Sunday, May 17, 2009

Beautiful Weekend

It's mid May, and I'm feeling reflective about birding. I feel like I should be tired of it, and in some ways I am. Over the years I've learned that from April through the end of May, birding should rise in priority a couple notches. Getting out to bird as often as possible is rewarded by finding more birds of more species than I can find at any other time of the year. Sometimes it feels like a chore but once I'm outside I never regret it. Birding connects me to the natural world. I can see and hear and feel seasonal changes happen, big and small. Trees leaf out. Grass grows and wildflowers bloom. Our year-round resident birds like Carolina Chickadee and Carolina Wren start appearing in family groups feeding new fledglings. Numbers of winter resident species peak then dwindle as they leave for breeding grounds: first Yellow-rumped Warblers then Orange-crowned Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, then Savannah Sparrows and Lincoln's Sparrows. Northbound migrating species appear, and their numbers peak then dwindle too -- Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, then Clay-colored Sparrows, then Common Yellowthroats (still peaking now)...

The spring weather is dynamic. Warming south winds are relieved by cold fronts and thunderstorms. These fronts ground the northbound migrating birds, so spring birding can be the most exciting just minutes after a storm passes through. Being outside then is magical. The air is clean and cool and clear. The sky is dark in some places, light in others. Thunder still crackles in the distance. And the birds are active, making up for lost foraging time.

I thought a lot about these things as I was on Lake Creek Trail this weekend. We got our last break from the coming heat today, and birding in 65 degree weather one more time was a treasured experience. I'll skip my usual rundown of species highlights for now. Maybe tomorrow night. (I added 3 species to my neighborhood list, now at 195, one I've only seen once before, and one I've never seen before.) For now, just know that it was beautiful out there.

Mexican Hat

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