It must be early spring, although the weather is continuing to feel like its June–in the 60′s and 70′s. I’m no birder, although I am trying. Plant people just can’t understand studying things that flit around, throw their voices, and are almost invisible to the naked eye. I hear a song or see movement, bring my binoculars up to my eyes, search the trees and see nothing.
I know a very knowledgeable horticulturist. She is the principle grower of native seeds in Northern California. She decided to begin to study birds, and the first time she went into the field with a birding group, she didn’t even think to bring binoculars. I suppose, like myself, she figured these animals would just show themselves and sit still for her like our wonderful plants do.
That being said, here’s my observations on what’s arriving so far. All winter long in these mountains above 7000′ you can see Red-breasted nuthatches and Chickadees.
Grouse, Turkeys and Dippers are occasionally spotted too. But the heralds of new spring are the beautiful bluebirds. The pair that nests here every year has returned, checking out all my homemade boxes.
I’ve been seeing large groups of sparrows (don’t ask me what species, please). Their melodious songs are filling the woods. The other day I saw a ‘Slate-colored’ Junco. I had to look him up because I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. Usually I see the black-capped Juncos around here, and they are back as well. No warblers yet, but the Robins have been here for over a month. They migrate elevationally, with many wintering in Cody at 5000′. I don’t know if this is the way that its always been. That’s hard to imagine with the stories about classic Wyoming winters. No flickers yet, but I’ve seen Downy Woodpeckers for over a month also.
Sandhill Cranes, another sign of spring, aren’t up this way yet, but I know they are down in the desert so I should hear their classic call soon.
As far as eagles and hawks, Bald and Golden Eagles are year all winter, but the other day I saw my first Red-tailed of the season, and yesterday was a real treat. In a small wooded area where I know I might catch a glimpse of a breeding pair in season, I saw a single Northern Goshawk.
It’s time to begin again my new practice I started last year. Its a Jon Young ‘Understanding Bird Language’ special. The idea is simple: everyday go and sit for 1 hour in the same spot–your secret spot–and simply listen to the birds. Over time, with only the aid of identifying only 4 or 5 ground birds, you will start to understand when the birds are happy and in baseline, and when they are sounding alarms. This basic awareness can help you know when and what type of predators are lurking. Alarms vary depending upon whether its a ground predator such as a weasel or a large bird of prey overhead. It takes practice and persistence. But its a fun, relaxing meditation. I highly recommend Young’s instructive tape set available through his website on Bird Language.