As I have been out hiking this past week, I have been hearing Bewick’s wrens singing everywhere I have been. Not only is spring in the air, but I get the feeling that love is in the air! The songs of wild birds indicate they are feeling the influence of longer days and warmer temperatures. Wild birds are definitely starting to pair up – how appropriate since this week is Valentines!
While the calendar shows spring is still more than a month away, our weather is certainly spring-like. This week I have seen both forsythia and rosemary in full bloom – which the bees were taking full advantage of. One benefit of early blooming plants is that bees will not be bothering your seed feeders nearly as much.
As a consequence of our spring-like weather I would recommend that it is time to put up at least one hummingbird feeder. I know this is unusual advice in February, but based on the number hummingbirds that are showing up, I think it makes sense to get at least one feeder out.
It is very likely that there is more winter weather in store for this part of the country. When the weather turns cold again, hummingbirds will need a reliable food source that will carry them through any rough patches of weather we are sure to have. I remember very clearly how just three years ago the Prescott area got 16 inches of snow between Saturday night, March 17 and Sunday the 18.
It is hard to imagine how challenging a spring snowstorm would be for something as small as a hummingbird. Between their high metabolic rate and needing to eat almost constantly, a hummingbird feeder might just make the difference between survival and sure death.
The problem for all of the hummingbirds that are arriving early is that once they have come – if the weather turns cold again – they are not going to re-migrate, and head south again, and then come back again later in the spring. Once they have arrived, they are here to stay. That is why I am recommending getting a feeder out now.
At this point only male and female Anna’s hummingbirds are back. I haven’t received reports of any other hummingbird species yet, but it won’t be long before they start showing up as well. Most likely, the next hummingbird species to arrive will be rufous hummingbirds. In the spring they pass through our area very quickly as they continue their flight towards northwestern United States and Canada, where they breed.
Following the rufous, the next hummingbird species you can expect to see is black-chinned, but they shouldn’t arrive until April. Shortly after the black-chinned hummingbirds show up, both broad-tailed and calliope hummingbirds will start to appear. Some of the broad-tails will stay, and many more will continue on further north on up into the Rockies, along with the calliope, where they will spend the summer.
Earlier this week I was walking in the dells, enjoying the Granite Gardens trail, and both heard and saw a group of four white-throated swifts. I was absolutely stunned to see them as it seems they are a full two months early compared to a ‘normal’ migration time schedule.
Swifts are aerial gleaners, meaning they forage for food in flight, catching insects in mid-air, like swallows. Swifts, as their name indicates, are much faster that swallows, and typically prefer areas with cliffs where they nest and rear their young.
Be on the lookout for spring birds and until next week, Happy Birding!