Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Monday, April 27, 2020

Spring Is Springing!

One of Brad Snelling's amazing Yellow-bellied Sapsucker photos. Copyright 2020 by Brad Snelling
If we had to have so many people hunkering at home for weeks, and quite possibly for months, it couldn’t be happening at a better time of year. Right when I’ve been growing desperate for something exciting to happen, in surge spring migrants. The weather’s stayed cool enough that juncos are still the main ground feeders on Peabody Street, along with a couple of Fox Sparrows, my local Song Sparrows and a Mourning Dove. But suddenly goldfinches are everywhere, and my first White-throated Sparrow materialized on Thursday, hanging out with the juncos. I was thrilled to see one Yellow-rumped Warbler on Wednesday, and even more elated on Thursday when three or four were sampling the bugs in my aspen buds.

Yellow-rumped Warbler
NOT from this year!! I took this one back in 2006 at Park Point.

I’d expected my neighborhood to be relatively quiet with the shutdown, but there are just as many traffic sounds as usual, I heard my first lawn mower last week, and someone’s been running a chain saw a lot lately; meanwhile, people’s furnaces continue to fire up, giving an incessant hum to the background of my raw recordings. But my male robin has been singing a lot throughout the day as his mate scouts out nesting sites. He’s defending his territory and reminding his mate that he’s a fine and sturdy singer. So despite the noises, on Saturday I did make a pretty good recording. 

By Saturday, I had half a dozen Yellow-rumps, along with a couple of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a Hermit Thrush and a couple of Brown Creepers.

Hermit Thrush
NOT from this year. I took this one in Port Wing in 2016.

I’ll set out hummingbird and oriole feeders on May 1—we don’t usually have either show up before Mother’s Day, but you never know, and ones that jump the gun really do need extra calories. And Russ set out my birdbath with the little running waterfall yesterday, so birds should start turning up there, too. Catbirds and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks should appear in the next several days along with a few more warblers. With the first burst of warm weather, we’ll start seeing White-crowned and Harris’s Sparrows, Brown Thrashers, and the first vireos. All this is filling my heart with gladness. 

As always seems to happen in my aspen tree, checking out its branches on Thursday revealed my first Yellow-bellied Sapsucker of the year, sipping sap in the upper branches. Saturday I took some very poor backlit, distant photos, but that very same day, my good friend Brad Snelling, from the College of St. Scholastica, managed to take some of the finest sapsucker photos I’ve ever seen. Brad was nice enough to let me share a couple of his photos on my blog—make sure you check it out. 

Another of Brad Snelling's amazing Yellow-bellied Sapsucker photos. (He took even more!) Copyright 2020 by Brad Snelling
The frustrations and anxiety in a time of pandemic are ever so much easier to deal with when we can set goals and share our achievements and good news. I doubt if I’ll get any sapsucker photos half as gorgeous as Brad’s, but I’m trying to get what photos and sound recordings I can. At least I can boast about my reasonably good photos of another woodpecker, thanks to pair of Pileateds that showed up for a couple of days last week. They’ve disappeared, but I’ll keep on watching.

Male Pileated Woodpecker
I did get this one last week. 
When we’ve no place to go, we might as well pay closer attention to the place we’re at—you never know what’s going to pop in, at least for a moment. Let me know what you’re seeing, and meanwhile, stay safe and well, dear listener.