For two days the Tweeters listserv has been buzzing with the news of a Loggerhead Shrike at the Montlake Fill. This eastern Washington bird is a fairly unusual rarity here, and I don't believe one had ever been sighted before at the Fill. I found it yesterday, by the time honored and tested method of finding rare birds: you look for the birdwatchers, and you look where they're looking. I spent an hour watching it fly from tree to tree. Occasionally it disappeared into the grass to capture some small prey, perhaps a vole. This is a small predator bird, but it's not a hawk. It looks more like a Mockingbird than anything.
The reports from early this morning were that the shrike was still present. Mid-morning a vigorous cold front came through—it was snowing when I dropped Robin off at the airport. When I went down to the fill after lunch, and after the sun emerged, every parking spot was taken. “No Shrike,” said the first person, in rubber boots, bearing binos and scope. The place was loaded with birdwatchers, all with the same mildly dejected air about them. Perhaps it flew off with the frontal passage, which is what triggers many migratory flights. Birders love bad weather during migration season, and it's probably bad weather that drove this bird off course to begin with.
But today the air was filled with swallows, for the first time this season. This never fails to put me into an optimistic frame of mind, something I sorely need lately. The swallows are back. Something in the world still operates the way it should. They weren't here yesterday. Today they are.
It is the season of changes. Tuesday the Fill was overrun with Robins. Hundreds and hundreds of them. Today I counted five. They've moved on, as have the Golden-crowned Sparrows that I've seen reliably all winter at the intersection of two paths by the Dime Lot. The Wigeon are still here, and being regularly worried by the eagles building a nest on the opposite shore over in Laurelhurst. The ducks rose en masse from Union Bay and flew into the main pond. Within the month they will head north.