The thought of spring may seem like a fairy tale for those in the Northern US buried under record amounts of February and March snowfalls, but here in sunny Florida, spring has definitely sprung and believe it or not, it’s coming your way!
The first migrants to return to Florida each “spring” are the Purple Martins which actually return from the Amazon basin as early as January each year. These birds are so far ahead of everything else, though, that you may have to wait a good month before really seeing any other migrants.
Somewhere near the third week in March, you will have a warmer day with south winds that will carry the first wave of graceful Swallow-tailed Kites across the Gulf of Mexico (learn more about the migration of this incredibly beautiful raptor here).
There are very subtle warning signs of spring if you look hard enough: a bit of pollen from nearby Southern Live Oaks just beginning to bloom that lightly dusts your car. But mostly it just hits you – one morning shortly after Florida’s harbinger of spring sails in off the Gulf, you walk outside with coffee in hand and your yard is alive with the buzzy songs of Northern Parulas.
Some of these small birds overwinter and you might see one or two in January and February. But on this morning, you know something very different has happened and that loads of these birds have arrived from somewhere. On top of this buzzy song emanating from nearly every suburban neighborhood with oaks, you will hear numerous Great Crested Flycatchers “reeeep”ing at each other and carrying on with rambunctious tail chases.
Driving to the store on that pleasant 75° (~24° C) morning with your windows down, you’ll note 12 Northern Parulas, 6 Great Crested Flycatchers, and 4 or 5 Brown Thrashers teed up on a tall tree or power line singing there distinctive repetitive song. In the days that follow, people will post images of Parulas off shore on a gulf coast fishing boat, and an old friend will call, saying, “Are you seeing migrants? It looks like there is movement coming off the Gulf on radar…” For those of you looking out your window seeing snow flurries, this may seem impossible, but you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you this has happened and I promise spring is coming your way soon, too!