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Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

May 8, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Spring’s splendor alights: migrants arrive, locals dress up up for spring

I was at the Montlake Fill last week on a dreamy spring afternoon, with the sun in and out, the clouds a puffy parade and the birds in their full spring splendor. Even Puget Sound’s resident LBBs (little brown birds) color up for spring. Take a look at this goldfinch!

Finch for Lynda.jpg

A goldfinch, in spring finery, at the Montlake Fill this week. Photo by Steve Ringman, The Seattle Times

International Migratory Bird Day is fast approaching, on the second Saturday in May, and many of our local long distance travelers have arrived by now and are busily nesting. The swallows at the pond closest to Husky Stadium, with its inviting standing snags, is swallow central right now, and an afternoon spent watching them dip and swoop is a fine thing indeed.

Lynda Bird.jpg

A tree swallow back from a foraging flight feeds its young, safely tucked in a snag at the Montlake Fill. Steve Ringman photo

The migration of the spring bringers is one of the great miracles of nature, with tiny birds powering all the way here from as far south as northern South America. The local birds also turn out in spring finery, to attract mates. “You have migration and transformation all at the same time,” said wildlife photographer and author Paul Bannick, who joined me at the fill. “Cross bills in the off season look like they shopped at the army surplus store. But in spring! They are just glowing red.”

The good news is that Bannick, who wowed readers with his book The Owl and the Woodpecker (Mountaineers Books, 2008) is working on another book that has him traveling and photographing birds all over the region. “Everything’s happening at once!” Bannick said. Spoken like a true birder.

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