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.

Greeting the Sun

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I almost never set an alarm. I wake early. I can’t help it. If I need to wake at 6:00 I wake by 6:00. These days I get up even earlier. Ideally I wake at 5:00. That way I can be out the door by 5:15/5:20. It is May. This is the time to go birding. Usually I wake by 5:15. This morning? 5:00 on the dot.

Typically I sneak out of bed and head to the bathroom. The night before I lay out clothes to go out, based on the weather. When I rise I brush my teeth, pop in contact lenses, dress, and split. It is plenty light these days by 5:30. The sun rises just before 6:00. I slowly walk down the driveway, looking and listening for birds. This morning by the time I walked that tenth of a mile I had counted 15 different species.

Today just past the fields and the river (Swamp Sparrows, Snipes, Barn Swallows, Phoebes, a couple Yellow Warblers and many others) I ducked up into the woods. This morning it was a birding bonanza. There is a window of days, and we’re in it now, when the leaves are not yet back on the trees and the song birds are starting to do their thing. Today I got the benefit of that. I saw my first Wood Thrush of the year (singing like a champ), my first Brown Thrasher, nine different warbler species (including Golden Winged, a hard one to find), a Blue Headed Vireo and a Rose Breasted Grosbeak. At one point there were 15 or so warblers in the trees around me flitting back and forth. It was a sight.

When the sun tops the hills the birds move around, but not for long. By 7:00 things were pretty still. It pays to get out early. That saying about the early bird? Right on the money.

Turkey in the fog

Turkey in the fog