Spring Migration

May of 2020 has gone down in my personal record book as the birdiest month ever—186 different avian species enriched and enlivened my spring beyond the wildest expectations. This number included both resident as well as migratory birds, both birds previously known to me, as well as a few new ones—lifers, as we birders like to call them.

Spring migration, this mind-blowing phenomenon in which countless birds leave their wintering grounds and make their way to their summer breeding grounds, is highly awaited and greatly appreciated each year. Simplistically stated, most migratory birds that wing their way to or through Colorado follow a trajectory that begins either in the southern US, Mexico, Central or South America and terminates at destinations north of here. In some instances, at destinations far north. Certain shorebirds, the Semipalmated Sandpiper among them (which happened to be one of my eight life birds), travels all the way from South America to northern Canada or Alaska, a trip that covers 1,900 to 2,500 miles. Incidentally, the longest recorded journey, that of some Arctic Terns, spans an unbelievable 10,000+ miles, from Antarctica to Alaska. And these distances will be traveled not once, but twice a year!

From the tiniest hummingbirds to substantial raptors, from muted sparrows to brilliant orioles, from monosyllabic gnatcatchers to virtuoso grosbeaks, from the expected species to those who were blown off course, all varieties have overcome impossible odds and have accomplished incredible feats by the time they arrive here. Some only make a stopover in the Pikes Peak region, others bless us with their company all summer long. I can’t fathom the multifarious elements that have converged by the time I see them, but I’m humbled by and grateful for their presence.

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63 thoughts on “Spring Migration

  1. Migration is a mind blowing event as you say, how these little waifs achieve it is incredible. And what of those species where the adults leave and the young have to find their own way, incredible!
    You had a great spring Tanja with some lovely memories on camera.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t recall ever coming across birdiest till now. I’ll have to add it to my life list.

    I do recall wondering why some birds migrate so much farther than you’d think they need to to find a suitable climate or territory.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the notion of having contributed to your life list, Steve. 🙂
      And your question is excellent and has been asked by many a wondering mind. But I don’t think anybody has been able to answer it conclusively. It remains one of the many natural phenomena to marvel at.


  3. Wow, wie schön! Das muss ein unglaublich schönes Erlebnis sein, so viele verschiedene Vögel zu sichten. Selbst wenn ich mich ein Jahr lang darauf konzentrieren würde, würde ich wohl keine 186 Arten sehen können. Was für eine Vielfalt! Liebe Grüße, Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lieber Michael,
      der Mai war wirklich ein wunderbarer Monat, wenigstens was die Vögel anbelangt, Wir haben Glück, weil hier in der Gegend viele Zugvögel durchziehen, was natürlich der Vielfalt gut tut. Ich muß aber auch zugeben, daß ich sonst nicht viel unternommen habe. Das wird ganz leicht zur Obsession! 😊
      Herzliche Grüße zurück,


  4. Wow! 186 is a great spring indeed. You make up for what we lack (too busy with TMN classes to chase birds), but I am proud to add the yellow-bilked cuckoo and Mississippi kite both have decided to stay in our hood this summer. It’s takes the missed migration sting off just a little bit. Be well, Tanja!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s so nice to hear from you, Shannon. I am grateful that I was able to get out of the house and walk this spring, as opposed to so many other folks.
      It sounds as though you continue to be busy, and I hope it’s mainly a good-busy. Having a cuckoo and kite nearby is definitely something to enjoy–I’m glad for you. There will be another migration for you to dive into!
      I hope all is well with all of you!
      Tanja ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lucky you to have seen so many species, Tanja! That’s a very good spring. You’ve shared some lovely pictures. What a relief it is during this siege to be able to get outside and enjoy nature. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. How wonderful to have so many bird species around – there’s something really hopeful in that, especially when we have worries about wildlife species declining.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow186 species. I’ve never gotten a Dickcissel photo like that. All these are great! We’ve had a light year so far with 149 but have picked up 5 lifers. Acadian Flycatcher was one of them. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Tanja, you are so fortunate to be around these pretty birds. Lovely photographs. Corona lockdown made sky and ground so clean that this year in India also people witnessed a huge increase in migratory birds at different places. In fact some cities were able to see the peaks of Himalayas from their terrace after ages. For new generation it was a miracle!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a wonderful spring you had, Tanja. We have festivals centered around the raptor and hummingbird migrations, and of course the spring ‘fall-out’ is something not to be missed. It’s wonderful that you were able to add some new species to your life list; I know that’s important to birders, for several reasons. Adding to the list is great, but the enjoyment of seeing something unusual or rare is even better.

    Have you ever used radar to watch the migrations? Our National Weather Service radar picks up everything from birds leaving their roosts, to dragonfly flocks, to bats leaving their caves. This year, the NWS in Miami picked up the early flocks of neotropical migrants heading north — it was the most magical thing to see!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Linda. I felt especially lucky considering that some people were unable to leave their homes for anything other than shopping for groceries. Living in a more rural area has many advantages.

      Adding life birds is not so much about the numbers, but about the experience of meeting a new species and learning a little about their behavior.

      I haven’t really paid much attention to radar, but remember that the local meteorologists commented on flocks of migrating Painted Ladies on the radar a few years ago, when their numbers were exceptionally high. We don’t get the same size of migrating bird flocks as Texas or Florida, which is another reason to experience spring or fall migration there at some point. So I keep hoping! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This is great! I have done a hard 2020 lockdown in a city in New Jersey. The first few weeks coincided with the spring migration, so it was fantastic to see 51 species within a couple of blocks of my apartment, under the shadows of Manhattan’s skyscrapers. I don’t know if this urban sprawls always has so many migrants pass through or whether 2020 was a little quieter, so the birds touched down.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment, David. We were fortunate here and never had to stay indoors, as there are many destinations where it’s easy to avoid other people. It would have been taxing to be housebound, and I felt sorry for all city dwellers whose activity was extremely limited. So it’s wonderful that you were able to see 51 species in your neighborhood. From what I have heard, animal activity in many places was up because of decreased human traffic.
      Best wishes,

      Liked by 1 person

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