The season started with an unheard-of black-tailed godwit that found its way here from its normal range across Iceland and into Russia. The foreigner drew birders from an eight-state area to its vacation spot at Patoka NWR, ticking that long-legged, long-billed shorebird on most life lists.
Migration typically begins with less drama. In my yard, eastern phoebes always lead the parade, this year the first singing March 21. Usually blue-gray gnatcatcher follows (this year on April 5) and then yellow-throated warbler (April 9) and northern parula (April 12). A house wren arrived early this year, beating the parula by two days. And several of us spotted our first hummingbirds April 12.
Northern rough-winged, tree, and barn swallows sailed back from Central and South America and are now checking real estate. Their cousins the purple martins arrived in our neighborhood April 7, about a week later than usual.
Today, a white-eyed vireo led me around the yard with his song as I made a mostly futile attempt to glimpse the tiny little green bird. After more than an hour, I managed a single fleeting glimpse. We spotted blue grosbeaks, too, while a friend reported indigo buntings at his feeder April 10. Chipping sparrows in russet-capped breeding plumage sing from numerous vantage points. White-throated sparrows are finishing their spring molt, turning spiffy with pronounced bright-white head stripes and namesake white throat before departing for their Canadian breeding grounds.
Last evening, I took a lingering long look at a late dark-eyed junco perched in perfect setting-sun light, knowing I won't see him again until next October. I wish him safe journey north.
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, always a local favorite, should be here within two weeks, joining summer and scarlet tanagers, Baltimore and orchard orioles, and thrushes--Swainson's, gray-checked, wood, and hermit.
By the time you read this, the migrant list will have more than doubled. Peak migration here falls the first two weeks of May. By then, birders will whine about "warbler neck," stiff muscles from looking up, up, up at those spectacular birds.