At the End of April . . . Wood Thrush, Summer Tanager, Acadian Flycatcher Arrive

April came to an end with a string of beautiful sunny days that began cool and bright, and warmed into the 70s or 80s, with a deep blue sky and lots of birdsong and bird activity, including several neotropical migrants returning to our woods, so it’s sounding more and more like spring and summer. On April 29, I heard an Acadian Flycatcher, Summer Tanager and Wood Thrush for the first time this season – though I haven’t been observant enough to know exactly when they returned, this was the first day I found them here around our yard and neighborhood.

The familiar WHEET-sit call of an Acadian Flycatcher came from somewhere down along the creek early in the morning and continued all that day. A Wood Thrush sang – flute-like and ethereal – from the low, tangled woods along a creek not close to our house, but I could hear its song as I walked past twice during the day, and it seems a gift to have one even this close.

I’d been hearing a Summer Tanager’s song for several days, but pretty far in the distance. This late April morning while I was sitting on the deck, two birds came flying over me low, and settled in the branches of a white oak not far away. One of them sat out in clear view, framed by new green leaves, like a perfect picture – a Summer Tanager male, warm-red all over, with its long, thick bill. A few minutes later the pik-a-tuk calls of the tanagers began to travel through the trees, and a male began to sing.

By the end of April a Red-eyed Vireo sang each morning steadily in the woods beyond our back yard. Great Crested Flycatchers and their throaty whreep calls seemed to be everywhere – I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many! One morning two hunted from perches in trees all around the edge of the yard, and one even came to sit for a few minutes on a shepherd’s crook on the edge of our deck where a geranium plants hangs – only a few feet away from me, showing off its lemon-yellow belly, large crested gray head and long cinnamon tail. Now and then the glistening song of a Louisiana Waterthrush comes up from the creek, and there’s the spee-spee of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher calls – I wish I could say I hear their songs, but I have not learned them yet, though I know they must be singing. Chimney Swifts sweep overhead, twittering.

Along with the new arrivals, year-round residents all were singing – especially Eastern Phoebe, American Robin, Carolina Wren, Northern Cardinal, Pine Warbler and Chipping Sparrow. And we could still hear some of the last songs of winter residents like Ruby-crowned Kinglets, White-throated Sparrows, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

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