It’s spring. Birds are migrating, have been migrating. Early migrants, robins and bluebirds and red-winged blackbirds to name a few, are now nesting. Woodchucks have waked and come out of their holes after long winter naps. Wildflowers are blooming, leaves are opening on trees and bushes.
It’s spring. But I have never seen a spring like this. This is the spring of the coronavirus, a disease organism first seen in a province of China and now spread around the world, a disease organism causing a disease named COVID-19. It has infected hundreds of thousands of people, caused the death of thousands.
COVID-19 is spread from one person to another and another and another. There is no known cure. To prevent further cases people are advised to avoid contact with other people, to wear surgical masks when they are going to meet other people and to wash their hands frequently.
To avoid people seeing people and spreading the disease drastic measures have been initiated. Schools and many businesses have been closed. Sporting events and other events where large numbers of people would get together have been postponed and cancelled. Officials are advising people to stay home, interact only with members of their own family. At first the postponements, cancellations, closings was called shut down. Then it was called lock down. Now it’s called social distancing. If you feel you must go out, stay at least six feet from any other person you see.
I have another suggestion for people who don’t want to stay home; bird watching. You can do this at home, of course, just look out the windows. But if you really want to go out the ideal thing is to go alone or with your spouse or other close family member. If you go out looking for birds you can walk or drive. Just avoid meeting other people.
This is the ideal time of year for bird watching, the time of year when there are the most birds and when birds are the most active. There are resident birds, birds that stay in an area year round, house sparrows and starlings, black-capped chickadees, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, tufted titmice, cardinals, blue jays and crows, to name a few in northern Indiana where I live.
This is the time of year when resident birds are establishing territories, mating, and nesting. A male robin has been flying into a window of our kitchen. It has chosen that area as its territory and is attacking a rival, another male that is actually its own reflection.
It seems late in the season for spring migrants but I have just begun to see song sparrows and I haven’t seen a chipping sparrow or a vesper sparrow. I haven’t seen rose-breasted grosbeak or a Baltimore oriole or an orchard oriole. I haven’t seen a warbler this spring, not even a yellow warbler or a yellow-rumped, two of the earliest warblers to fly north in the spring.
Ducks are late spring migrants and a few days ago I drove to several lakes hoping to find some ducks. And I did. I saw a few mallards or greenheads. I saw scaup ducks, lesser scaup I believe. I saw shovelers and buffleheads and ring-necked ducks. I saw one redhead. I didn’t see any teal, neither blue or green-winged which surprised me because teal are among the most common of ducks.
I haven’t seen any rare birds this spring and that, too, is a little surprising. Other years, in spring, I’ve seen both loggerhead and northern shrikes. Loggerheads used to nest in northern Indiana but I haven’t seen one now in years. A northern shrike, on the other hand, has always been a rare visitor.
Of importance, however, I haven’t encountered any people while birding this spring.