A tale of two Springs
The Spring season is one of change and transition. That’s why I tend to think of Spring as being divided into two Springs, before and after the Ruby-throated Hummingbird’s arrival. Before the return of these little jewels, for me, it is the wintery Spring, where snow is always a possibility, a Spring of Juncos and Sparrows, of Blackbirds and Flickers, of Kinglets and Creepers.
After hummingbirds have returned, it is the renewal of green, the appearance of flowers, the warmth seeping back into our bones. It is the summery Spring, with Flycatchers and Vireos, Nighthawks and Waxwings, and an explosion in Warbler diversity. There has been many FOY in the last two weeks and a few surprises in our nets. After FOY Red-eyed Vireo on May 13, we detected his two cousins, the Warbling and Philadelphia Vireos for the first time both on the same day, May 21. Flycatchers, with their insectivorous diet, are usually late migrants (except for the hardy Eastern Phoebe). In quick succession, we had FOY Eastern Wood-Pewee on May 24, FOY Yellow-bellied Flycatcher on May 25, and FOY Olive-sided Flycatcher on May 27. The latter was only heard for a very short moment, singing its “quick, three beer” thirsty call! (or so we, humans, hear and transcribe)
Among nightjars, the Eastern Whip-poor-will returns earlier, with its namesake song heard over the basin for the first time on May 3. The FOY Common Nighthawk was heard on May 25: this species is more easily seen than the “Will”, chasing insects high in the evening sky before the sun disappears fully behind the rotundity of the Earth.
In our nets, we caught a brilliant adult male Scarlet Tanager on May 17. Besides classic black tail and wings, the whole bird shines scarlet. It warmed everybody’s heart. Another big surprise was the Yellow-billed Cuckoo caught on May 28: it is only the second ever banded in Spring, with the first on the exact same date in 2012. That 2012 bird was also observed the following day. It is, so far, the only records of Yellow-billed Cuckoo in the Spring at Cabot Head, despite that species being seen almost every Fall.
At last but not least, one happy volunteer, Judith Kennedy, finally caught up with her nemesis and had great views of a dashing male Indigo Bunting. Every birder has their own nemesis, which could be rare or common, but always manages to escape their hungry eyes. It always feels good to break the curse!