There is a brook beyond the backyards of some of my neighbors. Canada geese have been hanging out there for years. But each spring they get very restless, fly up more than usual, call to each other continuously, then circle and land not far from where they started. Some long-held instinct tells them they have to be going. But they and their forebears have been on the fields and office park lawns of suburbia for so long they wouldn’t know where to go if they had a GPS strapped to their bills. Meanwhile, their cousins, the migrant Canada geese, have been heading north to their breeding grounds for weeks in long, v-shaped skeins.
Like the local geese, at this time of year, I feel restless. But I know the cause. I’m waiting for the birds to come north. In particular, I am awaiting warblers. Despite their name they are not the sweetest of singers. Their “songs” tend to be more like buzzes or sounds like “weezy, weezy, weezy” and “sweet, sweet I’m so sweet.”
But after a long winter it is wonderful to be outside, looking up a tree that is leafing, and suddenly seeing a hint of movement that turns out to be a brightly colored, yellow and black bird. Then the fun starts – which bird is it? Is the pattern that of a magnolia warbler or ablack-throated green? Is it on the ground or at the very top of a tree or someplace in between? Warblers are an enjoyable test every spring for bird watchers. Their variety forces you to remember their coloring, habits and calls.
You arrive at a trail and hear nothing. A few steps later you are surrounded by calling birds. It is not uncommon to find seven or eight different types of warblers (not to mention other migrating birds) in one small area that has the benefit of seeds to eat and/or water to drink and bathe in. It can be overwhelming. During the winter I feel sluggish and slow, cold and achy no matter how high I keep the heat. (And with the cost, I don’t keep it that high.) But when the days get longer, and the winds finally start coming out of the south, winter is loosening its grip. I know the floodgates will open and the birds will come.
That is why I am restless. Just as I know the birds are pushing through many obstacles to get north to their breeding grounds, I know there will be several Saturday mornings when I will rise earlier than I’d like and drive to an area I favor in New Jersey’s Great Swamp that is hard to hike, but rewarding because it’s literally off the beaten (or boardwalked) track. There will be birds there, and if I am lucky, I’ll be able to know what I’m hearing, and will see the singers without straining my neck too badly from all the looking up. I can’t wait.