The official calendar — the one over the desk — says that Easter is early this year. That fits right in with the unofficial calendar — nature’s — that produced an early spring. Candy eggs have been in the stores for weeks, and now the real eggs are showing up in the nests of our wild birds.
According to recent reports, the Anna’s hummingbirds are the early bird parents. One reader even found tiny eggs in her Anna’s nest at the end of February. That confirms spring did arrive early. In the coming weeks other birds will start introducing this year’s young. Our resident birds get started first.
I know the spotted sandpiper youngsters will be showing up on the rivers flowing out of the Olympic Mountains this month.
Watching a family of these small shorebirds scatter from almost under my feet was an unforgettable spring experience. It took place on the Hoh River one year. They went in every direction, while one of the parents tried to lure us in another direction by using the broken wing display. This took place in April and illustrates how early the local birds begin raising families.
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The start of the nesting season also sees several bird festivals taking advantage of spring activity within the bird population. Here’s hoping the weather wizards produce continued warm weather for these festivals. The folks working on them go all out to see that the three-day events are crammed with activities that focus on birds and other aspects of nature.
From Friday through April 12, the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society will celebrate its 12th annual Olympic Birdfest. The birdfest website lists the complete schedule of events. Experience over the years has proven that the field trips fill up quickly and the waiting lists begin. The website, olympicbirdfest.org, makes it easy to see the events you can attend and it provides instructions for signing up for them. Information about speakers, workshops and field trips is also covered on the site.
May seems a long way off, but the Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival is almost in April. This year, the event takes place in Hoquiam at Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge May 1-3. This festival celebrates the spring migration of hundreds of thousands of shorebirds moving along our coast on their way to northern breeding grounds.
Some shorebirds will travel to the Arctic from as far away as Argentina. They are among the world’s greatest migrants. There are species that make a round-trip journey of more than 15,000 miles in length. They will arrive on their nesting grounds while snow and cold temperatures can still be expected.
Information on festival activities is found at shorebirdfestival.com. When viewing shorebirds at Grays Harbor, or at other estuaries where they congregate to rest and feed, tides are the most important consideration. The accepted rule to remember is that the best viewing time is two hours before high tide and two hours after it. This is when the birds are the closest and the most concentrated. Numbers of migrating shorebirds reach their peak during the last week in April. The festival is timed to coincide with this as closely as possible.
Best viewing times for this year’s festival will be: May 1, between 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., with the high tide at 12:30 p.m. The high tide May 2 will be at 1:20 p.m., while it will be at 2 p.m. May 3. Combining good tides and good weather is challenging, but when they come together the spectacle is breathtaking.
Spring was early and Easter is early, but the spring birding festivals are right on time.