For weeks we checked the migration progress at Birdcast.info. Watching for any sign that spring migration has begun and the birds are headed our way. Beginning in mid-March the tracker goes live, and we stare out the backyard window in anticipation. Little by little they trickle in. A White-crowned Sparrow here, an American Robin there.
The weather teases spring, then falters. It snows again. Ugh. The Robin's that have arrived look pissed as the snowflakes swirl down. Thankfully, it doesn't stick around too long. And, really, they take it in stride. Probably better than we do. When dawn comes, they sing.
The regulars, Goldfinches in particular, start to change from their winter wardrobe into spring. Their feathers turning brighter shades of golden yellow.
The House Finches seem more animated. A Swainson's Thrush arrives. Then a Brown Thrasher. A pair of Red-breasted Nuthatches stop by. Things are picking up.
Birding clubs are gearing up for World Migratory Bird Day, which takes place on May 14, in 2022. Some celebrations begin the weekend before, some start on the 14th. Binoculars and birding journals are at the ready. Pocket guides in hand. We sit on the darkened patio at night and listen for the bird calls as they fly overhead. We marvel at the tracking details. Nearly 3 million birds fly over in one night.
We've joined in these celebrations in years past. But for the past few years, since we moved to our current house, and, more importantly, our current backyard, we have had our own migratory celebrations. The birds have become incredibly dependable.
Every year, for the past four years, they have switched on their landing gear and touched down in our city backyard in numbers on May 10. Every year since we moved in we have added to our landscape - more native bushes, plants, added another birdbath. We use felled tree branches and stumps to frame out our garden borders. Injecting a bit of wilderness for the wild things. It seems to be working.
This year, like clockwork, the arrivals began mid-morning on May 10, and continued all day long. Tennessee Warblers, Baltimore Orioles, Great Crested Flycatchers. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, a Gray Catbird, a Chesnut-sided Warbler, and American Redstart. It was hard to leave the yard for even a few minutes, lest we miss something.
The arrivals continued busily on May 11. More Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Song Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. More Baltimore Orioles, and Yellow Orioles, too. A Least Flycatcher, Cardinals, of course. A Blue Jay. A Magnolia Warbler. There was continuous action all day long.
As the days go on, the numbers have decreased. But the appearances continue. A Red-wing Blackbird, lots of Common Grackles, more White-Crowned and White-throated Sparrows stop by. The House Wren's have moved back into the neighborhood for the summer. Today a pair of Swainson's Thrushes made their way through the habitat, and a Gray Catbird enjoyed a birdbath. A Least Flycatcher darted from tree to bush to log to fence, catching a nice menu of bugs for dinner. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird stopped by for a drink at the fountain. Just when you think the surprises are over, there is another.
The volume of new visitors will subside as the days go on, they will continue on to their summer nesting destinations, and we will have to wait again until fall, when some of them stop by on their way south. But in the meantime, the summer regulars will begin nesting, and soon we will see fledglings following the parent birds around, begging for food, and learning how to find their own. And we'll head out to the parks to visit the birds in their own habitats, too. How lucky we are.
Finally, the weather has turned and there are signs of new life everywhere. Green leaves sprouting on trees, flowers and plants sprouting up from below in gardens and prairies and parks. A few weeks back I was lamenting the hanging on of winter, and a cold, cold spring. It was during those gray days I visited three different nature preserves. And I found, even lacking the warmth of spring sunshine, that I was grateful for the gifts of nature surrounding us.
A recurring theme in all three of these hikes is the gift of conservation. All of them exist today because in decades past others saw the value in preserving the land, and leaving it in tact for future generations. They saw the value in preserving the land for wildlife, for the environment, for the earth. They saw the value in preserving native plant life, for the birds, the bees, and every creature in-between. They worked the lands, restored it where it needed restoring, and they made a plan to hand it down to future generations, and ensured its safety from commercial destruction. A Gift of Nature indeed.
I recently visited Retzer Nature Center in Waukesha, The Conservancy For Healing And Heritage in Franklin, and Saller Woods, in Rochester. They are all beautiful and peaceful natural spaces. All offer something special to those who visit. And they all have a story to tell. A tale of those who worked to protect and preserve the land. I've tried to include some of the history in each profile, but I encourage you to follow the links provided and discover even more, if you are interested.
I am grateful to those souls who left us these gifts of nature. And I dream of gifts we can leave for future generations as well.
I'm honored to be featured in the June 2022 issue of MKE LIFESTYLE in an article by Rick Romano. Check out the link below to view the article and the entire June 2022 Issue.
MKE LIFESTYLE JUNE 2022
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A nature lover, bird watcher, wildlife fan, amateur photographer, humane gardener, traveler, and singer of songs. I've been keeping closer to home these days, and truly discovering the beauty that lies in TheParkNextDoor.