Spring is taking its time to arrive this year.

 — Spring is taking its time to arrive this year.

Backyard bird feeders are still visited by juncos and cardinals, although blackbirds and starlings have shown up as well, and robins hop desolately over frozen lawns.

Nevertheless, spring is finally beginning to show up, and once again Florence Shelly Wetlands Preserve in Thompson will host its two annual bird walks. Dedicated birders and curious amateurs alike will enjoy exploring the woods, fields, and wetlands of the 400-acre preserve as they identify birds by sight and song.

On Saturday, May 11 at 6 a.m., Ron Milliken will present his 26th annual walk in the preserve. Especially popular among birders, this walk focuses on migratory birds. The excursion often lasts the entire morning and covers a wide area of the preserve, so participants can expect to locate between 60 and 65 species. Of course, you are welcome to join even if you are a newcomer to bird-watching, and you may stay as long as you wish.

The following Saturday, May 18 at 7:30 a.m. Evan Mann, a local birder and amateur naturalist, will conduct a leisurely walk around a smaller area of the preserve. Besides identifying birds that are nesting in the preserve’s diverse ecological niches, Mann will discuss the habits of the various species spotted.

Diversity is the key to the Shelly Preserve’s beauty and value and also the reason it hosts so many species. The brushy meadows are home to tree swallows, wrens and sparrows, while the deep boreal bog attracts eastern bluebirds nesting in dead snags, swamp sparrows and belted kingfishers.

Hawks can be spied hunting in open areas, while the preserve’s pristine brook and dense woodlands provide habitats for the northern waterthrush, Baltimore orioles, scarlet tanagers and least flycatchers.

Plews Swamp is the preferred habitat for families of wood ducks, mallards and red-winged blackbirds. Participants can expect to see both familiar species and some surprises.

The two bird walks launch a season of monthly guided walks with local naturalists. Join us on Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m. during the rest of the summer to discover wildflowers (June–date to be announced), butterflies (July 14), a general nature walk (Aug. 11) and trees (Sept. 8).

The two bird walks, like all the walks, begin at the preserve parking lot one mile north of Thompson on Route 171, where Stack Road intersects. The trails may be wet, so wear warm, protective footwear. Don’t forget your binoculars, and come prepared to spend a morning — or mornings —exploring the fascinating world of birds. For further information, contact Andy Gardner at 727-3362.