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Signs of Spring

Has anyone noticed the bursting out of bird song recently?  For the last several weeks I’ve heard more and more of our breeding birds that stay year-round trying out their spring songs.  Black-capped Chickadees can be heard sitting at the top of an ornamental tree whistling their mournful two-note call, Brown Creepers lighten up the woods with their sweet song and the Song Sparrows, especially, seem to be improvising a whole new set of riffs on their basic song.  At my house the Song Sparrow starts in the bush in front of the porch as soon as I turn the porch light on in the morning, hours before dawn.

As soon as the sun starts rising earlier and setting later, many of our bird species begin getting ready for the breeding season.  Others don’t just get ready, they get busy.  The Island already has first babies of the year with young Anna’s Hummingbirds showing up at Cecelia Furlong’s feeder at Tahlequah in early January.  They nest pretty much earlier than everyone else with some young born in early January, more in February and March, and some even double broods.  
Other early nesters include Bald Eagles and Barred Owls.  Barred Owls often nest in March and Bald Eagles may have eggs in the nest by mid-February.  Most of the rest of winter resident sparrows, finches and thrushes like the American Robin start a first brood in mid to late March or early April and may go on to having one more brood in June or early July.

As birds begin to nest on Vashon, I’m always interested in hearing the details and photos of birds on the nest or babies being fed are appreciated. I collect data on which birds nest on the Island to keep track of how our breeding birds are doing.  Send me an email with the location of the nest, what type of tree or bush or building situation it’s in, how many eggs there are, when they hatch, when the young fledge and how many survive to fledging.  Any or all of that information is very useful.

One species of particular interest is the Great Blue Heron.  The population around Vashon seems to be still largely stable but Bald Eagle predation of nestlings stopped all known nesting attempts over the last decade on the Island.  If you see an actual heron nest on Vashon this spring, it would be very helpful to have it reported so we can track it for potential successful adaption of the herons to the expanded eagle population.

If you have a question about Vashon birds or an interesting sighting to report, email me at or call at 463-7976.  I’m available also as a guide for bird watching on Vashon and trips to birding hot spots around Puget Sound.  Right now, my second edition of The Birds of Vashon Island finally arrived from the printer after much delay.  Order on-line by credit card from my website at or mail a check for $31.45 (book and tax) to Ed Swan, 11230 SW 212th Place, Vashon, WA  98070.  Off-Island delivery requires a total check of $35.50 in order to include shipping and handling.