Last Saturday, Feb. 27, turned out to be a pretty nice birding day for me. I didn’t really see any rarities or add any species to any particular list that I keep. Rather I experienced a couple of firsts for my yard feeders and saw a couple of seasonal firsts for 2016.
Fish crows are not exciting birds to see but they are the first species to return to their local breeding grounds here from a winter absence. They are almost identical to the year-round American crows but their voice is noticeably different. I was roused that morning by at least three fish crows constantly complaining about something in the back yard. One day they are nowhere to be found, but one day in late February each year they materialize from nothing. That day this year was last Saturday. They will be with us until sometime in October when they will go missing again.
Much more exciting is the arrival of returning ospreys to their local breeding grounds. Ospreys are more charismatic and awe-inspiring than fish crows, and are more eagerly awaited. Late that afternoon I heard the unmistakable calls of an osprey descending from the clear blue sky. A few seconds later I was able to pick the circling bird out high overhead as it disappeared to the northeast.
For years I have enjoyed the reports and photos I have received from readers of orioles and orange-crowned warblers coming to local feeders. I was also envious, as I had never seen any of those species at my own feeders. Well, last Saturday both species appeared within an hour of each other. The warbler checked out the mesh shelled peanut feeder for a few minutes before disappearing, not to return. The female Baltimore oriole hung around most of the day checking out all of the feeders. By the next day she was gone too.
As winter wanes and spring approaches there will be more days when bird movement will be obvious. Keep an eye open at your feeders or overhead for new arrivals or migrants that will passing through. Swallows will appear any day now and some warblers and ruby-throated hummingbirds will appear by the end of the month.
Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com. Check out his blog at piedmontbirding.blogspot.com