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Spring Migration
March 29, 2010

Welcome everybody.

Many of you write back to me thanking me for the informative and friendly newsletters.

To which I say you are welcome and thank you for being there.

I am the one that is truly blessed by all of you.

You are well informed on may topics.

You share your pictures of gardens and birds.

You share your stories and favorites for all of us to enjoy.

You continue to teach me as well.

I have made many friends across North America and there isn't a price you can put on that.

Again, "Thank You" so very much for allowing me into your home every week.

Yes, I am truly blessed.

After a snowy first day of spring, the first full week gave us some gorgeous sunny days and a couple of cool cloudy windy days.

After a snowy first day of spring, the first full week gave us some gorgeous sunny days and a couple of cool cloudy windy days.

It is to be expected around here as we go through transition.

No matter, I did get a few odd jobs taken care.

The yard bug continues to bite, but I know some things need to wait for drier ground and more constant warmer temperatures.

I continue my walks with the fur kids and sometimes I actually take both out at the same time.

Now that can be a challenge when one wants to go one way and the other goes another direction.

I don't have a great deal of patience so usually it is one at a time which is more enjoyable for me.

All of the photos, are images of American Goldfinches taken the past couple of days from the comfort of home (through windows).

You will notice that some are further along than others.

You will notice quilt like patterns, and upon close inspection, even the females are molting.

Bird songs fill the air as robins sing from predawn to dusk.

Female Red-winged blackbirds and female robins are now on sight, let the battles begin.

Northern cardinals, Black-capped chickadees, Tufted titmice and others are busy singing and staking claims.

From time to time I hear the war cry of a Red-bellied woodpecker or Northern flicker.

It appears that a lone Sandhill crane has taken up residence some where close by.

At least it seems that is the case as I continue to see a single bird flying around ans squawking.

I missed the Red tailed hawks mating dance/flight this year, but I do enjoy them in some synchronized flying.

On a windy day I may witness the Red-tails 'Kiting' .

Kiting is when the hawks (other birds too) will face the wind and seem to hover or hang there like a 'Kite'.

The first daffodils of the young season are open, offering a bit of color.

Feeder activity has slowed some, though Grackles and Red-winged blackbirds make up for the lack of Juncos (I still have a few), Cardinals and other winter feeding birds.

I have cardinals year round, I call them winter feeders because they show in great numbers from late fall through winter.

I've been showing you snap shots of my goldfinches for the past couple of weeks and you see some more this week.

I know some of you have late comers when it is time for your Goldies to change over.

I have some that haven't changed and I have a couple that are close to having a new bright yellow suit.

Not all birds change or molt at the same time and if you don't look closely, you may not notice a little patch here and there turning colors.

When birds molt, it takes place a little at a time over weeks so it doesn't hinder flight.

Besides, it requires a lot of energy to grow all those new feathers.

With American goldfinches, you will often see these little guys in a quilt like patchwork.

Some may almost look seedy or sickly as they go through this semi-annual transformation.

Yes, females Goldies molt twice a year also, it isn't as noticeable, however.

Changing to a grayish brown with very little yellow and dark brown wings with white wing bars in winter.

The female goldfinch is yellowish green with black wings and tail during summer.

You can learn more on goldfinches by clicking here. With that, we will fly into 'Spring Migration'.


All across North America, one of the sure signs that spring is here is the return of the migratory birds.

This will continue for another couple of months.

If you are familiar with the birds in your area you know that the change can be abrupt.

One morning, the bushes and trees around you are suddenly filled with singing birds that were not there just the day before.

Robins, Red-winged blackbirds, Thrushes, Warblers, Orioles, Awallows and others fill your gardens with activity.

They have arrived during the night, following a combination of celestial (by the stars) and magnetic cues that are part of their genetic heritage.

Still again, your winter birds like Juncos, Redpolls, Snow buntings, White-crowned sparrows and others, are here today and gone tomorrow.

Springs migration is totally different than Fall migration.

There is an urgency to migrate in spring.

Procreation depends on it.

Autumn's migration is a more leisurely pace.

The most amazing part of this story is that these tiny birds may have flown thousands of miles to reach your yard, after spending the North American winter in Mexico, Central America, or South America, where the days remain warm and food is plentiful during our cold season.

Many of the birds we consider "your birds," actually spend less than half of their lives here.

Birds are driven so hard by 'the urge', that some die of exhaustion and starvation in the attempt to reach their goal.

