Friday, May 9, 2014

2014 Spring Birding in Town and Country

Love this depiction of male and female scarlet tanager,
set against the North America / South America migration route

The extension of winter in 2014 through the month of April has focused the spring happenings in nature this year. When the flowers blossomed they all bloomed, as those who suffer sinus allergies can attest, and these blooms are usually followed by sightings of ruby-throated hummingbirds. As continued wet weather keeps the conditions in the Lowcountry more tropical, colorful migratory songbirds may choose to linger here a while longer.
The up and down weather pattern in April wasn’t more evident that the weekend of the RBC Heritage golf tournament in Hilton Head. The weekdays were sunny and pleasant, but by Friday three inches of rainfall were recorded along the coast. The cloudy and breezy conditions made wearing a golf shirt out of the question for the remainder of the weekend.

Flowering plants at this time include wisteria, dogwoods and late-blooming azaleas but a green up of vegetation is occurring wherein trees begin soaking in water and putting out fresh leaves. This process can dry out the woodlands quickly, but the heavy rains mentioned above served to replenish swamps and ditches overnight, making this the second wet spring in a row.

Black and White warbler spotted in downtown Charleston
These observations serve as intangibles when I say that the 2014 bird migration started a little late, much like those delayed blooms, and then a wide array of neotropical migratory songbirds began to show up in bunches. The careful birder will be able to record many memorable sightings into their logbook in May and beyond, including other species like swallow-tailed kites and wading birds like roseate spoonbills.

Celebrated every May 10
Birding is a great hobby all 365 days a year, but spring birding is by far the main event. There is an added anticipation of anything can happen, like when a scissor-tailed flycatcher was observed at the Santee Birding Festival. Colorful birds against a lush green backdrop are not hard to spot and they bring a flash of panache to our woods, and in some cases to our yards. Attracting songbirds takes dedication and like most endeavors, hard work can pay off over time.

What kind of colorful songbirds am I referencing? How about the neon red Summer tanager, and the equally red Scarlet tanager with his distinctive black wings. Three shades of blue are in season too, including the hue of the Indigo bunting, Blue grosbeak and the Eastern bluebird. And who can forget the Painted bunting and his coat of many colors that so many consider to be THE bird to see.

To view a photo of the painted bunting click for my Birding Journal Observations.

To read the remainder of my feature article in the newspaper click Charleston Mercury


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