It’s been a warm spring here in the Sonoran Desert. Temperatures have been running 10 to 15 degrees above normal for weeks. The super El Niño we were looking forward to moved up to the Pacific Northwest, leading to disappointment over the prospect of a super flower year (although I hear parts of central California are doing well). It’s perhaps a little early to pass final judgment on the spring, but the warm temperatures have really got the birds revved up, so even if it doesn’t quite look like spring yet, it sure sounds like spring is here.
The year-round residents really began singing their mating songs a few weeks ago, and already the house finches, curve-billed thrashers, phainopeplas, mourning doves, and hummingbirds are sitting on eggs. The migrant birds – white-winged doves, Scott’s orioles, and warblers – aren’t due to arrive for several weeks yet. The following recording was made on March 12 two years ago. It sounds nearly identical to one I made yesterday, so although the spring seems advanced, the birds seem to be on a similar schedule to last year. However, the trees are way ahead – the mesquites and desert willow are leafing out 3-4 weeks ahead of normal (whatever that is, anymore).
I make a point of having lunch under the ramada in my backyard every day when the weather is nice (which is most days). I enjoy watching and listening to the birds as they go about the frantic business of finding mates, food and water, and rearing young. I noticed a couple of new additions to the breeding bird population this spring – northern mockingbirds and black-throated sparrows. I’ve seen both of them in the area before, but never noticed them setting up breeding territories. I was particularly happy to see the mockingbird. I love their elaborate calls that seem to go on and on, repeating short phrases a few times, then switching to a new phrase, in an endless variety of little songs all strung together. It often incorporates other birds phrases, so it can be difficult to tell sometimes what bird you are listening to. But the long series of repeats is diagnostic.
My backyard soundscape will change in a few weeks when the migrants arrive and start setting up breeding territories. And I’ll be out there listening.
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