Spring is here!

2011 International Migratory Bird Day poster

In spring we look forward to the end of winter.

And migratory birds, sensing whatever it is that that triggers their urges, set off from their winter homes for their summer nesting and breeding grounds. (Oh, yes, the human snowbirds also sense that urge and migrate back to their northern home)

The annual arrival of millions of colorful songbirds, shorebirds, and other northbound migrants is eagerly awaited by millions of backyard bird-watchers and armchair naturalists. For many, these are the true harbingers of spring—no matter what the weather looks like.

In North America, the spring migration roughly follows four major flyways—the Pacific, Central, Mississippi, and Atlantic. Except along the coasts, the flyway boundaries are not always sharply defined—and both in the northern breeding and southern wintering grounds—there is some overlapping.

During spring migration birds don their colorful breeding plumage; the bright colors that hopefully will attract a mate.

During this time birds are also very vocal, for the same reason.

Symbolic meaning of birds and their journeys
Throughout history, humans have been fascinated and inspired by the migration of birds. In ancient Greece the bird of Athena represented the renewal of life. A dove, with an olive branch in its beak, returned to Noah’s ark to announce the end of the flood. The dove has remained a symbol of peace. During the era of the Pharaohs in Egypt, the falcon had protective powers and was linked to royalty. For Native Americans, birds had different meanings, but always positive and linked to the concepts of unity, freedom, and celebration of life.

A red-headed woodpecker near Beaverhill Lake, southeast of Edmonton, Alberta. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many people not only associate flocks of migrating birds in the typical V-like alignment with the change of season, but also with beauty and harmony.

In most cultures, flocks of birds announce the arrival of spring—and the annual rebirth of nature associated with it.

If not now, when?
Spring migration is an enjoyable time for RVers who have discovered the joys of bird watching—or birding. One of North America’s fastest growing outdoor activities, birding is a great fit for RVers.

Nearly 350 species of birds migrate from their non-breeding grounds in Latin America, Mexico, and southern United States to their nesting habitats in North America.

And there’s no better time to get out of doors and catch the migration sensation than TODAY—International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD)

Bird Day is the brainchild of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC). The Center is dedicated to fostering greater understanding, appreciation, and protection of the grand phenomenon of bird migration.  In the early 1990s, SMBC staff recognized that a public program would enable thousands of people to learn about migratory birds, their migrations, and their conservation. IMBD was created in the early 1990s, and the first celebration was hosted at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. in 1993.

The event, which takes place on the second Saturday of May (May 14 in 2011) in the United States and Canada, increases awareness of birds through hikes, bird watching, information about birds and migration, public events, and a variety of other education programs.

IMBD is a celebration that marks the richest birding season of the year. It’s a time to bring attention to bird migration—one of the most important and spectacular events in North America.

Go Wild, Go Birding

This year’s theme, “Go Wild, Go Birding,” calls attention to one of the most important and spectacular events in the Americas and invites us to get outdoors, visit a nature center, walk the trails, dust off the binoculars, slice up some oranges and fill those hummingbird feeders. The materials created for the celebration include a youth activity booklet that may be used to complement event activities, the annual poster, and other fun items. In addition, activities designed to engage youth in birdwatching, such as bird clubs and camps will be highlighted.

Bird Day

© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although Bird Day has generally been observed on the second Saturday in May, we are reminded that “every day is bird day.”

Worth pondering…
A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.

—Chinese Proverb

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