Spring in Riverwoods is an exciting time for nature enthusiasts, especially bird watchers. Under still leaden skies with a threat of snow, you hear him, “Kon Kree….Kon Kree.”  Overnight he has arrived! Snow cover and cold has not deterred the male red-winged blackbird.  He is here to stake his territory. And there he is, sitting on the cottonwood, flashing his red and yellow epaulets.  The female will tarry a while longer in the warmer south before joining him.

The robins, ubiquitous harbingers of spring, are busy scratching through the leaf mulch and building nests.  Many mornings you are awakened by their incessant “Cheree…cherio” song. A

By an open field, you can hear the song sparrow, chest puffed up, belting out his “tea kettle…” call.

At Ryerson Woods, bluebirds have been sighted at the nesting boxes.  What a joy to watch them flying in and out, and alighting on the branches of an ironwood tree, their sky-blue wings catching the morning light.  

Bell-like trills greet you in the morning, at your patio, and you feel a restless edge to the juncos.  These small slate-grey birds have white bellies, and they appear to have been swimming in a pool of white paint. Soon they will leave for their summer home in Alaska, as it will become too warm here for them.

Cardinals, nuthatches and woodpeckers are busy at the feeders.  These stalwarts stay through the bitter cold, riding out the elements and keeping us all company through the dreary winter.  The male cardinal in his red plumage, crest raised, sitting on a snow covered pine tree, is always a welcome sight. Remember to set out a table when the snow cover makes it particularly hard on them.

In the meantime, the goldfinches have spruced up their yellow robes and the black-capped chickadees are busy excavating a nest in an old cottonwood stump.

By April the backyard activity is really heating up.  Wild geraniums, trilliums and cut leaf ferns are all emerging from their long winter nap.  Rosy prairie smoke buds and white hepatica blooms provide much needed color to the landscape.  Soon, the may apples will be unfurling their parasols. One can almost imagine woodland fairies picnicking beneath the green canopy.

And …MAY!…It is pure magic here in Lake County. Each morning brings new sights and sounds.  Baltimore orioles, those blackbirds with impossibly orange breasts, arrive during the first week, some all the way from Costa Rica!  They are whistlers without equal in the avian world (personal opinion), and each male sings his own distinct tune . Just leave out some cut oranges and they may come, filling your yard with music and color.

May also signals the arrival of warblers and the bane of all bird watchers…Warbler neck…as we crane to see these tiny jewels foraging in the oak canopy.  Yellow rumped, nashville, blackburnian . . . some are in transit, refueling on their way farther north, but others will remain through the summer, hopefully to raise a new brood.

Sitting by the kitchen window in mid-May just as the sun is coming up, there is a sudden flash of green …. and there he is, the male ruby-throated humming bird, drinking voraciously from the feeder.  He has returned safely from his long journey.  Likely he has flown across the Gulf of Mexico, to return to his nesting grounds.  What a remarkable feat by such a tiny creature. Now he will entertain you with his aerial displays all summer long.  Just seeing him again and knowing that he survived the winter and the journey back makes your day.

There is no end of entertainment in the yards and preserves of this unique neighborhood. So put on your shoes, grab your coat and binoculars and go for a walk.  Many of the preserves have bird and wildflower walks starting in April and continuing through the fall (www.lcfpd ).