As we continue to move toward the official start of spring, a few of our earliest returning Neo-tropical migratory birds have begun to make their way into and through our area. Last week I heard my first Northern parula and yellow-throated warblers of the season. These two species are the earliest of the spring warblers and usually arrive in our area at the end of February or in early Match. It's always nice to hear their distinctive songs emanating from forest canopies, even as the first leaves of spring start to emerge. Both of these species breed in our area, most commonly in wetland forests, where the tiny birds often make their nests in pendant clumps of Spanish moss. In addition to our early spring migrants, many wintering species can still be seen in our area. A blue-headed vireo was heard singing in Conway last week, and many Baltimore orioles continue to visit backyard feeding stations in the area.
Several folks have been happy to report American goldfinches continue at their feeders, along with white-throated, chipping and dark-eyed junco sparrows.
A leisurely walk around Busbee Lake in Conway last week yielded a number of birds and a few butterflies for the day. Osprey have returned to their customary nesting spot atop a powerline transmission tower and were noted refurbishing the nest. Yellow-throated, pine and common yellowthroat warblers were heard singing, and a few yellow-rumped warblers were noted flycatching. Several song and swamp sparrows were seen foraging along wetland edges, and a few marsh wrens were observed and heard, as were our resident Carolina wrens. Pileated, red-bellied and downy woodpeckers, Eastern bluebird and house finch were noted. Sora and Virginia rails called from a cattail marsh where a male Red-winged blackbird appeared to be surveying his domain. A few Canada geese were noted on the lake, and a small group of American coots were observed along a marsh edge. A pied-billed grebe was seen swimming and diving in the lake, while a few laughing and ring-billed gulls soared overhead along with an occasional turkey vulture.
A handful of spring butterflies were noted for the outing, including Eastern tiger swallowtail, cloudless sulphur, sleepy orange and Eastern tailed-blue.
Thanks to all of the folks that responded to the offer of a hummingbird plant list. Our tiniest feathered friends (and a number of bees, butterflies and others) should benefit from your efforts this spring and summer. Keep your feeder clean and maintained with a solution of one part sugar to four parts water, and let me know when the first spring hummingbird shows up in your yard.