One of the wonderful things about March is that this is the month when some of the migratory songbirds start to return to our Southwest Virginia property. Last week for the first time this year, I heard a phoebe singing, calling out its name, "phoebe, phoebe, phoebe," in continuous bouts of energetic tune making. Also last week, I heard my first grackles of the year. Although the whistlings, croaks, and squeaks of grackles are not particularly tuneful, the sounds were still a harbinger of spring.
Of course, some species have been in fine form for some time now. Great horned owls have been doing their hooting since January, mourning doves have been uttering their plaintive notes since February, and tufted titmice have been singing "peter, peter, peter," since early March. Two weeks ago, the Carolina chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches, which often travel in mixed flocks with titmice, began singing as well.
The woodpeckers are also becoming more vocal and are drumming as well. For example, a pileated woodpecker on Saturday was making its "cuck, cuck, cuck," sound, when another pileated began to drum on a dead tree. This set forth a whole series of drumming sounds from different parts of our 38 acres and nearby properties as well. The sap is starting to rise as are testosterone levels in the avians.
And this morning in the hollow behind our house, a tom turkey was gobbling, and every time he did so, a gobbler on the back end of our land responded. Is a fight between the two a certainty?
I anxiously await the arrival of other songsters as well. Within a fortnight, I expect towhees, pine warblers, and chipping sparrows to arrive. Perhaps we will even have some temporary spring visitors such as hermit thrushes make an appearance.