Spot the spelling mistake in the title? Well, it's not one! One of the biggest things we get into in spring is recording the firsts of the year - the first arriving spring migrants, the first tree in flower, the first butterfly of the year... As a species which is habitually orientated towards sight, most of us use our visual abilities to build up our list of 'firsts for the year'. And yet, if we really want a more accurate account of when things first arrive back into our lives after the winter doldrums, we really should use our ears also. This was never more apparent to me than on my lunchtime walk today; getting out of my car at Cape May Point State Park's parking lot, I was immediately assaulted by a wall of noise emanating from the nearby marsh. It came from seemingly hundreds of Southern Leopard Frogs, spread throughout the whole wetland area. I say seemingly because, although I tried pretty hard, I never did see a single one! This is at least in part because leopard frogs habitually call from under water, surfacing when the coast is clear after dark.
So this got me thinking about hearing things and not seeing them and reminded me that the Fish Crows I heard outside the Northwood Center a few days ago were the first back at the point - but I didn't see them; three or four woodcocks continue to call outside our house at dusk, but I haven't seen them. And just think of how often you hear a passing skein of Snow Geese, way, way overhead, which you would miss if it wasn't for the shell-likes on the side of your head.
Later on my lunch time wanderings, I walked up onto the dune at the south end of the Migratory Bird Refuge and my eyes were immediately drawn to the white rump of a Northern Flicker flying up off the ground. However, ny ears were drawn to a busy twittering further away which, when I turned my head in the direction of the sound, proved to be coming from a fabulous flock of at least 30 Common Redpolls, which settled again to feed on the goldenrod seed that is plentiful at the moment.
We're having a good year for Common Redpolls this year, so keep an eye out at feeders or along coastal dunes over the next few weeks. Also happening right now is the annual build-up of Red-throated Loons along the Delaware Bayshore, viewable from Sunset Beach or anywhere along the bay side of the Cape May peninsula. A lone adult Northern Gannet that struggled east past me in a strong south-east wind today also reminded that the gannet build-up that normally happens in the second half of March is due any day now!