Spring Has Sprung

March 20, 2024

Spring came this week, for sure. The wildflowers have started blooming everywhere, the early morning is beginning to fill with bird song, and the days are warmer and longer.

The birds are the most obvious signs of spring on the Mitigation Lands. Their songs fill our wildlife videos where there were not many sounds earlier. Western Meadowlarks trill their gorgeous melodies in the grasslands, and Song Sparrows are in every habitat singing their best songs while the woodpeckers are drumming their rhythmic beats on dead snags. The exciting part for me is the arrival of our bird spring migrants. It seems each day there is a new arrival. California is a major stop for birds migrating up the Pacific Flyway this spring. More than a billion birds will make their way over the state during spring migration.

In a Bay Nature article from May 2015 by Josaiah Clarke, he states, “Here in Northern California, the presence of so many resident and wintering birds in our temperate habitats masks the arrival of migrants. Migration in Northern California is a gradual transition that is easily overlooked. It is, however, often overheard. A trained ear will notice new voices emerging from the morning chorus in spring and that they are different from those species that occur in winter. Most migrant birds fly in the dark, and the flight calls can be heard as they pass over.” I have heard migrating songbirds flying over at night, usually around the first week in May, and it is thrilling.

This week, the Orange-crowned Warblers arrived. Their song is now following me all over the valley. This neotropical bird has flown here to nest and raise young from northern Central America. The other warbler that has begun to sing but is a winter resident in our area is the Yellow-rumped Warbler. We only hear their songs briefly in early spring before they go higher up in elevation to nest.

The Common Yellowthroat and Wilson’s Warblers will be arriving any day now, adding their songs to the chorus with other migrant neotropical songbirds. If you want to learn more about what is happening with bird migration in Mendocino County and the state and country as a whole, go to https://birdcast.info/ and see up-to-date and live migration maps. Since millions of birds are migrating in the sky above us during spring and autumn, it is exciting to see the maps of the different species passing over us each night beginning in early March and peaking in early May. The amount of information that is gathered each day and added to the historical body of knowledge is phenomenal. This data is teaching us about bird behavior and the health of their populations!