New Beginnings

We ended “A Late Winter’s Tale” with a joke book recommendation. BTW, I hope some of you ordered Wayne’s book. We’ll begin this one with an edited/accessorized version of a photo that appeared at the end of “Finding Humor, Finding Birds.” One of the wonderful things about digital photos is that you can alter them. The process can be time-consuming, but it’s fun and rewarding. Having said that, I had a heck of a time adding the Keurig travel mug.

Song sparrow on a railroad track
Waiting for the 9:05

Singing Birds

Humor is important, isn’t it? Humor, getting outdoors, spending time in the woods, fields, or near water, watching and listening to birds. These are some of things that get us through (or get us over).

On that last note, I’ve been listening to a male Carolina Wren sing his advertising song the last few mornings. Like clockwork, he begins around 5:15 a.m., a full hour and 15 minutes before sunrise here in Southeast Virginia.

Here he is on 2/28. You’ll also hear a more distant American Robin and some wind chimes. There was a light wind.

Here he is again on on 3/1. Same bat-time, same bat-channel (but further away).

Notice how the 2 songs vary—not in volume, certainly, but in the structure of their phrases. Carolina Wren songs never vary in volume, (or so it seems). After all, they’re the loudest bird per volume! Along those lines, a woman on Facebook said that her wrens were “ounce for ounce the biggest personalities in my yard.” I love that description—and it fits.

Here’s a Carolina Wren singing back on 2/20 at Elizabeth River Park in Chesapeake. We could call this photo a “gap shot” (see “Find a Gap”). You can almost feel the little bird’s energy. Birds’ energy and “joie de vivre” rub off on us birders and bird photographers. 

Carolina Wren singing
Carolina Wren

Returning Birds

Singing Carolina Wrens aren’t the only sign of spring. Another is returning Ospreys. On 2/28, I observed an adult male on a platform near Money Point on the Elizabeth River’s Southern Branch. Then, on 3/2 and several miles north, I watched a male and female explore the top of a construction crane at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. The crane was in operation (big yikes), but that didn’t matter to this pair, which likely nested there before. Here’s the male. Notice how he appears to stall and that his legs and talons are down. As Major League broadcasters would say, “he had a notion.” He eventually did touch down briefly. 

Osprey exploring a possible nest site

A little earlier, another species (and another water bird) touched down in the river below. It was an adult Brown Pelican. Some Brown Pelicans overwinter here. But this one in all likelihood was a new arrival from a coastal area further south. Those fingertips (primary feathers) against the dark water are striking. I’m reminded how important wing position and background are when photographing birds. I’m also reminded of the singular beauty of a bird’s extended wing.

Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican

And This Just In

In case you’re wondering, the above photo wasn’t retouched in any way. I took it an hour or so after sunrise (best time to shoot). What you’re seeing are the effects of golden hour light falling on the Elizabeth River and on the bird.

We did it. This is blog #100. I say “we” because I’ve received lots of help. My thanks go out to my wife, the folks at FM Forums, the listserv and Google Group moderators, my faithful readers, the great staff at the Elizabeth River Project, and the birds.

If you’d like to know more about bird song, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “How and Why Birds Sing” is a must-read. Among other things, you’ll learn that birds’ songs are variable. You’ll also learn that the Carolina Wren songs you just listened to were sung by an “accomplished performer.” 

I learned on 3/3 that Ospreys have reached Maryland. Thank you, Lyn Miller—New England, get ready.

Quip, Question, Quote

This is the opening paragraph of Andrea Stephenson’s “Imagining,” a special piece about spring and new beginnings. 

The first brave crocuses have broken through muddy grass. Small lilac spears that look too fragile to live. There is a shift in the light and birds are more visible. The sparrows squabble again in the privet at the end of the road. Blackbirds strut beneath the hedges in the park. A young birch has been planted in memoriam of a lost brother. Trees nurse new buds on spindly fingers.


8 thoughts on “New Beginnings

  1. Thanks so much for the Wren songs back-to-back. Amazing variety! On the Osprey note, 3 have arrived in Tabb. 2 on a cell tower near the high school and one lone visitor to a dilapidated hacking platform in the Poquoson River. If I had the tools, I’d fix it upright, but that’s my desire and not my skill or ability.


  2. What a wonderful post. I’m sitting here reading with a smile and realizing what a bird lover I truly am. I can so appreciate everything you just wrote about. Looking forward to seeing my first Osprey!


  3. Congrats on the 100th Blog, Dave! I enjoy reading them, and also enjoyed the bird song this morning. Brought some spa-like vibes to this chilly, not-quite spring, morning.


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