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Spring migration of birds still ongoing

A blue grosbeak visits the birdbath for a drink of water.Photo By Jeff Dennis

A blue grosbeak visits the birdbath for a drink of water.
Photo By Jeff Dennis

The cool, wet weather of the spring of 2013 is keeping the progression of seasons at bay, at least for this week. Colletonians who went afield in search of a wild turkey may have heard less gobbling, and that wasn’t the only bird sound that was missing. Migratory songbirds that pass through the area from their Neotropical wintering grounds on the way back north have been slow to appear. This means that the best birding may still be yet to come, so keep a sharp eye open.

Backyard birdwatchers deploy an array of birdseed in winter, but thistle seed, in particular, helps to attract goldfinches. Since these birds overwinter in the Lowcountry, they are a great bellwether for songbird migration. Did anyone else see a yellow flash at their feeder this year and do a double-take? Normally, the finches migrate north before they come into the golden plumage that earns them their name. Not so in 2013 though, making this the best year I can ever remember to view goldfinches in the Lowcountry.

Lifelong birders know spring to be their best chance of sighting a new species for the first time, thus adding it to their life list of sightings. This is because, every year, it seems that a bird or two from another region gets swept up in our southern migration and fly through with our regular migrants. Sightings of this nature are exhilarating, and can be the reason that fuels resolve to become a regular birder.

This birder keeps a birding journal to record both special and more common sightings and the date. Over the years, a birding journal can reveal the arrival and departure of migratory songbirds. Additionally, it serves to record which bird species are more common everyday at the feeders.

Some of my birding journal highlights thus far for 2013 include:

March 11- First yellow-throated warbler; March 15- First swallow-tailed kite;

April 13- First ruby-throated hummingbird; April 18- First blue grosbeak, and yellow-billed cuckoo; April 22- First male painted bunting; and April 30- First indigo bunting, and towhee.

On a recent birding visit to Bear Island, a South Carolina Department of Natural Resources employee pulled out a pair of Alpen binoculars with some age on them, and he shared that they had stood the test of time quite well. This is the type of unsolicited vouch that bodes well for those who plan to spend time in the field with equipment that is reliable and affordable.

A familiar name such as Alpen will offer a clear view, and can claim a recent Great Buy Award from Outdoor Life magazine. The Alpen Shasta Ridge 8×42 binoculars retail for $259, and are both waterproof and fog-proof. Alpen also offers a 10×42 all pink binocular for $271 that has appeal for lady birders. Larger optics in the form of spotting scopes are also popular for pro birders.

Some reasons to set up a bird feeder in your backyard include cardinals, woodpeckers, blue jays, mockingbirds, wrens, nuthatches, sparrows and brown thrashers! Remember that, with this year’s delayed spring migration, it could be that May birding will be even better than usual. Remember to share your photos and unusual sightings with The Colletonian.

Jeff Denis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (360 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com