… Because Spring, for us, began this weekend. With the threat of rain looming over us, we were reluctant to make any ambitious plans, so we played it safe, staying reasonably close to home. Forsyth Park seemed a good bet, since it's downtown, and we could always escape into a cafe if the weather turned against us. It's also not an area that we've given much attention to, aside from my lunch break strolls, and this gave us the opportunity to uncover any early migration secrets that lay in store.
This was probably the best decision we could have made.
Stepping out of the car, our first-of-season Chimney Swifts flew above us in their erratic paths, wings quivering. I would have been content if that had been the highlight of the day, but this is the start of migration, and migration means warblers.
Our instinct was to start scanning the trees, but there was surprisingly little action up there. The Yellow-rumps are slowly starting to thin out, after all, even as other species begin to trickle in. No, it wasn't the trees we wanted, but the bushes, right along the paved walkways. Mixed in among the throngs of White-throated Sparrows and Brown Thrashers were all sorts of treats that we dared not expect.
Hooded Warblers and Ovenbirds appeared simultaneously, and soon, seemed to be everywhere. We ended up with about half-a-dozen of each, and the Ovenbirds, in particular with rather rambunctious, chasing each other from bush to bush, and across the paths. The Hooded Warblers, or at least some of them, will stay and breed here, but the Ovenbirds, unfortunately, are just passing through.
Our bird-of-the-day was another creature of the undergrowth. We'd expected that when we eventually find our lifer Swainson's Warbler, it would be in a quiet, swampy area, away from the boisterousness of a city park. Instead, it was in a thin strip of shrubbery, amid all sorts of weekend hustle-bustle.
We had seen it long enough to confidently ID it, and were anxiously trying to relocate it, when we were accosted by a professional photographer trying to get rid of us. It seems his idea of a family portrait doesn't include a couple of hipsters skulking in the background. Now, I know that when we go in the field, we're ambassadors for birding, but this man was ridiculous. We awkwardly tried explaining that we were looking for a bird, and that we wouldn't be able to oblige him. Then he changed tactics, and pointed at random birds: "There, is that it?" thinking that maybe we could move along now. My reply, I think, was a derisive laugh.
|Many of the birds here are accustomed to people|
|Catching up with my best friend, an American Robin|
We eventually got back to birding, but not before we lost the warbler. It's a pity, but it's just one of the risks you run when birding a shared public space. And with 9 warbler species, Red-eyed Vireo, and plenty of other birds, the morning was already a resounding success. Now, with migration so clearly upon us, I'm finally ready to admit that Spring is here.