Marin Seasonal Calendars

I hope to get a wildflower calendar up in the next month or so, but here for a start is a landbird calendar.


Our local birds–including some that winter as far south as the Amazon Basin and make the trek back to Marin each year–travel thousands of miles on a clock that’s far more precise than the bursting of our flowers. Flowering varies with local climate, sun exposure and the vagaries of weather. Birds tend to transcend those.

Based on observations collected over a century, here are first-of-season (FOS) dates for some of our familiar nesting birds. Much of the data is from Dave Shuford’s Marin County Breeding Bird Atlas, which I found tabulated on Daniel Edelstein’s wonderful bird-oriented website: Rich Stallcup also contributed his wisdom to finetuning some of it.

Marin Audubon also has an excellent seasonal calendar — one that includes the whole year with both arrival and departure dates, and the entire spectrum of species, not just landbirds. It’s at

This is fun information to put in your yearly calendar or print on a card for your wallet. You might even make a scientific contribution by watching to see if FOS dates drift earlier under the impact of climate change (they have been).

Feb 5         Allen’s Hummingbird
Feb 13      Tree Swallow (but some also winter)
Feb 21      Violet-green Swallow (but some also winter)
Mar 4        Orange-crowned Warbler (but some also winter)
Mar 7       Rough-winged Swallow
Mar 11      Barn Swallow
Mar 18     Cliff Swallow
Mar 24    American Goldfinch
Mar 25    Pacific-slope Flycatcher
.                 Warbling Vireo
.                 Wilson’s Warbler
Mar 28    Brown-headed Cowbird
Mar 29    Hooded Oriole
Apr 3       Bullock’s Oriole
Apr 5      Western Kingbird
Apr 7      Purple Martin
Apr 13    Western Tanager
.                 Black-headed Grosbeak
Apr 14    Black-throated Gray Warbler
.                 Chipping Sparrow
Apr 17    Olive-sided Flycatcher
.                 Western Wood Pewee
Apr 18    Yellow Warbler (extirpated as a breeder in Marin)
.                 MacGillivray’s Warbler
Apr 21    Grasshopper Sparrow
Apr 26    Swainson’s Thrush
.                 Ash-throated Flycatcher
Apr 28    Lazuli Bunting
May 4      Black-chinned Sparrow

All through the spring, our year-round residents are busy with seasonal change too. Quail pair up and leave their coveys. The little winter flocks of chickdees break up, most often with the resident pair that provided its nucleus last fall starting to set up housekeeping and the wandering young of the previous year who joined them for the rainy season setting out to find their own mates. 

For the attentive ear, some of the emblematic sounds of onrushing spring are: the ‘wooden-bell’ note of Ravens barrel-rolling through the sky; the exuberant kee-eer of courting Red-shouldered Hawks; the sudden onset in the woods of Hutton’s Vireos’ wackiness; the dawn songs, overhead, of Violet-green Swallows and — from the vault of the heavens — Purple Martins; the first rich caroling of newly arrived Black-headed Grosbeaks, and later, Swainson’s Thrushes spinning their silver from the willows.


1 Comment

  1. Kurt and Nancy Rademacher said,

    November 12, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Bill and Tina-
    Sorry to have been out of touch with you for so long!. Nancy and I were breaking fast at the Half-Day Cafe and I saw someone who reminded me of Bill. So I found this website via Google.
    We are very saddened to learn of Tina’s health issues, and wish you both well in your coping with this. Your description of her approach to this through wabi-sabi is quite touching and heartfelt.
    We would welcome receiving your e-mail address for future contact, as appropriate.
    Our heartfelt good wishes,
    Kurt & Nancy Rademacher

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