A History of Oregon Ornithology: From Territorial Days to the Rise of Birding Edited by…
March is when I notice that many of the birds coming to our feeder begin arriving in pairs. Earlier in the winter, the loose flocks of finches, juncos, and towhees do not show male/female pairings as they fly in for food. This month, though, I see male House Finches offering food to the females that are always nearby. Chickadees and Oregon Juncos begin engaging in territorial disputes that result in serious chases and sparring. Steller’s Jays vocalize in softer, sweeter tones as two of them hop from branch to branch in the oak tree. Chickadees flutter their wings in a begging breeding display. Actually some of the early nesting birds have already begun to build nests, such as the pair of Black-capped Chickadees that have filled one nest box with moss, and the Song Sparrows singing atop the brush pile where their nest is hidden.
I am excited about watching the skies for early spring bird migrants. Each morning I open my window and look out to see if a warm breeze has brought us any new bird arrivals. Soon Tree Swallows, Violet-green Swallows, and, hopefully, Western Bluebirds will move into the neighborhood. Their songs will fill the air. Until then, I listen to the songs of our resident birds as they begin tuning up for the breeding season.
This year, with the mild winter temperatures, I noticed the red-flowering currant was leafing out in early February, which is very early indeed. I hope the flowers bloom at the right time for the Rufous Hummingbirds to feast on their nectar. These two species co-evolved to become dependent on one another as plant-pollinator pairs; they need each other to survive and thrive. If the plants bloom too early, they will not get pollinated by the Rufous Hummingbirds feeding on them. Conversely, if the Rufous arrive too late, this major food source will be unavailable to them. As much as we welcome early signs of spring, the timing of spring’s arrival means much more to plants, birds, and pollinators who depend on this rhythm of the global climate cycles for survival.* The spring equinox in 2018 is March 20th, astronomically. This year it felt like spring weather in late January and early February, with record high temps and budding trees. Climate-wise, the last two winters have been opposites of each other, making generalizations difficult. Welcoming spring used to come with the month of March, but now we watch for the signs of spring whenever they arrive.
*FMI: Conserving Migratory Pollinators and Nectar Corridors in Western North America, edited by Gary Paul Nabhan, published 2004 by University of Arizona Press.