I sort of feel it’s sort of my duty, as the 10,000 Birds beat writer covering the southern tier of the continent, to be the bellwether of goodies to come, the sherpa of spring, if you will (please don’t). You see, “spring” in the sense that birders in the far northern reaches experience it, has been happening here in the south for the better part of three months. In fact, given the mild winter the continent experienced this year you could make a strong argument, mostly based on the daffodils in my backyard, that spring began sometime around December 1 of last year.
In any case, the slow build of spring is a little slower around here, and while a handful of the early season migrants arrived w week or so before I was ready to expect them, most everything is coming along right on time anymore. I’ve already had three species of vireo for the year (Red-eyed, White-eyed, and the occasionally overwintering Blue-headed). The Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are already nest building (they do not mess around) and I finally pinned down my first Great Crested Flycatcher of the season this weekend, followed the very next day by my second. When things happen, they really happen fast.
But spring to most birders means warblers, and we’ve had our share already piling up headed northward to all y’all yankees eagerly awaiting they’re arrival. So consider this a preview of coming attractions, as without a doubt these birds are just itching to make their way out of here.
The Yellow-rumped Warblers are certainly gearing up to leave in a big way. They winter here of course, but our wintering birds pitch in with the traveling flocks of Chickadees and Titmice that roam the leafless landscape, but by April they’re in no way affiliating themselves with such lowly stationary sorts. They travel by themselves, in massive flocks that roam the canopy in constant song. The effervescent water-flowing-over-windchimes song of these Myrtle warblers is the predominant sound right now in nearly every stand of trees in the area, and they look so good doing it too, it’s almost a shame to see them off. But leave they must, for the flashier warblers to take their place.
Northern Parulas are among the first warblers to arrive, fresh from the Caribbean but incompletely attired, necessitating their incessant zipping. Last weekend seemed to be their peak, as the more northern parulas booked out leaving behind our resident breeders. If you northerners haven’t had one yet, you will very very soon.
I had my first Ovenbird nearly a full week earlier than normal this year, but since then they’ve been rolling in exactly when expected. There’s a section of woods in my local patch where I heard at least three males in full song. Granted, i haven’t actually see one yet (this photo is from last year), but there’s no mistaking when they’re around.
And perhaps the most exciting recent arrival is the Golden Swamp Warbler itself, the eye-searing Prothonotary Warbler. Nothing says “real” spring like the first burst of piercing slurry whistles from down a North Carolina stream. My first Prothonotaries made their appearance this past weekend here, notably a full five days later than I had them last year, so this whole things migrating early due to the mild season may be a bit overstated (at least in the east). These birds, at least, seemed to take their time.
I still have a few holes. No Black-and-White Warblers yet this year, nor Black-throated Greens, but the heat is definitely on for those eager to begin their warblering.
Have patience, friends. It’s just a few days more.