Home » General » Winged Migrants visit Baltimore’s Urban Tree Canopy

On the way to the TreeBaltimore office on Tuesday, I thought I’d take the Wyman Park Bridge over Interstate 83 by the Stieff Silver Building. I wanted to check on the status of some active bird nests perched in a tree over the river. As some know, this is a popular spot for watching birds. The pedestrian friendly bridge offers a birds’ eye view of multiple birds’ nests. Below this, a human made waterfall cascades down the Jones Falls River.  The nesting colony of Yellow Crowned Night Herons has called this Sycamore Platanus occidentalis tree home for many generations.

This time I steered my bike past Stieff Silver on my right, and curved left crossing over to the downstream side of the bridge. I greeted a regular bird watcher there when he pointed out over the bridge at a small song bird in the trees. This was a special day of spring in Baltimore; a bright red flash darted across a sea of green canopy. Its Red body and Black wings were a dead giveaway for identifying the species as Scarlet Tanager.

We only get to see this bird here in Maryland for part of the year. As its northerly migration route this time of year takes it to these temperate forests up from the tropics. It was exhilarating to witness the vibrant red plumage of a tropical diet. The weather was chilly, but the sight of this bird was warming to the soul. I always thought I knew the color red when I saw a male Northern Cardinal, but now I can say I have seen the color Scarlet! This bird had a hoarse song with a sweet scratchiness that makes think that he is just beginning to warm up his vocal chords for the Spring nesting season. I have seen Scarlet Tanagers a few times before, but I remember having to quit watching early because my neck was sore from looking straight up at the top of the forest canopy, where this bird likes to spend most of its time.

On this day, on my way to work, I was able to look down from the bridge without getting off my bike to enjoy its brightness contrast against a green elm and maple canopy without craning my neck. There was one Yellow Crowned Night Heron hanging out in the Sycamore. The veteran Baltimore Bird Watcher told me that this nesting site has been less active this year than most. It appeared that there was a bachelor bird waiting for courtship.

Did you know there are bird watching events all around Baltimore? Looking for a place to start? Visit Celebrate Baltimore’s Birds Festival from 12-5PM on May 21st at 1900 Eagle Drive at Gwynns Falls – Leakin Park. Tree Baltimore will be there giving away free trees for your backyard bird habitat. More information on the link below!

Migratory Bird Festival