One great thing about our big year birding contest is that it has forced me to be more specific in my birding. No more glancing at a bird and assuming its identity because of the shape or the song… I want to be absolutely sure that I am correct. This morning, I got a new bird while drinking tea on my porch… an Orchard Oriole hopped up to the top of the live oak into the sunlight and serenaded me. He was gorgeous, right in the dawn sunlight, but when I reached for the camera, he flew off. Some things are meant to be enjoyed and not recorded.
Our warm weather has brought lots of spring birds back early. Northern Parulas are singing from the spanish moss near the fire station, where they may build nests hidden deep in the moss clusters. Warblers flit through the underbrush; I was lucky to catch a great glimpse of a Yellow-Throated Warbler (top photo) near the landings building, and a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher foraged nearby. Black Necked Stilts and Glossy Ibis are feeding in the impoundment, Killdeer are nesting on grassy areas, and Great Crested Flycatchers are calling from the trees along the start of Old House Lane. Green Herons are back at Huyler House pond, and I expect we’ll see Painted Buntings any day now.
If you haven’t joined the Birding Big Year contest, please join us! It’s a lot of fun, and a great way to learn about the winged residents of the island. You don’t even have to know all the species to play… we’ll help you. There’s something hilarious about running into fellow birders at cocktail parties and watching them grin slyly and hold up four fingers, dropping you a place in the rankings. One great way to start is May 6, a Sunday, when the Audubon Birding folks will be on the island for the spring count. We start fairly early, meeting at the flagpole. Then we head over to our porch to count the impoundment and have breakfast, and then divide and cover the island to see how many species we can find. If you are not a confident birder, we can pair you up with an experienced counter and you are sure to learn a lot! Let me know if you are planning to come, and I will put you in touch with Cathy Miller, the count chairperson for Dewees Island.