It’s May. Get Out There.

That is what I tell myself at 5:00 in the morning when I wake up and it is still mostly dark and I am sleepy and warm in bed and could use a little more rest before getting up for the day to get cracking on the usual routine. It’s May. Just get out there.

I mean, it is beautiful on a May day when the sun rises and the fog settles over the river and the green of the new buds is almost yellow it is so bright. But May is also when the birds come back. Warblers and orioles and flycatchers and sparrows. And so many more. I get out and try to find them. Every morning I try to find a bird species I have not yet found this year. Lately the birds have just been nuts.

What I mean by nuts is there have been so many birds singing in the morning. When I go out I stand in the driveway and listen. I hear ten species from the porch. By the time I get to the end of the driveway I have heard 15. By the turn in the road I’ve found 20. The past couple of times I have walked out early I have seen or heard 50 species. It is nuts.

Six years ago, when I started birding more seriously, my goal was to learn the songs of as many local birds as possible. I wanted to be able to hear a song or call and know what I was hearing. I know a lot of them. I look forward to hearing the first Savannah Sparrows or Eastern Meadowlarks or Bobolinks. My heart leaps up, as Wordsworth said, when I hear my first Yellow Warbler of the year. Or my first Rose-Breasted Grosbeak.

There are several birds that regularly show up here whose songs I don’t have nailed. That American Redstart? I should know it by now, but I have to re-remember it each year. Same with the Blackburnian Warbler. But it is a new challenge each spring. “Wait,” I whisper to myself. “What is that? I should know that.” And then smile when I get it.

These days I never have enough time. I have to rush back to the house for a shower and a clean shirt and some breakfast before we all head off to work and school. It would be easier if I had more time for that crap as well. But it is May. I need to get out there. In a couple of months, those birds won’t be singing, and the leaves will be hiding them. So I get up, I grab my binoculars and I try to remember to shut the door behind me as I start listening.

Birding or Running?

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Look for flycatchers and warblers? Or run the trail around the pond?

Now that it is May I am conflicted. The best time to go for a run for me is first thing in the morning. If I go early I have the least impact on my family, plus it just gets done. Putting it off means sometimes other things get in the way. If I go early, I go. The best time to go birding, however, is also first thing in the morning.

At first light the birds start singing their dawn chorus and, right now, the leaves are still not fully formed. So I can hear birds and see them. Migrants are passing through as well, so some birds can only be seen now since they don’t stick around to nest here. So what is a guy to do?

On the one hand I have been running a good amount, and I have not been injured. So I want to make sure I keep that streak going. But it is not easy to run in the morning when I hear all those songs. I hear something different and I just want to stop to find out what it is. And I do. But without binoculars (I am not carrying those on a run) it can be hard to see a little warbler way up in a birch tree. So I get stymied figuring out what it is. That means I am not really getting the most from my run and I am not really birding. I need to pick.

Rainy days in May are good for running, not because they make for the best runs but because it is harder to hear and see birds. In fact, I would have gone running this morning, but I had to take half the family to the airport. That means I did not bird or run. Some mornings are like that. But if it is raining when I wake? Grab the running shoes.

Mostly I need to get out to find birds now. This really is a small window. Soon the trees will be fully leafed out and those warblers will be way more elusive. And those birds don’t sing for long–in a month and a half they will start to quiet down. And those migrants? Need to find them while they are here.

So I need to get in some runs, for sure, but it is May, for goodness’ sake. This is the birder’s month in Vermont. It used to be the best month for running but since I have gotten into birding I am torn. It is a fortunate problem to have, is it not?

I Like May

IMG_0331I have spent a lot of time getting outside this month. Green has taken over from white and gray. Birds are singing. The sun shines or the rain falls. Winter is done. I have been loving May. It may, and this is a maybe mind you, be taking over as my favorite month. There is a pun in there, but let’s just let that go. Here is some of what I have been up to this month.

I visited Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge for the first time. The place was beautiful. I only explored some of it and will have to go back to see more at some point. I saw lots of birds, getting there first thing in the morning, including my first Black Tern and, right in the parking lot of my first stop, a Yellow-Throated Warbler.

I visited a few other spots as well. I just passed the 200 mark for birds species I have found this year, over 150 of them in Vermont. Like I said, I like May.

 

Leaves just emerging at MIssisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

Leaves just emerging at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

I saw more than birds at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

I saw more than birds at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

Northern Waterthrush at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

Northern Waterthrush at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

Boardwalk at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

Boardwalk at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge

Dutchman's Breeches at Geprag's Community Park, Hinesburg

Dutchman’s Breeches at Geprag’s Community Park, Hinesburg

Trillium, Woodside Park, Colchester

Trillium, Woodside Park, Colchester

Woodside Park, Colchester

Woodside Park, Colchester

Bike Path, Burlington

Bike Path, Burlington

Shelburne Pond

Shelburne Pond

Clay-Colord Sparrow, a lifer for me, right in Hinesburg

Clay-Colord Sparrow, a lifer for me, right in Hinesburg

Yesterday morning, out early

Yesterday morning, out early

Golden-Winged Warbler welcoming the day with its buzzy song

Golden-Winged Warbler welcoming the day with its buzzy song

Lilacs Blooming

 

Lilacs in Bloom

Lilacs in Bloom

 

More Lilacs in Bloom

More Lilacs in Bloom

We have several different types of lilacs that bloom at our house in May.  These are my favorite–the white rimmed purple.  We have some that are your typical lilac-colored lilacs, as well as white ones.  They are nice to look at, but better to smell.  If I could post their fragrance here, I would post it with no accompanying text or photos.  It would be enough.