They move north as the snow melts and raise young on the plentiful supplies of insects and fruits that are abundant only during the long warm days of our late spring and summer.

Like any good nomad, at the end of the breeding season, usually in late summer or fall, they move south again.

Most of them following only their God given instincts to reach the traditional "winter" home of their species.

This fall migration is a somewhat drawn-out process for many species, and flocks will linger and feed wherever food is available.

For many birds, they find staging areas to flock in great numbers and add needed weight for the next stage of their trip.

People will come from around the globe to witness the mass exodus of Fall migrations.

The spring migration, however, is urgent.

There is little time for staging.

You snooze you lose.

Many people like to call the early bird (especially for hummers and Purple martins) 'Scouts'.

There is no such thing as a scout bird.

A scout implies they are checking things out and when ready, they go back and get the clan to follow.

What your 'Scout' or early bird is, is typically an experienced bird that knows it is first come first serve

For each species there is a specific, optimal time when the birds need to arrive in their breeding areas and he wants to make sure he has the best spot to attract the ladies.

The strongest or more experienced males arrive first and stake out the prime territories, often in the same location where they nested the previous year.

When females arrive, they select the males that occupy the best habitats, strongest colors and other things that will continue a good genetic line and a good place for raising young.

Rarely does the same couple meet up from the following year, but it has been know to happen (DNA testing).

The pair must then construct a nest, incubate eggs, and raise their brood in the short period before it is time to start the journey back to the wintering range.

While there is a certain amount of variability each year, research does show some trends.

In the last 20 years, many species are arriving earlier, and a significant number of species are also shifting farther to the north.

Some believe it is climate change, while others may feel it is a shift in better habitats and populations.

Still others believe it is one of Nature's many cycles.

There are years where a late winter or early spring snow storm and arctic temperatures will fall on the north country killing off and starving out many birds.

Spring can bring cool temperatures and days of rain in the south. These conditions keeps flying insects hiding and birds freeze and starve to death.

Spring migration can be a huge risk for many species of birds, especially those that rely 100% on insects for food.

Climate change or one of 'Nature's population controls?

Length of day and other factors stir the hormones and this sets of the trip north.

While weather plays a small factor, it is not the determining factor at all.

A stretch of warm days may have some birds arriving a week earlier than normal.

Still, a stretch of cloudy, rainy days will keep many birds grounded for a few days.

It is difficult to navigate in the safety of darkness when you can't see the stars.

Daytime migration is to dangerous with predators just waiting on the wing.

Still, spring migration is an exciting time of the year for all of us.

Even the winter hardy birds that enjoy our feeders will migrate to some degree.

Small flocks of wintering chickadees or cardinals break up and go their separate ways as they look for breeding territories.

Domanant males get the best territories from the get go.

If you have watched your year round birds, you will know just what bird is the Alpha male, as he gets first feeding rights as well.

If you have a prime area, you will have the domanant pair nesting or feeding throughout the year.

Palm Sunday came and went without a word.

Yet, this coming week marks the most important week in the history of man.

Prayerfully, I will get out my Annual Easter letter this Friday.

I allow myself twice a year, Christmas and Easter a special letter just for our God, our Lord and Savior.

To honor Him.

Possibly renew faith for some.

Maybe, just maybe I can plant a seed or two along the way.

It is the least I can do for Him.

Feel free not to read.

If it may offend you, please ignore it.

Delete it right away.

If you read it...............

I hope you enjoy it and it touches you in a special way.

I know it is a bone of contention at times, but He said it would be.

Hopefully you will tune into the Easter Letter this Friday and I will see you next week as usual.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive quote for the week.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14 (New International Version)

I had finished a study on this several weeks ago.

A couple weeks later, a dear reader sent this passage to me as well.

You may want to read it again.

There are a couple of things here that really stick out (though the whole passage is powerful).

He will forgive sin and HEAL THEIR LAND.

Boy do we need that more than ever.

Now her is what i think is so important.

Not just to pray, but to seek His FACE.

Seek the face of GOD.

When we set our selves in search of Him, we forget out worries and problems.

When we seek his face, we seek his glory.

We aren't busy asking for healings, blessings and whatever He may find in His spiritual sack of goodies.

When he turns our way, we get the wonderful, beautiful, healing, blessings, glory and favor of God.

When his glory is shining on us, there is no room for darkness.

Just his perfect love.

Besides, the Bible tells us in several places to seek him first.

Until next time,

Smile, you have something to smile about.

God Bless.

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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