Love is in the Air: Spring Migration Has Birds on the Move

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle

If you have spend any time at all this spring wandering along creek banks, sitting lakeside, or perched in a chair on your own front porch, you may have already noticed that the birdsong seems sweeter, the rustling in the bushes more furtive, and the population of feathered creatures seems to have suddenly increased.

It’s spring, it happens every year. Love is in the air and the birds are on the move.

Red-winged Blackbird

Wood Warblers

Last week a bouquet of Yellow-rumped Warblers descended from the sky and landed in the walnut trees in my backyard.

In the past I have seen one or two of these tiny tweeters, but never have I seen two dozen.

Warblers rarely perch at bird feeders, they prefer to capture their lunch on the fly as they hawk about the treetops looking for insects.

One Tweeters mailing list subscriber wrote that she had seen upwards of 1,500 of them flying past her while she was out birding. I can only imagine what a spectacle that must be.

Earlier this week an Orange-crowned Warbler blessed me with his presence for a moment.

He was here and gone so quickly, that if I hadn’t already had my camera in front of my face I would have missed him entirely.

Red-Winged Blackbirds

The Red-winged Blackbird is a common, can’t miss it, can’t plug your ears fast enough to avoid his piercing whistle kinda bird.

The female Red-winged Blackbird is rather plain — but only on first glance. If you have the time to look closer, notice how intense the brown, rust and buff colors of her plumage becomes at this time of year. And, if you’re lucky and have a quick eye, you can see a feint spot of color at the shoulder of each wing, much like the bold, bright red and yellow epaulettes of her mate.

The female Red-wings have been acting rather “frisky” of late, and I’ve been watching the larger and older males prance around the railing of my front porch with their shoulders puffed up, looking like a soldier carrying epaulettes so brightly red that they nearly have a neon glow.

Song Sparrows

One of my nemisis birds, the Song Sparrow, has always given me a heck of a time. I’ve never gotten a clear shot of this bird — until now.

The Song Sparrow is normally a solitary and secretive bird, seen darting from brush pile to bush, from low branch to bramble.

But this time of year, testosterone takes over and this talented songster becomes part showman, part hero, and even a bit of a bully.

The “Puff, Wave, Sing” display of the male Song Sparrow may look a little silly to us, but to a rival sparrow encroaching on his territory, this song and dance serves as a warning.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking this fat little fellow is all bluff, puff and song, he’s a man of action. He gives chase to territory invaders who refuse to be intimidated by his display. If that doesn’t work, he will fight with beak and claw. This is one scrappy little sparrow. The Song Sparrow usually wins the fight, even if the opposing sparrow is a larger bird.

So be on the lookout for the Song Sparrow as you walk near marshes, along briar-lined roads, and in woodlands, and listen for his song, “Madge-Madge-Madge, put-on-your-tea-kettle-ettle-ettle.” And if you see him flip you a wing, don’t be offended, just back away slowly and be on your way before he shows you just how mean a songster he can be.

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Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Visit her website The (Almost) Daily News (almostdailynews.com) and find her on Facebook (Kimberly Mason — The Chronicle), call 269-5017 or email kim@almostdailynews.com.