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Spring migration wings way into Charlotte

Things are really happening fast on the migration front. Last weekend brought in several firsts of the year as more breeders continue to come into the area from their more Southern and Eastern wintering grounds.

Sunday I had barn swallows and tree swallows at a couple of locations in east Charlotte, joining their cousins the Northern rough-winged swallows that had arrived about a week earlier in small numbers. Last weekend saw an explosion in their numbers though.

It won’t be too long before the other two breeding swallows arrive; the cliff swallows and purple martins. For a pictorial on the breeding swallows in Mecklenburg county visit my blog at piedmontbirding@blogspot.com.

Blue-gray gnatcatchers arrived Monday; I had that species in four locations that day. I also had the first singing blue-headed vireo, a species that winters in the southern part of the county in tiny numbers but had somehow eluded me until I heard it sing and scold at the Reedy Creek Park Nature Center.

I always get excited when the migrants move in. Though by the end of May I will see probably a couple of hundred barn swallows and gnatcatchers, it is the first ones that get the birding adrenaline really flowing. It’s a kickstart to taking in the spring migration, and sort of a game I play with myself – try to find each species on an earlier date than I have found them before.

By the time this column goes to print there will be other old friends that will have come back for the summer. I wouldn’t be surprised if the first ruby-throated hummingbirds will have already appeared at a few feeders. If they haven’t then it will be just a matter of a few days. White-eyed vireos almost certainly will be here by now, absent one day, common the next.

As fast as birds are moving into the area right now, we are not even near the peak of migration yet. That won’t occur until about May first. As we move into April, even more of the breeding warblers, vireos, tanagers, buntings, and grosbeaks will surge north. Some will stay with us while others will head on up into southern Canada. It’s going to be a great spring migration and a great next six weeks for Piedmont Birding.

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.