Spring bird migration. Those three little words can get people giddy with excitement, especially in Iowa. And no wonder, since we live in the path of many migrating birds. Spring migration generally brings rare-to-Iowa male birds, with their bright plumage. Grab your grape jelly and oranges for your birdfeeder, and see what new migration birds show up this year.
As an optimist, every morning I wake up in anticipation of seeing beautiful Baltimore Orioles, Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks, iridescent Indigo Buntings, Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, and more, all along our Wonder Creek in Spillville. It's been a long wait this year, as the first Rose-Breasted Grosbeak and male Oriole finally appeared Sunday morning May 2nd.
But each year is different and unique. One spring, we had an endangered Blanding Turtle appear. In 2011, we were delighted to see two unusual migrating birds at our spring feeders, enjoying oranges, grape jelly, and nectar. One was the Cape May Warbler, and another was a First Spring Summer Tanager. It was so colorful! The male juvenile in attendance was molting. At first, we thought someone must have lost their caged tropical bird! And in the spring of 2014, we had the first Scarlet Tanager and Yellow/Tennessee Warbler arrive.
Let’s all keep a look out for migrating birds this spring and see if you see anything unusual. I always report any unusual birds to Naturalist Larry Reis at Lake Meyer by Fort Atkinson. He records the findings and may sometimes come out and see migrating visitors in person.
Since 2014, I have penned a migratory journal, beginning when the first migrating bird arrives. Since, I've detected a pattern. Over the past few years, the first arrivals have appeared somewhere among the last few days of April. And I'm excited to announce that our first male Baltimore Oriole last Saturday, April 29th!
Interested in tracking migration across Iowa? There's a great a website migration tracking map available online. You can search the map for information on all kinds of migration through the Midwest this spring. You can also put your own sightings on the map of your location. Locate the Ruby Throated Hummingbird map each spring, or see when the Orioles will be arriving in our area.
Over the last few years, the accommodations at our certified wildlife habitat must have agreed with the migrating birds, because the Orioles and Indigo Buntings stayed a while and nested in our yard. You can make your place green for wildlife too!
Take time this spring to get back in touch with nature-- either on Iowa's terrific trails, or by fishing our rivers and lakes, all while enjoying the splendor of spring migration time!