It is the twenty-sixth of March. By the calendar, spring has been here for nearly a week. Red-winged Blackbird hordes have gone through, and the female red-wings are even thick on the ground. Forsythia is flowering and daffodils are blooming all over the place. I’ve watched my first Mourning Cloak butterfly for the year flutter by. Yesterday I saw a Northern Cardinal carrying nesting material. In Central Park I’ve even seen some women sunbathing in bikinis (not that I was watching them, of course, but a robin was pulling worms out of the ground nearby). So where the heck is my first Eastern Phoebe of the year?
Since I’ve been competent enough of a birder to know what a phoebe is and to look for them showing up in the spring the latest I’ve spotted one in New York State was in 2006, when it took me until, well, the twenty-sixth of March. Last year it took me until the twenty-first, in 2008 the fifteenth, and in 2007, amazingly, I spotted one on the third! And it’s not as if they aren’t around this year. They’ve been seen by pretty much every regular birder in New York City and in pretty much every park with the right habitat. Somehow though, Sayornis phoebe has avoided me and my binoculars in 2010.
It is not that Eastern Phoebes are a particularly attractive bird; they are actually rather bland, with a lemon wash on the lower underparts being as bright as they ever get. They do not have an especially attractive song; what they say in their hoarse voice is their own name, usually twice. But they are, at the risk of anthropomorphizing, spunky. They have a lust for life that somehow breaks them free of the bland flycatcher mode. Perhaps it is their tail-pumping that makes them seem cheerful, or their tendency to build nests on human constructions, little add-ons that make any building or bridge better. Whatever it is, I am not happy about not having seen my first Eastern Phoebe of the year, and it I don’t track one down in Central Park on my lunch break I am going to be seriously upset.
If you are a person who lives in the range of Eastern Phoebes, when did you get your first phoebe of the year this year? And is that better or worse than usual?
Still looking, Corey, but none in this part of Wiltshire so far…though am email’s just gone round urging UK birders to keep their eyes peeled for Alpine Swifts (and frankly I know which I’d rather see)!
I love this! You’ve captured the phoebe exactly–a little bland looking, but more than making up for it in verve and companionability. Our phoebes were both late and erratic this year. We didn’t have one singing at Indigo Hill until 3/17; no phoebe prospecting around our eaves until 3/21, and their usual arrival date is 3/9. I ascribe it to all the snow along the lower Eastern seaboard. It was probably snowing hard when they would have normally been moving up through the Carolinas. I’m always glad when insectivorous birds like phoebes and tree swallows arrive late–it’s that much less punishment they’ll have to take when it snows in March and April, ugggh.
In in southern PA. My first phoebe this year was March 18, a tad later than average. For me, average is around March 12, and early is March 7-8. Because that part of March was so warm here, I was expecting phoebes to arrive at the early end of the arrival range, not towards the lower end. For me, late would be March 23-24.
March 15th here in Southwestern Connecticut.
I suppose Say’s Phoebe’s fill this niche in the west.
In northern Fairfield County, Conn., yesterday, March 25, I heard and then noticed our first phoebe of this spring. Each year phoebes build their nests atop our front porch posts.
They’re year-round here in North Carolina. I have them in my notes up to the beginning of January and then they disappeared during the worst of the winter weather for six weeks or so before returning around February 20 and increasing in number since then. I had quite a few this past week exhibiting pair-bonding behavior.
I’m with you Corey, no Phoebes yet, though other birders have seen them in central NJ. (Well, I saw many Phoebes 2 weeks ago in Florida, but that doesn’t count, does it?) I did have my FOS Tree Swallows at my local NJ grassland last week.
I have to disagree with your characterization of Eastern Phoebes as bland. They may not be colorful, but I think they have an elegant shape and posture, and in that respect are a very NYC-type of bird.
Still waiting too, but I am still in my “SE michigan” window. During the last 3 years, I got my first phoebe between March 23 and March 28th, so there is still hope….
Also absent, at least for me in SE PA. Last year’s first was about 03.27.10. A quick watercolor of that 2009 bird is here. We’ve been out looking and have had kildeer for a couple of weeks now. But still waiting to hear what always sounds to me like a plaintive and demanding “feed me!”.
My first Eastern Phoebe of the year was on January 23rd, in mile 149 of the C&O Canal. My first in New Jersey for 2010 was this past weekend.
I did not see one on my lunch break. I has a sad. 🙁
well, I hate to tell you Corey, but in the park you used to go to, Forest Park, I had a Phoebe on Mon 3/21… too bad you missed it, it put on quite a show, tail-pumping & all, at the waterhole.
Finally got two in Central park on 3/31. Took long enough!
3/14- But it was in northern Virginia, not NY.
It’s basically my expected arrival date, although it’s tied for the earliest among all my eBird sightings. Then again, I don’t bird that much in early March