The Renewal of Life

Marin Headlands-Sunday March 24, 2019

This morning I spent a few hours in one of my favorites places in the Bay Area, the Marin Headlands. For 14 seasons I spent each fall as a volunteer hawk bander for the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory (GGRO) but now I was here in the early spring.

The signs of spring were all around. Especially with the avian fauna of this open space, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

When I pulled in to the parking lot of the visitor’s center, a quarter of a hour after eight, I heard the call of a northern flicker, followed by rapid drumming on metal. This was a sign of a male proclaiming his place in the breeding world and he was using a roof vent  on one of the old military buildings to help amplify his announcement. Shortly afterwards I saw a pair flying from tree to tree. This was followed by an American crow flying overhead with a twig in it’s beak, a sure sign of nest building.

Spotted towhee at the Marin Headland Visitor’s Center.

Another sign of spring was the shear depth of bird song. Spotted towhees were calling from the coyote brush and a hidden purple finch was letting loose his fluid song from the top of a eucalyptus. Juncos trilled from the roof and as I walked west along the eastern shore of Rodeo lagoon with Dickcissel, a first of season (FOS) song made me dig into the depths of the catalog of bird songs in my head to identify a singing male Wilson’s warbler, recently arrived from the south.

A FOS singing Wilson’s warbler.

Along the trail, bushtits, normally found in large groups, were now only found in pairs as they foraged and prepared for nesting season. Orange-crowned and Wilsons’s warblers sang from the upper branches of trees. Ravens playful harassed a red-tailed hawk (ravens seem to do this all year long, to the annoyance of red-tails).

We came upon a chestnut-backed chickadee excavating a nesting cavity in a tree, prepared for a future brood of birds. The chickadee would disappear into the tree cavity and reappear with tiny bits of wood in it’s beak. Time for some spring cleaning!

A spring cleaning chestnut-backed chickadee.

Spring was certainly here and the biological clock proclaimed the hour. This is the time of growth and renewal!

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