A Spring Morning in a Flyover State
May 14, 2023
Early May, a warm, humid morning after the gulf air surged through bringing rain and storms - and birds. Millions of birds flying on those winds, hundreds (or thousands?) stopping briefly for food and rest. They travel from South America to Canada, flying over my little spot in the middle of the middle west. A huge event, lasting only a few weeks, that largely goes unnoticed. A spring morning in a flyover state.
Looking out over the lake it would be easy not to see anything at all. I pause. Allow my eyes to adjust to the binoculars. Now I see twelve Forster’s terns, swooping and diving, landing on the far-away buoys. A group of cormorants land in the water and I see two tiny ruddy ducks out in the middle of the lake. Four green herons fly towards me and land in the nearby trees, their neon orange legs do their flirting for them. A spring morning in a flyover state.
Four blue herons fly by, for once not chasing each other away. Three newly fledged youngsters with blue caps and rusty coloring follow an adult across the lake. These huge youngsters have a lot to learn in a short time. They are awkward and gangly as they figure out how to use those extra-large wings and dinosaur feet. They’ve already got the squawk down pat. A spring morning in a flyover state.
Purple martins zip around, stopping in trees to gather material and taking it back to the nest box they’ve claimed. Barn swallows swoop for bugs, chase each other, then stop to pick up the mud that is the building block of their nest in the rafters. Everyone is happy we had rain! A spring morning in a flyover state.
In the trees, the soft sound of yellow warblers, the flute-like melodies of the bright orange Baltimore orioles, and the sultry song of the darker orchard orioles ring out. Eating bugs, chasing each other around, and stopping to sing their song. The female orchard oriole is hiding among the leaves, her lovely yellow only poking out for a moment. She’s harder to see than the males who have to proclaim themselves king of the tree with their songs. A spring morning in a flyover state.
I walk around to a different spot, as close as I can get to the terns (until I learn to walk on water). I see a smaller bird now too - two black terns with their bodies dark as night, completely different than their white and gray winter colors. All of these birds change their feathers completely twice a year. Imagine! Do they recognize their own reflection in the water after such a shift? In the distance, I hear the raspy screech of the largest tern, a Caspian tern, and see its bright orange carrot-like bill. Sometimes in the fall the terns make a longer stop and might come closer to see me. In the spring it seems they are in a hurry, barely time for a short rest and a little fishing before they are once again on their way. A spring morning in a flyover state.
A spotted sandpiper lands on the rocks and tail-bops his way over and around picking off bugs too small for me to see as he goes. A common yellowthroat sings from the bush behind me but refuses to appear for a photo. Eastern kingbirds repeatedly swoop from the branches, gathering bugs from the air and landing back in the tree for a moment. A spring morning in a flyover state.
I start walking, deeper into the trees and around the creek. Here I listen to the red-eyed vireos loudly singing their melody and forcefully chasing off any would-be competitors from their territory. The rising trill of the northern parula’s echo through the trees. A bright red bird flits across in front of me and for the first time in month’s it isn’t a cardinal! The summer tanagers have arrived. A spring morning in a flyover state.
I take in the sounds of indigo buntings, red-bellied woodpeckers, eastern wood-pewees, white-eyed vireos and tufted titmice. Zebra swallowtails fly around and the little skippers land in the bushes. Two barred owls hoot loudly and though I can’t see them I imagine there is a nest nearby. In the tops of the trees small birds flit in and out, not stopping long enough for me to be sure who they are. Warblers, vireos, flycatchers all are traveling through. A spring morning in a flyover state.
It is a quiet chaos, a mass movement happening nearly out of sight. It can be seen on radar and yet most people on the ground don’t notice at all. My shoulders and neck ache from looking up to the tops of the trees. My hip is complaining about too many four-hour walks. My list of unfinished chores is growing - but it is such a short-lived spectacle of life and I don’t want to miss a minute. Like Kenny Rogers said, “you never count your money, when you’re sitting at the table…”
What a gift it is to spend a spring morning in a flyover state!
To receive new posts and support my work, become a free or paid subscriber.
My next task is to catch up on the photos and videos - and spend a bit more time with the writing. All in good time as it will soon be too hot for four-hour walks anyway! Wishing all of you well this week, whatever is appearing in your world.
Love this! What a wonderful spot you live in! 💜
I loved a spring morning in a fly I very state!! You give to us your images & experiences of what you are seeing & hearing. The birds ate so very beautiful!! As always, thank you for sharing!