Notwithstanding the recent gloom and snow, we’re getting into the busiest and most interesting time of year for bird-watching. In fact, just as I was typing that sentence, I spotted the season’s first white-throated sparrow under my feeder (that is, until one of the hens chased it off). We can expect to hear their lonely call any day now as they move north; the BirdCast migration radar detects between 400 and 500 million birds on the move overnight. Right now the heaviest action in the country is the Alabama-Mississippi-Tennessee tri-state area, but we had some move in overnight here in the Northland so keep your eyes peeled.
One of the travelers who’s ahead of the game is the beloved eastern phoebe. These tail-wagging flycatchers are very familiar to many people thanks to their preference for manmade structures for their nest placement and willingness to coexist with humans. Their eponymous “fee-bee” song usually coincides with the first warm weather in April in the Upper Midwest; they tend to follow the insects as they emerge in spring, so they arrive along with the first butterflies — and sadly, the first mosquitos. Their song is buzzy and very different from the sweet two-note call of the black-capped chickadee that can be heard throughout late winter.