This morning when I took this photo, the sky was overcast and the sun was just starting to peek between the trees and rise above the horizon. The first blush of the day’s colors begins to tint the clouds. Few birds were yet stirring, and despite the time of year, the landscape still looks wintry and cold.
It was a surprise, then, when I first heard and then saw the season’s first killdeer, screaming and circling over the stone parking lot, which is bare of snow only because it has been plowed. March 5 is by no means my earliest record for killdeer. I’ve had them as early as the second week of February. But those sightings were not in years when I had the kind of snow cover you see in today’s photo.
Killdeer are frequently spotted through much of the winter in the southern part of my county or sometimes along the edge of the county where the Susquehanna River runs. Pennsylvania sits in what the range maps consider the summer-breeding range for the species. I am on the southern edge of that range, though, with everything to the south considered the year-round range for killdeer. As York County, where I live, is also along the southern border of Pennsylvania, it’s no surprise that killdeer can sometimes be found here throughout a mild winter. Killdeer don’t read fieldguides, of course, so they don’t pay much attention to range maps.
Still, finding a killdeer in January would be a good bird and worthy of note then, if not in any other month. And, Roundtop Mountain isn’t along the Susquehanna or one of the large lakes in the southern part of the county where such a sighting might be possible. The mountain hasn’t ever qualified as a good winter habitat for killdeer, even if you might find them nearby elsewhere. Even so, none of the birders I know would consider killdeer to be a harbinger of spring, but I think today I will. Happy Friday.