When the dark-eyed juncos come back.
They're little puff-bally birds, charcoal gray on top, buff underneath. Their beaks are very pale pink. They have a sad sort of little cheep and they always come to winter in Maryland.
I saw my first one today, although they may have been around for a couple of days.
This is their third winter eating from my feeder. Last year they finally seemed to get the hang of using the perches on the tube and eating that way; before that, they always wanted to eat on the ground.
Can the cowbirds be far behind them? Or did I miss them on their way through to warmer grounds?