Reports of the first Eastern Phoebes of spring have been popping up all over New York and this weekend, I decided I was going to find mine. Now that the bird watching balance is tipping back from the water to the woods, it was high time to renew my acquaintance with one of my favorite birding patches, Lenoir Nature Preserve.
Lenoir rarely surprises, yet seldom disappoints. Resident woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, goldfinches, doves, pigeons, cardinals, crows, jays, starlings, and sparrows can always be spotted close to the seasonal feeders maintained lovingly by Hudson River Audubon Society of Westchester. The environment is so tranquil, so inviting and attractive to avifauna that birds of winter can’t bring themselves to leave. White-throated Sparrows scratched up a storm in the underbrush while Dark-eyed Juncos fattened up for the coming trip to the boreal. Even the local Red-breasted Nuthatches don’t seem in any rush to make a move north.
Nonetheless, there was a whole lot of trilling and tweeting going on. American Robins have descended upon Lenoir in their multitudes, patrolling the preserve with the same diligence they apply to lawns, parks, and medians throughout the United States. Red-tails and Turkey Vultures aren’t tough to spot either, though I anticipate a greater variety of raptors in the months to come. Amazingly, we flushed our first Lenoir owl yesterday, a big sucker, but were too slow to make an ID.
But enough about those other birds…phoebes are what I went looking for and phoebes are what I found. I spotted not one, but two of the delightful, tail-wagging flycatchers wondering when the flies were going to arrive. As the season progresses, these dark-headed devils will be a dime a dozen, but right now, they rightfully command center stage. Even my first Carolina Wren of the year, always a wonder in rich, rich brown, paled in comparison to the elegant Eastern Phoebe.