May is such a wonderful month with the many beautiful and interesting birds returning and migrating through – along with the fascinating rejuvenation of so many trees, shrubs and flowers.
To me, the month of May is like Christmas as God gives us so much beauty to enjoy and it’s all gift-wrapped in so many beautiful colors and ways! I’m especially interested in the many bird species that will be appearing this month – many of which will be nesting in our region and several that will continue their northern trek into Canada. But I love and admire the awesome flora as well.
We are all quite familiar with the more noticeable and colorful favorites such as the rose-breasted grosbeak, Baltimore oriole, indigo bunting, purple finch, ruby-throated hummingbird, and scarlet tanager. Will it be another banner year for the orioles coming to the feeders such as last year’s unprecedented invasion?
If May is cool like it was last year, we could have just as much Oriole activity – so if you haven’t yet, make sure your grape jelly, oranges, and other goodies are ready for them. Last year it seemed like May 2 was the day that most of the orioles returned. It was like they just fell out of the sky and everyone had them, but it could be later this year. Certainly, as the days followed several more arrived and they all seemed to be going crazy at the feeding stations.
Based on our very cool April weather and the forecast into early May, I think the oriole action will be robust.
Now, if we ever get a really normal or much warmer May, the action at the feeders would be less – as in most past years – because warmer temperatures promote more insects and earlier blossoming of trees that have nectar that also attract insects.
Speaking of insects, it is these that dictate the arrival of so many bird species in May and even into June. Birds rely heavily on insects, and most of those that do are not seed eaters. The coming wave of birds will consist primarily of warblers, vireos, swallows, flycatchers and shorebirds – all insect eaters.
Though there are about 30 species of warblers coming through, it is difficult to find all of them as many migrate right through heading further north and may only stop over for a day or two to rest and to eat. Many birds migrate at night as well.
Still, many species of warblers will nest right here in Western New York. Those will find their preferred habitats rather quickly. Some warblers like nesting in the bushy thickets, some prefer staying high up in deciduous trees, some like the moister sections of woods, some like bogs, some like rushing water, and some like staying low in the understory of woodlots. Some prefer evergreens and others like mixed woodlots. Finding nesting warblers can be a challenge, but also very rewarding.
Some of the most common warblers that you may see or hear include yellow, yellow-rumped, common yellowthroat, ovenbird, blue-winged, American redstart, chestnut-sided, magnolia, northern and Louisiana waterthrush, and several more – all of which nest around here.
Many nature enthusiasts try to see how many warblers they can identify in the month of May and June. And since many are only migrating through for a few days or a week or so, one needs to be birding steadily.
Obviously knowing the songs of the warblers and other birds helps immensely. Even if you don’t know all of them, knowing a few helps. If warblers weren’t singing or calling, we would miss most of them!
I always dread hearing the song of the Blackpoll Warbler later in May as that signifies the end of the warbler migration. They have a distinct call, and my ears are tuned to them. The warblers come in so many beautiful colors and I only named a few above. If you take the time to explore a little and to really identify those warblers passing through all month long, you will be rewarded!
Once you’ve identified a few it can become infectious!
While you are looking for warblers, you are going to see several other neat birds. It can become a bit overwhelming but great fun learning and seeing the array of birds that most people will never see. We have our own “Wild Kingdom” right here in Western New York with an awesome variety of birds and animals to enjoy.
If your yard work always has to come first, you won’t make it out in the woods and thickets to see some great birds. Though I can’t do large-group bird walks right now, I can lead a few people, keeping social distancing in mind, on a walk here and there. If you are interested in joining me for a one-hour walk just let me know. You can call or text me at (585) 813-2676.
I know that I have a lot of work to do, but that will not stop me from fitting in as much birding and nature enjoyment as possible during this most beautiful month of the year. Make yourself a May bird ID list and add to it each day.
Until next time enjoy and be thankful for the beauty of this earth! Merry Christmas – I mean Happy May!
Hans Kunze is an avid birder and nature enthusiast who has been writing about birds and nature for more than 30 years. He writes for The Daily News twice each month. Write him at 6340 LaGrange Rd Wyoming, NY 14591 or call (585) 813-2676.