“There are 2 things I can’t imagine being without: birds and music. OK, there might be a 3rd: potato chips.”
I jotted those words down in my journal a while back. It’s fun and important to write things down.
But what I wrote there doesn’t reflect how I rank the things that matter. Religion, which wasn’t mentioned, comes first. Potato chips come later—but not much later. Birds and music are almost right up there with religion. I also jotted down: “Birds are emissaries of hope.”
With that last thought in mind, I think again of Liz Pease’s words: “It is incredibly comforting to me to know that nature is just going about its business as usual.” And those words make me think of this Anne Frank Center tweet: “Anne Frank found comfort in the solace of nature and presumed it’s the one constant that would be there ‘forever.'”
Nature is the one constant. Despite all the upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic, birds are returning, staking out territory, pairing up, and starting to nest. I like to joke that, unlike us, they’re not sheltering in place.
Birds Are Arriving
I love Carolyn Lorié’s description of what’s happening and what’s behind it, even if some details don’t apply to us in the Mid-Atlantic: “The urgency to reproduce drives birds to arrive in the Northeast during a relatively short window of time. There is an almost explosive quality to the arrival of songbirds in March and April. One day we wake to the usual quiet of winter, and then the next there is a riot of trilling, chirping, calling, and singing.”
When I think of the urgency, the short window, and much of the rest, I think of the Osprey. Here’s a pair fulfilling the urge on that nest I’ve been watching on the Elizabeth River steel pile.
A Quick Aside
I’m not usually keen on photos of birds facing away. But the perspective here is unique, I like the wing position of the male, and there’s little question the birds are making cloacal contact.
Here’s the male building the nest a week or so earlier. The female hasn’t arrived. Notice the nest’s smaller size.
Now, when I think of the arrival of songbirds and that riot of singing, I think not of the Osprey, but of the Common Yellowthroat.
This bird’s cheery, rollicking song announces the coming of spring. You’ll also hear the voices of a neighboring Northern Flicker and Carolina Wren. All 3 are claiming territory at Elizabeth River Project’s Money Point restoration site.
I also think of the primary song of the Tufted Titmouse. Talk about explosive. Tufted Titmice begin singing here in early to mid-March. The few faint “growls” you hear in the background are Green Heron advertising songs. We’ll hear more of those, including a seldom-heard duet, in the next blog.
And This Just In
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You’ll recall my encounter with the “banded and reportable” Royal Tern in “A Hopeful Time.” Here’s a modified version of the original photo with an insert showing the band.
I wanted to report the tern, so I sent the original along with the data (date, time, place, etc.) to the Virginia Tech Shorebird Program. Meryl Friedrich, a field biologist with the program, just responded.
Hi David, Thanks for reporting this banded tern and sending a great photo! 183 was given a white band on June 14, 2018 on the South Island of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel by researchers from Virginia Tech. It was originally banded as a chick with a metal band on July 5, 2001 by another banding group on the coast of Virginia (37.08333, -75.91667). Very cool sighting! Thanks again and let me know if you have any questions.
I didn’t know it, but Royal Terns are one of the program’s “project” species. You might enjoy reading their short piece that explains.
You probably noticed there’s a metal band on the bird’s right leg (actually foot). That’s in all likelihood a federal band.
Here’s another photo of the tern. Neither leg band is visible.
Quip, Question, Quote
Why did I place a photo of a “seagull” after the Anne Frank Center tweet? Here’s an entry from Anne’s diary that explains: “The two of us looked out at the blue sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew, the seagulls and other birds glinting with silver as they swooped through the air, and we were so moved and entranced that we couldn’t speak.”
Anne also wrote elsewhere: “Where there is hope, there is life.”