T.S. Eliot wrote that “April is the cruelest month,” but for many birders, at least in the Eastern United States, that’s totally wrong. April is an excellent month for birding, marking the transition between the late-winter doldrums of March and the migratory insanity of May.
by Eamon Corbett
T.S. Eliot wrote that “April is the cruelest month,” but for many birders, at least in the Eastern United States, that’s totally wrong. April is an excellent month for birding, marking the transition between the late-winter doldrums of March and the migratory insanity of May. In New York, where I live, the focus in April is always on the returning migrants: phoebes are already here by the start of the month, followed by the first warblers, Pine and Palm, and other early migrants like Swamp Sparrows and Tree Swallows. By the end of the month, the peak of migration is less than a week away, and double-digit warbler days are possible, even expected.
It’s fitting, therefore, that the majority of birding blog posts this month have been about migrants. As John Shamgochian writes at John’s Birding Blog:
“The leaves have returned to the branches and with them have come the migrants. The Avian gods whoever they might be seem to have favored me these last few days. I have managed to see and photograph two or more year-birds every day.”
David Bell visited one of the best birding spots in North American, Pt. Pelee in Ontario, seeing plenty of migrants and a couple of very nice rarities. Read about it at his blog, Birding in Ste. Marie. You know that a post is going to be good when it starts,
“I got up yesterday at 2:30am after about 3 hour's sleep to the sound of my alarm. Sounds pretty brutal, I know, but it was well worth it!”
At the Birding Bros. Blog, Robert Meehan describes a day birding and “herping” (looking for reptiles and amphibians), including a great description of the song of one of my favorite migrants, the White-eyed Vireo:
“Ever since I first started birding, the White-eyed Vireo’s song has captivated me. It’s a perfect example of the feats Passerines can achieve with their twin vocal cords, and far from the melody of a Wood Thrush or Hooded Warbler, it’s a random jumble of phrases that sounds like some kid messing around with a digital sound mixer. Normally these guys sing from a dense bush, but this individual was kind enough to venture out into the open shadows.”
Somewhat further afield, Brendan Murtha of Catching the Thermals birded on Dry Tortugas, a tiny group of islands off the coast of Florida that is home to some incredible birds:
“What makes these islands even more special is their contribution to bird life. Being closer to Cuba than to Florida, the islands provide a scarce nesting ground for thousands of tropical seabirds- Sooty Terns, Noddies, Boobies, etc. The islands are the only spot in the US where these species are found, making it an oasis for birders. Even more special are the migrants- thousands of neotropical species stop over in the forts wooded courtyard to replenish and drink before continuing to the mainland. Being the only land within a huge radius, the Tortugas readily host fallouts and they are world famous. Obviously, you can see why I was so excited to witness this National Park and see what we could find.”
And if you are in the field this spring, whether it’s on Dry Tortugas, Point Pelee, or your local migrant trap, and want to post your sightings to ebird, it’s now possible. Chris West reports on The Southwest Wisconsin Birder:
“At last! We finally have an eBird data entry app for iPhone, iPod, and Android!
It's called Birdseye Birdlog and just officially became available to the general public. This new app was created in conjunction with the eBird team at Cornell U and is now the quickest, easiest way to enter bird sightings to eBird directly from the field.”
About the author: Eamon Corbett is a 15-year-old birder and bird blogger from Pelham, New York, and one of the new Student Blog Editors of The Eyrie. He has been birding for almost as long as he could talk, thanks in part to regular family facations to Florida, where Osprey and Turkey Vultures first caught his eye. Read more of Eamon’s writing on his blog, Flight Log (www.birdersflightlog.blogspot.com).