Friday, April 01, 2005

They're Here!

This morning I heard my first song sparrow singing of the season. Finally, the early birds are all in place. March 20, first red wing blackbird; March 26, first woodcock "peenting." The robins are singing in the yard too, and have been for several days, but robins overwinter so frequently around here (though I didn't see any this past winter), I am reluctant to count them as real migrants--they may have just flown up from Belleville.

We keep records of the first sightings or hearing of the early birds, and it is remarkable how consistent they are, regardless of weather conditions or whatever else might speed them up or slow them down. The date of arrival varies by less than a week to 10 days over the years.

The first woodcock heard this year was also the first woodcock I've ever seen. Woodcocks are small, funny looking birds that display and "peent" at dusk. They call from the ground, then take off in a whistling, tweeting flight, almost straight up, coming down again not too far from where they started to call again. The one I heard this week came down right past me, so I was able to track him to his landing, and was just able to make him out in the failing light. This bird is also rather cryptically coloured to blend well with the dead grass of the early spring field.

Other travellers reported in the hamlet (by my neighbour Nancy Newman), just passing through, a flock of 15 sandhill cranes flying overhead.

Activity on the walk goes on, but with the snow gone, I only see the barest clues. One print in a patch of mud here, a tuft or two of rabbit fur there, a clump of feathers. But soon the place will be filled with breeding birds. The next spring arrival should be the killdeer, with the bluebird not far behind, and not long after the air will be filled with the songs of the warblers and other late arrivals.

Spring in southern Ontario, sudden, brief, noisy, there's nothing like it.

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