While obviously the priority for all hawk watches is to identify and count all the raptors that fly by, there are so many other awesome birds, insects, and mammals around to bring you out of the clouds and back down to Earth! Over the last few days, I have seen several indicators of spring’s arrival, and not just warmer temperatures, more and more raptors, or the absence of ice on Lake Huron. Last week, the number of Common Grackles and American Robins started to increase. Two days ago I saw a Mourning Cloak Butterfly. Yesterday I spotted my first Golden-crowned Kinglet of the year! Today I had several Golden-crowned Kinglets up at Fort Holmes, making their high pitched chirruping sounds.
While not necessarily a sign of spring, the most exciting thing to pass by the top of the island today was a Northern Shrike. It wasn’t just a fly-by either! It landed in the top of a dead pine tree perhaps 20 feet downslope from my vantage point, making it easy to spot and get a really nice view of it. Nearby, several American Robins were alarmed by the intruder and the whole flock flew off in a hurry. Soon the shrike moved on, and I returned to watching for distant raptors, but it was a great change of pace for a day that was filled with hawks and eagles too far away to be seen with the naked eye.