Spring migration: Birds on the move | Field Notes

Gary Eduardo Perless
Posted 5/4/22

If you’re feeling a mild case of that ol’ “Spring Fever,” take heart  — you’re not alone!  

All across the continent, a spring tide of migrating birds …

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Spring migration: Birds on the move | Field Notes


If you’re feeling a mild case of that ol’ “Spring Fever,” take heart  — you’re not alone!  

All across the continent, a spring tide of migrating birds sweeps northward: Flocks of feathered travelers of all sizes, from tiny hummingbirds to swooping swallows to soaring ospreys, are winging it north. They are pulled by the ancient instinct to procreate — to find that special someone, choose a nest site, and raise their young. 

Spring is a busy, musical season of courtship, pair formation, mating and of course, eggs. Birds are singing their happy songs, which not only (for the singer) can attract a mate; bird song lifts our spirits, and perhaps even cues some flowers to bloom. Remember to take a “wellness day” and enjoy spring!

It is no coincidence that Earth Day and Mother’s Day both occur in spring. Just as Mother’s Day reminds us to appreciate mom, I think of Earth Day as doing the same for this marvelous, living planet that we often take for granted, aka, Mother Earth. Show your mother some love! 

I won’t repeat what I wrote about “Earth Day is every day” (see the Leader’s April 13 issue), but it bears reiterating that the solutions to many global problems can be found at the local level: Community gardens, bicycle repair shops, local barter networks, and tool sharing can all reduce our impacts on Earth and build community. Join an action group: check out our very own Local 2020.org, which was started in 2006.

Are we sensing some sweeping changes these days? The world that we’ve known is morphing right before our eyes. People are talking about post-carbon, post-capitalism, de-growth, zero waste, traditional ecological knowledge, private membership associations, and more. 

We need to understand how nature works, and redesign our land use practices — our whole society really — to function in harmony with Earth. Fortunately, much work has already been done, and is readily available. A great place to start, or continue, learning, is with the Bioneers website, bioneers.org.

Another “mother lode” of innovation is found in Permaculture, a comprehensive system of designing our landscapes to be in harmony with ecology. The permaculturists’ “triple bottom line” sets a gold standard in that our production activities must be “Good for the Earth, Good for People, and Good for the Local Economy.” See websites below to learn more.

Now, let’s get back to the birds. I love springtime! My “Earth Day week” included two sunny field trips with local school kids. (It’s so important to connect them with nature!) 

First, Port Townsend alternative teacher Daniel Molotsky, from the OCEAN program (a K-12 homeschool support program) is always enthused to bring students and parent volunteers out into nature, especially if it involves bird watching. Lessons learned firsthand about salmon restoration at the new Marrowstone Island bridge will stick with them better than book learning. 

Beach cleaners: Chimacum fifth-grade teacher Kit Pennell brought her class to Fort Worden, walking and doing a beach cleanup between North Beach and Point Wilson Lighthouse. After lunch, we got out the binoculars and spotting scopes to get up a good look at eagles, herons, hummingbirds, sparrows, and swallows. The kids were all smiles and giggles (do you remember being a 10-year-old on those sunny spring days?) Now how could we tap into that unlimited energy source?!

Paying attention to the birds keeps us in tune with the seasons. The arrival of the swallows, voraciously eating insects while flying endless figure eight’s at Kah Tai Lagoon, tells me we’re finally out of winter (though I’m still dressed for it!) 

Other migratory birds arrive daily. My highlight last week was looking up, just at the right moment, to witness a small flock of Whimbrels — large shorebirds with a long, curved beak — winging it past North Beach. A rare sight around here, they only pass through in migration, en route to breeding grounds further north.

My own migrations — this time for work — will take me eastward next month, across eastern Washington and into northern Idaho. I will bring tools for studying the birds, as well as a few musical instruments — since I’ll be teaching these subjects at a small, alternative high school. So, next month I’ll share my field notes from out east. 

Happy spring everyone!

To learn more about permaculture, visit any of the websites below.


Local teacher Michael “Skeeter” Pilarski has a library, teaches skill courses, and has online videos, books, and herbs for sale.


Permaculture Research Institute has many resources.

“Practical Permaculture for Home Landscapes, Your Community, and the Whole Earth”


(Gary Eduardo Perless is the education director with Admiralty Audubon Society. Contact him at gperless @ gmail.com.)