For the Birds: Those magical spring walks

I heard him singing his warbling song and then saw him perched on a branch right over my head. What a sight he was.

The rosy-red, upside-down triangle on his chest stood out like a sore thumb among the budding green foliage all around. He continued his seemingly never-ending, all-over-the-place song as I stood there gawking at him.

It is possible that it was his first day back on his breeding grounds as I hadn’t seen him on my walk just a day earlier. The male rose-breasted grosbeak’s warbling song, of course, was meant to tell other birds of his kind that this was his territory. It was also to tell any females within earshot that he was ready for the 2023 spring breeding season.

It’s always a thrill to see the first of these spectacular birds in the spring. It had been too long since we had last seen them in the fall. All returning birds are exciting, of course, but birds such as rose-breasted grosbeaks, scarlet tanagers, indigo buntings and Baltimore orioles add an extra thrill. We all have our personal favorites, too. For me, catbirds, bobolinks and wood thrushes give me that added jolt.

Even sparrows add some zip to a mid-spring walk as chipping sparrows and field sparrows are always fun to see and hear. Chipping sparrows, as their name suggests, sing a high-pitched trill, and field sparrows sound as if someone is bouncing a ping-pong ball on a table with its rapidly increasing cadence.

Don’t even get me started on warblers. Those small, migrant birds are a story unto themselves, and I’m sure I’ll revisit them in a column real soon.

What I haven’t seen yet, surprisingly, is a hummingbird. Usually, I’ve seen a few by now, but not this year. I’m writing this paragraph to ensure I see one shortly as that’s what usually happens when I gripe about not seeing something yet. It typically shows up even before the column goes to press.

A recent spring walk also included my first botched photo opportunity. I followed a blue-winged warbler flitting among the thick brush when he finally perched on a branch free from obstruction. With many birds, those moments are few and fleeting, but I got my opportunity. And I blew it.

I lifted the camera and found the blurred yellow bird in the viewfinder. I pushed the shutter halfway to let autofocus do its thing. As is often the case, autofocus toggled at warp speed between the bird and a nearby leaf. I let go of the shutter and tried again. This time, as soon as autofocus found its mark and the yellow shape became clear, the bird took off. Anyone who has ever tried to photograph birds knows that feeling all too well. Oh well, half the fun is in the hunt, right?

I’ll get plenty of chances over the next few weeks as more and more birds of all sizes and colors pour into New England. It’ll be like Christmas in May.

On a different topic, have you seen any chipmunks yet this spring? I haven’t, and plenty of people I know haven’t either. At the suggestion of a reader, I’ll be looking into this and addressing it in a future column. In the meantime, let me know what you’ve been seeing out there and if that includes any chipmunks.

1 thought on “For the Birds: Those magical spring walks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s