I love May for the many birds that return and for the ease of seeing them before the leaves are fully out. May is the best month of the year. Some recent returners include a northern parula (a species of warbler), a flock of chimney swifts and a rose-breasted grosbeak.
“The Sibley Guide to Birds” says, “Northern parula is small, dumpy and short-necked with a pointed bill and a fairly short tail.” I call the parula beautiful because of the blue on the face, head, neck, tail and wings. The breast, throat and bottom part of the bill (lower mandible) are brilliant yellow. A rufous-colored band crosses the breast, which makes it even more beautiful.
“Parula” in latin means “tiny titmouse.” But parulas are in the warbler family, not related to chickadees and titmice. I enjoy looking for parula nests, but I don’t usually find them — I’ve only seen three in my life. The nest looks like a tennis ball stuck in an old man’s beard. (That is, a long, gray-green lichen that hangs off branches of a spruce or a fir tree).
Looking up in the sky, I saw six chimney swifts flying like cigars with wings. Swallows were traveling with the swifts, but swallows fly lower in the sky. Swifts also have a curve in the wing like a scimitar, not a bend in the wing like the swallows, making it easy to identify which birds are swifts and which are swallows.
At my apartment, a rose-breasted grosbeak was sitting and eating sunflower seeds. This one was gorgeous, with black on his head, back and wings, and a triangle of rose red on his breast. His rump was white, and so was his belly. I think that the rose-breasted grosbeak is the only bird with a white beak. When the light is just right and I walk slowly to the window, I can get to within 8 inches of the bird. No binoculars needed!
I’ll be leading a bird walk with Hope Brogunier 7-8:30 a.m. Saturday, May 21, on the Walden Parke Preserve in Bangor. From Essex Street, turn onto Walden Parke Way, then go right on Tamarack Trail. Continue to the end. The walk is free.
For information on Fields Pond Audubon Center, call 989-2591.