BIRD WATCH: Watch for more signs of spring

WHEN LONGING FOR spring and warmer weather, I watch for any sign that encourages me to believe things are improving.

There’s no ignoring the birds who are equally eager for a change in the weather.

Even as snow and freezing temperatures took one more swing at us, the birds began to sing.

Varied thrush whistle loudly, proclaiming the days are getting longer and nesting time is approaching.

It’s a happy sound when this thrush whistles loudly from a nearby spot.

Wait a few seconds and off in the distance you will hear an answering whistle.

It’s like territorial jousting but the birds are just beginning to get territorial urges.

Eventually they’ll head for mature forests and higher elevations to stake out nesting territories.

Song sparrows are also testing their vocal chords while hinting of spring’s coming.

It takes some warming up and practicing the scales before they can attempt to impress a female with their spring songs.

House finches are adding even more complicated tunes to the yard’s chorus.

Their burbling, bubbling, bouncy tune lifts your spirits, freezing temperatures or not.

Robins are often heard during the winter when they’re around. That’s because they have such quarrelsome natures.

Just the sight of another robin in the wrong place and they start scolding.

The robin song we wait for is that late in the day, often just before sunset, when a loud, almost bark-like call echoes throughout the yard.

Put this together with a sun setting in a cloudless sky and you can almost touch spring.

Flowering daffodils and primroses together with swelling buds on the pussy willows and other flowering trees also announce spring is arriving.

Add the songs of the birds and the most pessimistic of us begins to believe what they are seeing.

Sometimes something arrives in the mail that’s another reminder of the changing seasons.

Grus Americana, the newsletter for the Whooping Crane Conservation Association, arrived in the mail recently.

It featured spring activity among the whoopers throughout North America.

While most birds sing in the spring, whooping cranes also dance.

Articles in the most recent issue discussed spring activities taking place among the various flocks, but they concerned last spring’s nesting results.

This year everyone is hoping for a repeat of the previous spring’s record-breaking nesting success.

Northern Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park is North America’s largest whooping crane nesting site.

These large and endangered birds make one of the most stressful and dangerous migration journeys of any species.

It takes them two to three weeks to fly 2,500 miles from their wintering grounds in Texas to their nesting grounds in Canada’s Northwest Territory.

Once their destination is reached they will build their nests on the muskeg where the days are long and the trees are stunted evergreens.

The horizon runs on to forever with no human habitation in sight.

Small airplanes are used to locate and record active nest sites.

They also count the number of birds hatched.

Last year’s crop of young colts gave Wood Buffalo its best spring on record.

Sixty-three young fledged and that number included four families with twins.

A single chick per pair is the norm.

The whooping crane population is small compared to other bird species. It danced on the brink of extinction several decades ago.

Its entire population numbered less than 20 birds.

Due to decades of research, protection and numerous conservation efforts, it is steadily growing.

There’s good reason to dance and sing as we anticipate spring’s arrival.


Joan Carson’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at P.O. Box 532, Poulsbo, WA 98370, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Email: [email protected]

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