The birds are coming.
The annual migration of often brightly colored songbirds from their winter homes in Central and South America, Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, and the southern U.S. is underway now. Millions and millions of avian migrants fly northward every night and the come down to rest or nest every morning. Some of the birds are enroute to nesting areas far to the north; some nest right here or nearby. Avian enthusiasts (birders/bird watchers) and general nature buffs have eagerly awaited the birds’ arrival and are now out in force hoping to see some of their feathered friends.
The spring breeding birds (50 or more species) are often boldly patterned and brightly colored. They exhibit in various patterns of black, white, yellow, red, blue, orange and myriad shades of brown and grey.
And they sing. Each species has a distinct song and call. Spring songbirds can be seen in many places in the area, from a tree in any yard, to “migrant traps,” natural areas that attract migrating birds and regular nesting sites.
The Baltimore Oriole, the state bird of Maryland, was named by the original settlers of Maryland in the 17th century, when they saw the orange and black bird, the same colors as the coat-of-arms of Cecil Calvert, 2nd Lord Baltimore, the founder of Maryland. They declared that the oriole was “Lord Baltimore’s bird.” Baltimore Orioles are easily found in late April and early May as they breed in Maryland and Virginia. Look for them along the C&O Canal, in the Great Falls Parks on both sides of the Potomac.
It’s a great opportunity to see Spring wildflowers as well.
Any morning, especially with south or southwest winds, from mid-April until late May is likely to bring a new wave of birds.
The local nesters are especially vocal when the first arrive and are setting up breeding territories. Look for them on the top of trees, often singing loudly.
Go at sunrise, or shortly thereafter when the new migrants have just arrived; late afternoon (4 to 6 p.m.) is also often productive, though not as good as early morning. If you have binoculars, take them. Listen carefully and look toward any bird sound you hear.
Local bird clubs have lots of bird walks in the Spring and are usually delighted to have new folks come along, and one will see more birds if going with an experienced group.
It’s a priceless opportunity to see a Baltimore or Orchard Oriole; a Scarlet or Summer Tanager; a Yellow-billed Cuckoo; a Rose-breasted or Blue Grosbeak; a bright–blue Indigo Bunting; a Prothonotary, Prairie, Hooded, or others of the more than 30 species of Warbler. Go look at the birds and celebrate Spring.
As a novice or beginning birder, chances of seeing and identifying birds are greatly increased if one goes out with more experienced birders. Local organizations have regularly scheduled bird walks, and welcome newcomers, beginners and returning birders on most outings.
Montgomery Bird Club, http://www.montgomerybirdclub.org/
Northern Virginia http://www.nvabc.org/ Northern Virginia
Audubon of Virginia http://www.audubonva.org/ Northern Virginia
Audubon Naturalist Society http://www.audubonnaturalist.org/
Also look at: http://birding.aba.org/ (American Birding Association), Click on Maryland or Virginia to see what is being seen and where.
Here are some planned bird walks in the area, beginners and novices welcomed.
8 a.m. Sundays, Bird Walk at Great Falls National Park, meet at the visitor center, 9200 Old Dominion Dr, McLean.
8 a.m. Sundays, Friends of Dyke Marsh lead a walk into Dyke Marsh all year long. www.fodm.org
Wednesday, May 21, 8:30 a.m. Eakin Park 8515 Tobin Road, Annandale, www.nvabc.org
Wednesday, May 28, 8:30 a.m. Huntley Meadows, www.nvabc.org
Great Falls Park, http://www.nps.gov/grfa/index.htm
Riverbend Park along the Potomac. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/riverbend-park/
Huntley Meadows Park,
Long Branch and Carlin Springs parks:
A wel-known and popular “migrant trap” in Alexandria is Monticello Park, 320 Beverly Drive.
Look in any local parks and in any wooded area, preferably at sunrise or soon after. Spring Birds are everywhere.