There’s more than gobblers out there, so take in the spring
It’s been a strange spring gobbler season, full of the usual highs and lows, filled tags, close calls, and near misses. A mid-season gobbling lull could be blamed on some wet and cool weather, but there always seemed to be a reason to rise at 3:30 a.m. and head out the door with optimism.
And while the gobblers and hens weren’t always talking, there were plenty of birds that were.
I’m not sure how it began, but I’ve always been fascinated with birds – their colors and their sounds. So much so that my Attention Deficit Disorder can kick in even when a longboard is making a gobbling approach and ready to offer a shot; it’s not unusual for me to be distracted by a rose-breasted grosbeak or a brown thrasher as the moment of truth nears.
I guess you could call me an avid birder, although not to the point where I can distinguish the different calls of the numerous members of the warbler family. But it’s almost a given that every morning of a spring gobbler hunt I’ll also be treated to the sights and sounds of a rufus-sided towhee, brown thrasher (my personal favorite for its eye-popping simplicity), wood thrush, cardinal, Baltimore oriole, Eastern pee wee, phoebe, rose-breasted grosbeak, woodcock (right before sunrise in its mating flight), veery, common loon (making its flight northward) and, if I’m really lucky, a sandhill crane or two also heading north.
There’s a lot going on out there in the spring, and I’m fortunate to be in tune with most of it. It’s not unusual for a fellow hunter to ask, “what kind of bird is that?” I can usually give them the correct answer. Or, if they’re oblivious to much of the happenings, I can alert them to the special appearance of a unique bird species – or, a common bird that still merits some admiration.
One of my favorites is the bobolink, which generally appears in early to mid-May in the Southern Tier. Strikingly beautiful in my opinion, I enjoy watching them flit across an open field, their call, at least to me, sounding like a cheap transistor radio.
And they are more than beautiful. Their migratory flight is a remarkable one; they winter in South America (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia), flying incredible distances back to the New York state, sometimes covering 1,000 miles in a single day before stopping for a few weeks to recuperate. It’s an amazing journey, and one I’m glad they make annually.
There’s not a day of the spring gobbler season that I’m not entertained by some kind of bird, and even when it’s not a longbeard, I can head back home happy that I got out of bed well before sunrise to watch the world spring to life.