Get Outside: Birds return from winter journey

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Well, our bird guests are starting to arrive here now that it is officially spring. The technical term for the flight pattern they follow to our area is the "Atlantic Flyway" which is one of the four major bird migratory flight paths that pass over the United States.

It's a solid name, and the effort engaged by migrating birds to simply survive the process is overwhelming, but whenever I hear the term my head kinda chortles in laughter like a cuckoo bird.

Just imagine fowl in tiny loafers and printed linen shirts cramming their seeds and bugs into suitcases, grabbing the kids, shouting for Maude and heading out the sliding glass door on to their vacation rental lawns. One last swig of sweet tea and they are off; charging down the lush floral runways of Cuba and Jamaica and Argentina, they take flight and set course for the USA.

A most interesting electronic map of the four Flyways was developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and is displayed on their website: allaboutbirds.org. It feels rather like meditating to watch it. Layered over a black and white map of North, Central, and South America are dozens and dozens of numbers; each representing a different bird species. The digits do an elegant migration dance as the site automates them up and down the map while a timer in the corner mimics the passing of days and months.

Particularly fascinating is to view how crowded some of the airways get with the convergence of many types of birds. Yes, a bird might have a cheery beach hat tied around it's head or be smoking a nice Cuban, but don't think for one second that it isn't working it's feathered tail off to get here.Which brings me back to what needs be considered when migratory birds land here in Vermont: I make it a point to thank the perennial regulars already gathered around my feeders.

Chickadee, you really are a tough, but optimistic little soul aren't you? Like the Jack Russell of the canine world, you view yourself as larger than life and a friend every backyard birder should have. The way you stick by my side all year long? Well that just proves it.

Bluejay? You are smarter than I am — you know it and I know it now and I love you all the more for it. In fact you are so puzzling that from year to year most of us don't know if you are our usual blue feathered bird sticking around the feeder in the winter, or if you actually decided to migrate and the jays we see are coming down from the North. Tricky!

Hello to you, woodpeckers. I've noticed you on the suet and I just want to say thank you, thank you Downy and Hairy and Pileated. Your colors of black and red against my yard are gorgeous, and the other day when I saw fresh wood shavings below that tree, well Mr. Pileated, it had me grinning all morning long.

There are more to greet, but you get the idea. All the while that is going on, birds are arriving: the red winged blackbirds and the juncos, the mourning doves and all variations of sparrows and geese. Woodcocks, raptors, hummingbirds ... the list grows and grows as Vermont fills with light and warmth.

What gets me most about these arrivals is that they land here tired, physically strained, and hungry. And yet and yet they immediately begin to call and sing their fast beating hearts out. Oh sure, this singing offers up all sorts of information from the bird to its feathered friends, but can't we consider it a song of celebration? The birds will continue to flock in to our towns regardless of how dreary we feel, or how much work we have ahead of us, or how depressed we are by the ever changing spring weather.

In our yards, lining the trees of our streets, singing from the rooftops let the birds be a reminder to us of optimism and gratitude.

Let their songs nudge us to acknowledge that no matter what attempts to get us down, we should make the effort to get through it by thrusting up our chins and whistling a happy tune.

Get Outside contributor Tina Weikert lives By Tina Weikert

Well, our bird guests are starting to arrive here now that it is officially spring. The technical term for the flight pattern they follow to our area is the "Atlantic Flyway" which is one of the four major bird migratory flight paths that pass over the United States.

It's a solid name, and the effort engaged by migrating birds to simply survive the process is overwhelming, but whenever I hear the term my head kinda chortles in laughter like a cuckoo bird.

Just imagine fowl in tiny loafers and printed linen shirts cramming their seeds and bugs into suitcases, grabbing the kids, shouting for Maude and heading out the sliding glass door on to their vacation rental lawns. One last swig of sweet tea and they are off; charging down the lush floral runways of Cuba and Jamaica and Argentina, they take flight and set course for the USA.

A most interesting electronic map of the four Flyways was developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and is displayed on their website: allaboutbirds.org. It feels rather like meditating to watch it. Layered over a black and white map of North, Central, and South America are dozens and dozens of numbers; each representing a different bird species. The digits do an elegant migration dance as the site automates them up and down the map while a timer in the corner mimics the passing of days and months.

Particularly fascinating is to view how crowded some of the airways get with the convergence of many types of birds. Yes, a bird might have a cheery beach hat tied around it's head or be smoking a nice Cuban, but don't think for one second that it isn't working it's feathered tail off to get here.Which brings me back to what needs be considered when migratory birds land here in Vermont: I make it a point to thank the perennial regulars already gathered around my feeders.

Chickadee, you really are a tough, but optimistic little soul aren't you? Like the Jack Russell of the canine world, you view yourself as larger than life and a friend every backyard birder should have. The way you stick by my side all year long? Well that just proves it.

Bluejay? You are smarter than I am — you know it and I know it now and I love you all the more for it. In fact you are so puzzling that from year to year most of us don't know if you are our usual blue feathered bird sticking around the feeder in the winter, or if you actually decided to migrate and the jays we see are coming down from the North. Tricky!

Hello to you, woodpeckers. I've noticed you on the suet and I just want to say thank you, thank you Downy and Hairy and Pileated. Your colors of black and red against my yard are gorgeous, and the other day when I saw fresh wood shavings below that tree, well Mr. Pileated, it had me grinning all morning long.

There are more to greet, but you get the idea. All the while that is going on, birds are arriving: the red winged blackbirds and the juncos, the mourning doves and all variations of sparrows and geese. Woodcocks, raptors, hummingbirds ... the list grows and grows as Vermont fills with light and warmth.

What gets me most about these arrivals is that they land here tired, physically strained, and hungry. And yet and yet they immediately begin to call and sing their fast beating hearts out. Oh sure, this singing offers up all sorts of information from the bird to its feathered friends, but can't we consider it a song of celebration? The birds will continue to flock in to our towns regardless of how dreary we feel, or how much work we have ahead of us, or how depressed we are by the ever changing spring weather.

In our yards, lining the trees of our streets, singing from the rooftops let the birds be a reminder to us of optimism and gratitude.

Let their songs nudge us to acknowledge that no matter what attempts to get us down, we should make the effort to get through it by thrusting up our chins and whistling a happy tune.

Get Outside contributor Tina Weikert lives in Bondville.

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