For the Birds: March hints at migration

Photo by Chris Bosak A northern cardinal perches on a hemlock branch in Danbury.

March is an interesting month for birdwatching. In terms of variety and new birds to be found, it does not rank very highly, but March does welcome our first spring migrants.

Red-winged blackbirds have been around for a few weeks already, and in fact, some had never left and remained with us throughout the winter. American Woodcock have been seen and heard throughout New England already. Their aerial displays at dusk are one of the month’s birding highlights for sure.

In a few weeks, eastern phoebes will show up in New England and for me anyway, that really signals the beginning of spring migration.

In March, we also have our remaining winter birds. Juncos and white-throated sparrows are still around my feeders, and a few red-breasted nuthatches are still hanging in there as well.

However, March does not see the explosion of new birds that April and May bring us. I guess it can be said that good things must start slowly and build to a crest. March starts the spring migration madness, but we have to wait until at least the middle of April to start getting some of the more exciting and colorful birds. But it all begins in March, so we need to be thankful for that.

March is also a good month to see waterfowl. Water that hasn’t frozen will still hold many ducks, and water that had been frozen for the last several months starts to melt, bringing in some northward fowl.

It is typically in March when we see our first real signs of spring, and that makes sense as this season officially begins during the month. Indeed, last week was a good indication of that with warm temperatures, birds singing, and some brave plants starting to poke out of the ground.

But, this being New England, our optimism for spring is guarded as winter sometimes has a hard time letting go. It was only last year that March and April were very winter-like, and we even got a dusting of snow in early May. I have photos of a blue-winged warbler on a snowy branch to prove it.

Either way, the woodcock will be in the fields, and the phoebes will be here shortly as well. Being a birdwatcher is to appreciate all of the seasons. Each season has its own rewards and challenges.

March is a time of slow transition with the promise of warmer and more colorful days ahead.

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