Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Nearly every day, I find another little sign that spring is here. A little sign today, a little one tomorrow, and after a week or two, that all adds up to a lot of indications that the season is changing. This morning I saw a male eastern goldfinch that was about half-changed into his bright yellow and black breeding plumage.

On Sunday I saw the usual group of goldfinch among the pine siskins at my feeders. Not one of those had started to molt. So, is this a "new" goldfinch? Has the molt started since then and already progressed that quickly? Did I simply miss seeing this particular goldfinch this weekend? I have no idea. I only know that Mr. Goldfinch and his lady-love appeared at the feeders this morning, and he is already starting to look rather dashing.

Both this early morning and last evening I saw lots of migrating turkey vultures. The birds are flying both earlier and later in the day than is usual for them. I am blaming the weather for that. After several days of overcast and misty weather, yesterday was clear but windy, today will be sunny and less windy. Tomorrow brings the first of three days of rain. So the birds have only a limited opening for a little northward migration.

Birds have a heightened sense of weather systems moving in, weather moving out and when they’d better make hay and just move. They easily sense high and low pressure systems—you would too if you could fly. But their ability to see or sense systems that aren’t here yet, is to my mind, even more impressive. That ability seems extra-fine-tuned, some mechanism that allows them to know far more than just what weather is here today and extends that to also knowing what will be tomorrow and beyond.

It’s one thing for me to look at the radar and see that storm system over in Indiana, but when you see 10,000 raptors move earlier in the season than is their typical pattern ahead of a group of systems that is going to shut down migration for at least a week, you know they are seeing or sensing it, too. That’s amazing.


The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Hey, I've had molting goldfinches around for several weeks. There's a feeder just outside my workroom window and even as I write, a male goldfinch is trying to not get pushed around by a female downy. He's about two-thirds changed. But I also have birds that aren't more than half-way along the path to donning their spring attire.

Cloudy here today. Rain (heard that before) coming. I can't tell much in the way of amended activity among my local birds, although the turkey vultures across the river are hanging close to their roost trees.

Carolyn H said...

Griz: It sounds as though your goldfinches are further along in their molt than mine. The rain starts here tomorrow--3 days of it so they say. We'll see.

Carolyn H.