The Return of our Local Birds

American Robin (Turdus* migratorius) a member of the Thrush family.

It's spring, the snow has melted, the days are getting warmer and longer - much, much longer.  How could it be that a couple of months ago we had sun for a mere ten hours and now it's almost fourteen! And all that extra light at the end of the day - daylight savings is a great salve for the winter blues.  It's unbelievable that you can stay out until nine in the evening with the rays of the sun angling itself over the horizon.

Spring not only means more sunlight, green bursts everywhere and floral blooms but also there are a ton of familiar and not so familiar birds in and around the city.  Some are local birds that are working on protecting territory, finding mates, building nests and brooding.  Others are passing through, using our urban green space as a stopover (for both resting and refueling) before they continue on their journey to their summer grounds up north.  

American Robin (Turdus migratorius), largest of the North American Thrushes.

The sounds of all these birds are so welcome, they greet us as soon as the sun rises (although now that may be while we're still asleep at close to five in the morning).  And we can definitely here them as soon as we get out the door for our morning travels.  Whether you are up early to take the dog out for a walk or your rushing out late to get into the car their calls, trills and songs are there. We may not be paying attention but they are an auditory urban backdrop of which we are very accustom (although sometimes oblivious).
Mnemonic (nəˈmänik): Assisting or intending to assist memory (link)  Many birders use this memory aid to recall various bird songs.
There's the familiar (American) Robin's Mary Poppins-like "cheer-i-up, cheer-ee-o"

and the (Northern) Cardinal's constant "purty-purty-purty"

and even the Blue Jay's self-serving  "jay, jay, jay"

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) of the corvid family (related to Crows).

Which all make for a lovely spring symphony... most of the time! (Aahhh that pesky constant chatter when you are trying to get that extra hour of sleep on Saturday morning!)

So which bird song is your harbinger of spring? 

Which call wakes you up out of your cold weather doldrums 
and announces definitively for you that 
winter has left the building?

What bird marks the arrival of warm days ahead for you?

For me lately it hasn't been any of the above birds - not the cheerful Robin or the insistent Jay.  It's not even the Mallard's nasal quack or the goldfinch's "potato chip and dip".  Ever since I spent a summer volunteering to do Chimney Swift roost monitoring, I've been fascinated by these small unassuming aerial insectivores and thrilled to hear them in the most surprising places - one being in the sky above my own home.  I found that there is a roost across the street and was shocked to realize that they had been there all along just waiting to be recognized.  (Once you are able to recognize the Swift's chatter - you'll never miss them in any city again!  Another thrill was hearing them above my head in an east end part of Washington D.C.!  It's like running into an old friend in an unexpected place.)

The Swift does take a bit longer to return to our latitude in Ottawa than some of the birds but when I hear that chatter overhead I know that winter is far behind us and that warm days are here!

So tell me what your spring bird is and whether it has changed over the years.  Are there a couple of bird calls that you don't recognize but want to learn?  It's a new layer of detail once you can hear different birds around you!

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) one of only three Cardinals in the Americas.

All bird photos taken by Viliam Glazduri (Instagram, Flickr, 500 px) Contributing Creative to Wild. Here.

* Yes Turdus, an unfortunate latin name for such a bright and friendly bird!

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