The strong odor of moist, woodsy earth wafts in from out of town, ushering in a day of storms. At a gloomy 6:30 the Song Sparrow is already singing: unlike the rest of the dawn chorus, it doesn’t seem to wait later on darker days. As for the American Robins, I’ve given up trying to figure out when they start—by five, they’re already chasing each other around downtown parking lots.
It’s a balmy 48, with the hope of something new. In the early minutes before seven, along with the usuals from across the river—Eastern Phoebe, Carolina Wren, Common Raven, Northern Cardinal—a Chipping Sparrow (PH200#80) rouses out from over by the drive-in bank, a favorite local haunt in the summertime. It likely arrived back in town last night or within the last few days. Hopefully, this one will stay: the first local Fish Crow and Eastern Towhee seem to have moved on, perhaps in search of better habitat. (I do get the sense that my beloved parking lot/river/interstate ecotone isn’t as optimal for such returning migrant species as it is for the Eastern Phoebe.)
A Tufted Titmouse calls loudly at seven, but after that the air goes quite for about ten minutes, as usual. A noticeable subtraction is its cousin, the Black-capped Chickadee, which appears to have moved out of this patch entirely. The third in the trio—White-breasted Nuthatch—is still around, though getting less obvious by the day. None of the three are much in evidence from my balcony over the summer, though they all breed along the river between here and the Plummer’s Hollow bridge.
The second wave, starting at 7:13, is anchored by European Starlings and Common Grackles, as gregarious as ever, and a few House Sparrows and House Finches, which have definitely diminished their aerial activity since winter.
At 7:22, a grackle front passes over; I’m in the parking lot saying goodbye to Paola, and from this angle, I can see them suddenly whoosh down to land somewhere up by the paper mill.
Rain begins at 7:40 as the Downy Woodpecker starts up. A juvenile Bald Eagle comes in low overhead and flaps on downstream. The starlings appear to be completely unfazed by the downpour.
At lunch, after a morning deep in cyberspace, I glance out at rainless, fast-moving clouds from the southwest and raptors circling the sky: Turkey and Black Vultures, a Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagles, and a Merlin over Bald Eagle Mountain. Some are part of the local crowd, reveling in the weather change, but others are in a migrant push I don’t want to miss. It’s in the 50s, so I move my office outside for a couple hours. However, it looks like I missed the best of it—none of the Golden Eagles I was hoping for, in particular.
The best part is a fast-moving mass of Ring-billed Gulls, some 60 in all, that emerges suddenly in tight formation over Sapsucker Ridge and streams by, straight north, moving faster than the cars on the interstate. Wind-assisted: I would guess they are going over 80mph.
After dinner, with thunderstorms all around, I pick a break in the weather to head for the pond, just to be thorough. Spring peepers (finally!) greet me, but all that remains in the water is a lone Canada Goose.
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Saw a loon on Glendale Lake yesterday. Also a flock of 40 hooded mergansers on the water. Never saw that many at a time before.
The Tussey spring hawk watch is having a very slow season for Golden Eagles.