Dust Off Your Bird-Watching Binoculars

May 19, 2014

Have you seen this bird? It's a yellow-throated warbler.
Credit Ding Darling / Creative Commons

If you're a birder, now is the time to grab your binoculars. The Connecticut Audubon Society said May is turning out to be a great time to watch birds.

WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil spoke with Connecticut Audubon Society President Alexander Brash about spring migration. To find out where the best places are to see the many species of birds flying through the state, visit Connecticut Audubon's website.

Alexander Brash: We’ve had a really unique combination of events this spring that has ended up backing up a great number of our spring migrants as they head north, and then pulling them all through at once. We had a very cold winter, as we all recollect. In fact, March was the coldest March since 2002. On top of that, the snow cover persisted for a lot longer than usual. We had snow cover in even southern Connecticut through March 15, and throughout all of New England through April 15. Finally. we had a late and unique combination of the winds. All together. these three factors kept a lot of the migrants back. until finally the conditions broke in about the second week of May. and the birds have been storming through ever since.

Lucy Nalpathanchil: What kind of birds have you seen down at the Birdcraft sanctuary in Fairfield?

Probably the most fascinating birds we have seen come through are the warblers. More than 30 species of warblers will migrate north or south through Connecticut through the course of the year, but on any one day, we had up to 20 or 22 different warblers joining us in the sanctuary in Fairfield.

We also had similar reports coming from our centers in Glastonbury and Pomfret, and all sorts of different great birding spots, like Hammonasset Park, across the state. My favorites among the warblers have been the yellow-throated, which I spent a number of years studying. On top of that, some of the more gorgeous ones are the Dendroica warblers, which are beautiful black-and-yellow-patterned, some with green, some with blue. We’ve seen a number of those, as well as some of the worm-eaters that run along the ground.

What is the best place to go, and what is the time they need to be out there with their binoculars?

Go to the Connecticut Audubon Society website, and you can see where our centers are. Head out there. We have staff members who would love to take you on trips.

There are five things you can do to help our migrants as they head north. One is: either keep your pet cat indoors, or bell them. Two is:  if you have any large glass windows, make sure you either put curtains across the front, or put decals on them. Between windows and cats. up to 50 million birds are dying each year.

If you’re thinking about gardening this spring, put some native plants -- particularly ones that produce good berries for birds -- out in your garden. Keep your bird baths clean. Stop putting out seeds this time of year, because the birds should be depending on the environment.