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Winter birds still linger in the area

Osprey are among the many bird species returning to the area for their annual reproductive duties.
Osprey are among the many bird species returning to the area for their annual reproductive duties.

Winter continues in our area, as evidenced by a number of our more common winter resident bird species. White-throated and chipping sparrows, along with a few dark-eyed juncos, continue to avail themselves of my feeders in Conway throughout the day. While most of the winter flock here appears to have started their annual spring treks, a few Baltimore orioles still visit sporadically for a quick bite of grape jelly or a sip of sugar water from a hummingbird feeder. Visits by pine warblers and a ruby-crowned kinglet are becoming less frequent, and any day now these tiny treasures will start their individual journeys to places unknown and their own respective breeding grounds.

As you read this, untold numbers of Nature's finest creations are staging on their tropical wintering grounds, and beginning epic migratory flights back to North America and their ancestral breeding areas. Many warblers, vireos, tanagers, thrushes, orioles and others arrayed in their finest plumage will battle winds and weather for 15 to 24hrs. non-stop to cross the Gulf of Mexico and return to the places of their birth in order to mate and raise offspring. These amazing feathered beings will only be in North America for a short period, and once their breeding duties are done they and their offspring will head southward, retracing paths to tropical quarters for the winter season, just as others of their kind have done for countless millenia.

A few of the earliest spring migrants are beginning to show up in SC. Purple martin, Northern parula , yellow-throated warbler and blue-gray gnatcatcher are being seen and heard along the more southern coastal areas, and will be arriving here any day now. Osprey start returning to traditional local nesting sites during early March. Mid- to late-March brings the first male ruby-throated hummingbirds back to our area, with females following shortly thereafter. Chimney swifts begin to appear about the same time as our breeding hummingbirds. Local bald eagle young start leaving their nests in late March. Many shorebirds and terns pass through our area in March and April as they make their way to far northern breeding areas. By the end of April most of our migrant breeding bird species have arrived and are staking out breeding territories, although a considerable number of more northbound migrants continue to pass through into May.

Remember to keep your hummingbird feeder clean and maintained with a solution of one part sugar to four parts water with no other additives, and let me know when the first male ruby-throated shows up in your backyard.