Monday, February 16, 2009

Spring Migration On Its Way?

We just came out of a rather nice week of weather in the Washington, D.C., area, with a couple of days where the mercury reached seventy degrees--a nice departure from the single-digit chills we'd had earlier this year and the sleet which had frozen atop the season's first real snow a couple of weeks back.  Though I'm sure we're due for several more storms and blasts of winter, I can't help but feel like Spring may be on its way.

One sign of that transition is our backyard collection of birds.  During the snowstorm a few weeks ago, our feeders and yard hosted a large flock of Dark-eyed Juncos--and indeed, for this area of the country, Juncos are nearly synonymous with winter, along with several other sparrows which typically depart not long after the vernal equinox come March.  Since then, though, the little grey birds with their "paint-dipped" splash of white belly have been few and far between; I'm thinking they've begun winging their way northward already.

Couple that with the few warblers I've seen in the neighborhood trees already and I think that Spring migration for our feathered friends may be underway.  I didn't have my field glasses with me on any of the warblers, so I didn't get a clear ID--but they were definitely warblers by body size, shape, the splashes of yellow (so unlike birds like the American Goldfinch, one of the few other birds with extensive yellow markings I'd expect in our yard), and the behavior, and it's pretty much a certainty they were early-arriving migrating warblers of some sort.  (I'd guess butterbum a.k.a. Yellow-rumped Warbler due to the timing and their relative ubiquity, but though I didn't get to see the rumps for their distinctive "pat of butter" splash of yellow, the throat and head markings weren't right.)  Of course, this past weekend I also spotted the first large flocks of Common Grackle showing up in the neighborhood as well, and though I like to see an occasional grackle or two, they tend to hog the feeders and make a bit of a mess.

Spring migration is a wonderful time to be birding, and I'm excited to see that it may well be on its way.  I'm a bit disappointed, though, not to have any trips planned yet--I'd love to have a visit scheduled to Florida, Texas, and California, but we're saving money at the present (not to mention that it's a busy time for us as well!)

1 comment:

John Nolley II said...

I spoke a bit too soon on the departure of the juncos; there was quite a flock of them again this morning in the yard. Still, I'm sure they'll be winging their way northward very soon...