Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring Migration

This is one of the best seasons for birders.  Spring migration.  Migratory birds go through our areas after wintering further south.  We search eagerly for those species that are going through and heading further North.  Spring migration does include those species that come home to our areas to nest and breed in the summer.  They are migrating too.

For many, spring migration is more attractive than the fall migration.  You get to see warblers in their pretty bright colors instead of the drab fall colors.  Easier to identify.  More exciting after missing some of the colorful birds in the winter.  Something new after the wintering warblers (just a handful including the Kinglets), ducks, shorebirds, and vagrants.

Migratory birds are now on the move and the season is rather short.  It's over before the end of May.  Typically.  How do you see spring migrants?

First, we need to do our homework.  What migrant birds are we expecting? Check the Aps, check the bird books.  In the Southeast, and just in the warbler families, we have the Nashville (will be going through), the Northern Parula (already getting here and will stay and breed), the Chestnut-sided (will be going through), Magnolia (going through, not here yet), the Blackburnian (will be going through), Yellow-throated (already here and will stay and breed for the summer), same as the Prairie, Blue-winged (going through),... you get the idea.  And of course, there many other species than just warblers (vireos, flycatchers...).

Then, we brush up on how to identify these bird species especially their calls.

And finally, we go out to see and enjoy them.

My usual strategy is to concentrate on the species that are only going through.  I will have plenty of time to see the ones that are coming "home" to breed for the summer.  If I feel I did not see enough migrants going through in my immediate area, then I catch up with the rest at Kennesaw Battlefield National Monument where folks report a lot of migratory birds.

We need to stop and understand one simple fact to better appreciate these birds.

These birdies came from way up North (northern U.S. States and Canada) and flew thousands of miles in the fall to get to their wintering grounds way South (further south than Georgia, in Mexico and South America).  Now they are doing the same thing, flying thousand of miles going back home!  Please, stop to admire and appreciate them.  In other words, let's not just tick them off our checklist looking for the next one.  Let's go "wow! go birdie!", rest and refill, make it home safe...and you're so pretty!

Happy birding!

P.S. Comments are welcome.  You can share your spring migrant birding experience in comments.

Andre Coquerel

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