Spring is for the Birds
First Migrant Birds Return to the Chicopee Woods
There is so much anticipation surrounding Spring. The feelings are particularly strong this year as we suffered through this ark-floating winter of dispiriting hydration. But spring has finally arrived and with it comes another flood, one of anticipation for what nature in northeast Georgia.
Many in our area really look forward to the eruption of ephemeral wildflowers. And who can blame them when a walk along the Ed Dodd Trail, in the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve, takes one through a beautiful gauntlet of trillium, blood root, mayapple, hepatica, phlox and foam flower. However, many others feel that spring is the for the birds, especially the beautiful neotropical migrants that fill area forests in March, April and May, like ornaments.
One of the first arrivals, is a smallish odd little bird that spends much of its time unsteadily wading in creeks searching for macroinvertebrates. The Louisiana Waterthrush (Parkesia motacilla) isn’t the most beautiful bird returning to the Chicopee Woods, but it may be one of the most interesting. It predictably appears in mid-March and announces its arrival with a song that pierces the forest like a miniature trumpet blast of avian reveille.
On the other side of the Nature Preserve sits Chicopee Lake where another early arrival favorite entertains all that watch with spectacular fishing displays. Unlike the Waterthrush, the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is one of the largest migrants that returns to the Chicopee Woods each year, usually in March. Chicopee Lake is the place to see them because this majestic bird’s diet is limited to fish and its method of fishing requires an unobstructed view of and pathway to the water. Ospreys fly patiently above ponds, lakes and rivers on the lookout for a fish rising to the surface. When one is spotted, the bird will go into a full-scale dive, its body jack-knifed with legs and talons extended beyond its head. Large, powerful wings lift the wet bird and its prey to a nearby perch where eating and post meal preening ensue.
These two early migrants make up only a very small percentage of the migrant birds that revisit the Chicopee Woods each year. If you keep an eye on your feeders and your trees, shrubs and creeks, you too will have a lot more to look forward to each spring.