One of the interesting things about nature is that it goes in a circle and in a straight line at the same time.* While the birds of passage are returning to their breeding grounds in the same reassuring rhythm – male Red-winged Blackbirds and then the females, small flocks of Robins today yielding to large flocks of Robins tomorrow, Eastern Phoebes before Olive-sided Flycatchers, Palm Warblers first and Wilson’s after – we large and curious mammals who observe them are going through life changes of a distinctly less reversible nature.

Which is to say that there is an excellent chance that come this time next year, I will be embarking on my first spring outside New York State. This means a lot of things, nearly all of them good. But not all – for this may be my last season for some time to partake of the eastern wood-warbler migration.

Until now, I’ve participated in the rites of spring in a joyful but rather desultory manner. So what if I dipped on easy birds through procrastination? There’s going to be another season along in a minute. Now I’ve developed a new sense of urgency.

It got a little easier to bear this weekend when I picked up a life Orange-crowned Warbler, a frustrating little trickster that I’d come to think of as half-mythological, along with my first-of-season Eastern Phoebe and a handful of other early migrants (Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, more Red-winged blackbirds, and those aforementioned large flocks of Robins) at Prospect Park. Still, I have my work cut out for me:

Golden-winged warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Cerulean Warbler
Swainson’s Warbler

Those are the Parulidae known to occur in New York that I have yet to add to my life list. Swainson’s is a bit of a stretch unless I head south, but the others are my mission for this coming season.

Let the migration games begin.

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*if I attribute this to quantum something, I assume I will get a major movie deal, right?

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