Since we moved to our home along Cedar Creek, I have observed over 75 species of birds
around our heavily wooded property. My observations range from the tiniest of species
such as the ruby-throated hummingbird and kingletsruby-crowned and gold-crowned),
to the “giants” of the local bird population—great blue herons, sandhill cranes, turkey
vultures, turkeys, and even bald eagles. My list also includes birds more often seen than
heard, such as the great-horned owl, barred owl, screech owl, and bobwhite.
The “bird year” along Cedar Creek begins with our winter visitors which include cardinals, blue jays, titmice, nuthatches, woodpeckers (downy, hairy, red-bellied), goldfinches (in their drab, olive-green winter plumage), mourning doves, pine siskins, purple finches, house finches and juncos, the latter commonly referred to as snow birds since they are around our area only during cold-weather months. Some less frequent winter visitors include common redpolls, tree sparrows, fox sparrows, Carolina wrens, brown creepers, flickers, red-headed woodpeckers and pileated woodpeckers.
In late winter, the tufted titmouse is the first bird to offer a hint of spring as it
clearly and loudly serenades us with its “weeta-weeta-weeta” song. This uplifting sound
represents the first notes of a symphony of bird song that will fill the woods for the
next several months.
Spring’s next sign is the northern cardinal’s song. Usually first heard mid-to-late February, the male cardinal will sit high in a treetop and let loose with his “good cheer” song.
The first visual sign of spring along Cedar Creek (usually in mid-March) is not the robin, as many people believe, but the male red-winged blackbird, a jet-black bird with red and yellow “shoulder” stripes. Its unmistakable “kon-ker-eee” song is a sure sign of spring, since (based on my records), this is the first migratory bird to return to Cedar Creek.
When the full spring migration takes place in late April through mid-May, the woods along Cedar Creek are literally bustling with all kinds of bird life: phoebes, ruby-throated hummingbirds, Baltimore orioles, indigo buntings, rose-breasted grosbeaks, house wrens, catbirds, thrushes, vireos, summer tanagers and the full complement of warblers. Some pass through, although many of these species stay and nest along the creek. Because they tend to stay in the upper reaches of trees to feed on larvae, warblers are perhaps the most fleeting and hard to see. All kinds of warblers have landed in our backyard, usually for just a moment.