The calendar shows spring is now officially upon us, and winter’s last gasps can hardly slow its inexorable progress.
Untold numbers of migratory bird species have already begun their annual northward treks from more tropical winter quarters in order to return to ancestral breeding grounds for the season.
Arrayed in their finest plumages, the vanguard of this spring spectacle are already pushing their way into and through the Myrtle Beach area as they rush headlong to be earliest on their respective breeding grounds in order to claim the most preferable territories for their annual reproductive endeavors.
Among the earliest of spring returnees, yellow-throated and Northern parula warblers can be heard and seen as they call and forage amid the tree canopy.
The first blue-gray gnatcatchers are also returning, their thin, buzzy calls giving away their locations as they forage for tiny insect prey amid emerging vegetation.
Migrating shorebirds are also currently moving into and through the area. An unusual species for North America, a reeve (female ruff) was found on March 22 at Bear Island Wildlife Management Area south of Charleston.
In addition to the unusual find, numerous other shorebirds including American avocet, stilt sandpiper and black-necked stilt were also noted, as was a peregrine falcon.
On March 19, an ash-throated flycatcher was still in residence at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. A clay-colored sparrow was also observed there the same morning.
Among the most graceful and elegant of all birds, swallow-tailed kites are now returning to the area. A reminder for anyone who observes these amazing birds of prey to report your sighting online at: http://www.thecenterforbirdsofprey.org/swallowtail-kite.php.
Swallow-tailed kite is a state endangered species in South Carolina, and details of your observations are invaluable to wildlife agencies, conservation organizations and biologists seeking to track and monitor the species’ populations.
Another reminder is to report your first sightings of chimney swifts this spring. Go to: http://www.chimneyswifts.org/ and follow the directions under “spring sightings.” These amazing little birds have been undergoing a significant population decline, due primarily to loss of nesting and roosting habitat as a result of human behaviors.
As the spring migrants return, a number of winter species remain in residence throughout the area. White-throated, chipping and dark-eyed junco sparrows, ruby-crowned kinglet, Baltimore oriole, yellow-rumped and pine warblers are among the species that continue.
A number of folks over the course of the past week have joined the ranks of those happy to report the arrival of their first ruby-throated hummingbird of the season.
Remember to keep your feeder clean and maintained with a solution of one part sugar to four parts water with no other additives, and let me know of the hummingbird activity in your backyard.
Reach GARY PHILLIPS at 248-4595 or firstname.lastname@example.org.