05 March 2008

Migration and Molt

One of the inevitabilities of Spring is the departure of our wintering bird species. With March in full swing I've seen the first signs of the migration right here at home, and it's given me renewed hope that our summer residents will be here before I know it. Monday morning, as I was getting dressed upstairs I heard a familiar bird call from the back yard. Although I recognized it, it took seeing the bird on the feeder for me to put two and two together . . It was a male Red-winged Blackbird, and he was soon joined by one more before the two flew off together. I distinctly remember the first one of them from last Spring as well, and if the pattern holds the Brown-headed Cowbirds will be back soon as well. I plan to get my hummingbird feeders hung up this weekend too, as the first migrating Ruby-throats should be passing through very soon.

Then, later in the day Monday I was outside playing with the kids when I saw what looked at first like a really big gull soaring overhead. As it came literally directly over our house I realized that it was not a gull, but rather an Osprey. There was at least one pair of Osprey that nested along the South end of the Coddle Creek Reservoir last summer, and I hope to see them set up shop there again this year. This picture of an Osprey is one that I took in Ft. Myers, Florida last December. They were so abundant there that the sight of them almost became mundane. Here, however, they are a bit of a rarity, so the first sighting of an early migrator was quite exciting.
I've also started to see the first signs of the pre-alternate molt (also known as the Spring molt) in my winter American Goldfinches. Their bright yellow mating plumage is starting to peek through in small spots, and I imagine very soon they'll disappear, only to be replaced in the coming months by our summer population. I think I'll actually miss the almost military-looking white stripes on their otherwise drab winter wing feathers. They've been my most reliable feeder visitors this winter, almost like an adopted part of the family.


Carolyn said...

WOW! What a great picture of that bird...he is a pretty one!!!

(standing here waiting for you to correct me, its probably a female.)


Sparverius said...

Red-winged Blackbirds have showed up here as well. I work in the mountains at about 6000 feet and so spring generally comes a bit later than down in the valley. But just a few weeks ago I heard a couple, and saw one.

How cool your Osprey are making their way back as well.