Saturday, April 26, 2008

Windy Day at Negri-Nepote

Today I visited the Negri-Nepote Grasslands in Franklin Township with my mother and sister. This morning reminded me of birding in March - high winds, overcast sky, and chilly temperatures. Of those, the wind was the most distracting because it made it difficult to hear the soft spring songs of many birds and forced them to lie low in the vegetation. Despite the adverse conditions, there were plenty of birds, including some firsts of the year.

Newly-returned grasshopper sparrows were singing all over the preserve. That song is one that I might have missed prior to seeing my first grasshopper sparrow last spring as it sounds more insect-like than bird-like. The same goes for other Ammodramus songs, which I find to be one of the more challenging song-types to hear and identify.

Several other sparrows were present, including singing chipping and field sparrows. Savannah sparrows are still moving through in great numbers. I do not know if any stay to breed in Franklin Township. That will be something to watch over the summer. One sparrow that flew past me seemed to have a short, square tail with white outer feathers. This is one field mark of a vesper sparrow, but I would not make such a call based on a single field mark.

One highlight was seeing a wild turkey run across an open field in the back area.

A few warblers have returned in the last week. Yellow warblers were busy setting up territories along the hedgerows in the back area. Common yellowthroats were also singing at several points. One northern parula was singing in the cedar grove.

While dark-eyed juncos have departed, some winter species are still around. Yellow-rumped warblers are still at the grasslands. I saw a few white-throated sparrow in the hedgerows at Negri-Nepote, and they are still coming to the feeders at home as well.

A crew from the county was mowing the field close to the parking lot, and another crew was cutting trees along the wooded patch near the cedar grove. I was wondering whether the timing of these actions was appropriate, given the proximity to the nesting season. A few Field Sparrows were already carrying nest materials, and Kestrels and Eastern Bluebirds were setting up in the boxes. I imagine other species are doing the same. I understand that this is necessary to maintain the habitat, but it would seem better to do it earlier in the spring.