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It’s In Your Nature: Our spring arrivals

November through March provides us with some birds that “tough out” the winter and remain in our region. They include: Cardinals, black-capped chickadees, the nuthatches, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, and tufted titmice, to mention a few.

Our feeders then attract a few other species that find the Times News region more hospitable than their northern homes. They include: Juncos, white-throated sparrows, and tree sparrows. But as spring approaches the juncos and “white-throats” depart, and our forests, wood lots, and even our backyards get a fresh batch of summer breeding birds. The biggest “push” of those arrivals is late April through late May.

I’ve added 58 new bird species to my Carbon County bird list since April 10. If I take a walk in one of my birding hot spots in May, I will usually add 5 or 6 “new” birds each day. Some of those birds, such as bay-breasted warblers, yellow-rumped warblers, and a few thrush species, only linger here a few days until they renew their flights back to their Canadian breeding areas. However, many find our region a good place to nest and raise their young. I’ll use today’s column to highlight the spring arrivals that will spend May through late summer here and give us both visual and singing pleasure. Now is the time to catch a glimpse of them and of course, only if you get out there.

Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: True/False. Red squirrels are more likely to be found in forests that have a higher percentage of conifers.

Last Week’s Trivia Answer: Snowy owls migrate from the Arctic Circle region and back, ospreys and broad-winged hawks to South America, but our robins may only migrate a few hundred miles.

Special note: We have not seen a single ruby-throated hummingbird at our feeders this year. Has anyone else noticed less “hummers” this spring?

Email Barry Reed at breed71@gmail.com

Probably the earliest flycatcher species to return to this area is the Eastern Phoebe. They are probably feeding their first nest of fledglings already. BARRY REED PHOTOS
Arriving later than the phoebe, kingbirds, with their white tipped tails are usually more conspicuous. They often perch on top of a shrub, fly out to grab a moth, and return to that same perch.
Arriving here about May 5 to 10, are one of our most beautiful songbirds, the indigo bunting. They too often perch on the top of a shrub, but if not in the best lighting conditions you won't notice the rich indigo feathers.
Rivaling the Indigo bunting is the stunning scarlet tanager. Not common in town, but take a walk in a Franklin Township or Penn Forest Township forest and you can hear the males singing “their heads off” now claiming their nesting territory. By early September, their bright red feathers are gradually replaced with yellowish/green plumage.
The great crested flycatcher is not too numerous, but vocal. It returns here in early May and nests in tree cavities. Listen for the male's “Wheeps” calls while you're on your birding hike.
Barn swallows return to their favorite farms about mid-April. Their long pointed wings and long forked tail help distinguish them from the other swallows in flight. They'll have two nests this summer and about Aug. 20, will begin their long migration back to Argentina.
Cedar waxwings return here to grace field edges or stream banks with their beauty. They feast on flying insects in summer, and in their winter areas, will change their diet to small fruits on shrubs and bushes.
I know spring has “set in” when I find my first veery. This thrush breeds in the our forests and spends most of its life feeding on the forest floor or singing its “veer” song from a low perch.
The eastern towhee (once called rufous sided towhee) is also a forest floor bird. The males (pictured here) can also be identified by their “drink your tea” call repeated often as they scratch among the fallen leaves. Some may still “hang around” your feeders until late September.
The rose-breasted grosbeaks have arrived and I find many of them on my favorite Penn Forest trail. It's hard to believe they can sing so well with those massive beaks.
Maybe the earliest arrival of all these birds I highlighted today is the common grackle. Once called purple grackles, they have already nested and soon the young will join them sauntering through your newly mowed lawns looking for insects.