a certain tree to feed, or develop a pattern. I hope having a mate will put him more at east so that he can focus on his tasks at hand.
The birds have such little "security" or "insulation" against weather, cold temperatures, and going hungry. I hope that the rest of spring will be kind to them ...