By Frances Figart, Creative Services Director
This time of year, I give up my last few hours of good sleep to get up before sunrise and go outside to watch—and listen to—birds. It may sound like a big sacrifice, but the dividends are great.
This past week, I was rewarded with a sighting of one of my favorites, the impossibly blue Indigo Bunting, which returns to our region from the south about this time. While I was watching him, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird showed up, looking for the nectar he remembered enjoying in the exact same spot last year. I rushed to prepare his sugar-water and hang out his feeder.
“I’ve also had Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at my feeder this week,” says Jaimie Matzko, new programs manager with A Walk in the Woods, who has been sticking close to home in Cosby, about a half mile from the park border. “For me personally, it’s all about the woodland warblers around here right now! We’ve had our resident Louisiana Water Thrushes, Northern Parula Warblers, Black and White Warbler, Black-throated Green Warblers and most recently, the Hooded Warblers have all returned.”
Keith Watson, who leads birding programs regionally and through GSMA’s Branch Out Events, agrees spring migration is what makes this a special time of year. “With all the odd weather patterns and rain, more shorebirds have been showing up in some areas including Semipalmated Plover, Long-billed Dowitcher, Pectoral Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, and both Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs! These birds don’t make many appearances in Sevier County!”
Birds have been keeping Supervisory Forester Kristine Johnson company while she has been sheltering at home in Pittman Center. “Northern Parulas were among the first warblers to arrive here, followed by Black-throated Green, Black-and-White and Hooded. I saw a Broadwing Hawk having it out with a pair of crows in my magnolia tree and hear Canada geese on the Middle Prong. Dapper little Blue-gray Gnatcatchers remind me of miniature Mockingbirds, and I spotted a Carolina Chickadee checking out the pockets of my jeans on the clothesline.”
While the park has been closed, Paul Super, who is the science director at Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center, has been keeping a list of the birds he sees from his home office between Clyde and Lake Junaluska.
“I think I'm up to 24, including Black-billed Cuckoo, White-eyed Vireo, Gray Catbird, and Purple Martin,” he says. “I have a pair of Eastern Bluebirds coming to my sunflower hearts feeder regularly. The female goes in first while the male stands guard, before grabbing a quick bite and following her away. You can try putting out orange halves at your bird feeder (if you are in a bear-free or bear-safe situation) to attract orioles and some warblers during migration.”
Tomorrow I’ll post the second part of this story, in which you will learn about a special bird I call the RBGB. Until then, let me know what birds YOU are seeing. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources to check out:
The Compleat Naturalist has binoculars, guidebooks, and other great birding resources.
There are also many great birding apps. My favorite is Sibley Birds.
Photo by Warren Lynn