THROUGH THE WOODS: Our friends are returning

SPRING MIGRANTS CONTINUE TO POUR INTO OUR AREA and the air is filled with the happy sounds of birds singing everywhere. Some of our winter yard birds like the little dark-eyed juncos gathered into flocks of 20-30 birds and have left. My most loved arrival here is a field sparrow with a partially white head (leucistic), which was here last year!

Black bears have been around our area already so be prepared to have your bird feeders raided. A few years ago some expensive feeders were bitten in half so this year they were taken in early. I put loose corn, cracked corn, and sunflower seed on the lawn. Bears can eat from this without damaging anything. Since the birdseed attracts the bears to a yard there could be a danger to us, so be vigilant when you go outside. If you see a bear it is best to stay inside and not go out to take pictures or try to scare it away.

Most of the waterfowl have moved up the Hudson River and gone north. Huge flocks of hundreds of swallows were observed flying up the Hudson River by friends. They were rapidly catching insects and swirling around and back and forth. The majority were tree swallows but there were probably some others. It is a dizzying task to look through binoculars and find one barn swallow. Today there was a tree swallow flying back of the house. Also present was a turkey vulture checking out some old meat put out for them. It was wary and as it ate, the American Crows flew in to harass it. After all, it is their field. There are many internet listserves available for birders to join. Members post recent bird species sightings so other birders know which ones are coming to an area. I get alerts from New York City, Kingston, Albany, and north up to Canada.

Leucistic field sparrow. Photo by Nancy Jane Kern

The Kingston area has been getting warblers so I knew we would be getting them soon. The family of birds called Wood-warblers are small birds, about 57 species in North America, and are about 4 ¼ to 7” long. Most in our area are about 5” long with the Yellow-breasted Chat the longest at 7”. This bird is usually found down south and only rarely visits our area. So far this year there have been yellow-rumped, pine, golden-crowned, and ruby-crowned kinglets in the yard. Warblers and swallows eat insects so the weather has to be warm enough to have abundant insects available. Fortunately for the birds, we are finally getting this. I got two mosquito bites yesterday. Eastern Phoebes are flycatchers and they are back to my place just in time to do insect patrols in addition to the tree swallows over the field. There are lots of flies and bees under the house eaves and the birds really clean them up. Sometimes we forget that our birds have vital roles in our environment besides giving us the pleasure of their songs, flight and beauty. We enthusiastically welcome them back for the season and greatly appreciate all they do for us.

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