Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spring as Scheduled

It's that time of year again to come out of hiding and look for some spring birds. As much as I enjoyed having a "real" winter for the first time in a few years, it's nice to get out when there's a little bit more action - birds and otherwise.

It's very nice to see things appear slowly and deliberately like they're supposed to. This year, the Horned Larks arrived when it was still very cold and there was little other songbird movement. The prairie subspecies praticola is one of the first songbird migrants in Ontario.

In Algonquin, this Spring was not exceptional. I went there two weeks ago to check it out, and the harbingers are arriving as per schedule. Here, the first bird of Spring is the American Crow.

It was still bitterly cold and there was over 40 cm of snow, but Purple Finches had started to sing.

Black-backed Woodpecker was busy excavating a cavity (which he may or may not use as a nest later).

Kyle and I went to Pelee to look for some other "classic" early spring birds. One of my favorite things is seeing birds actively migrating, and because Pelee can only hold so many resident birds and the breeding diversity is not high, I can rightfully assume that most birds I see at certain locales in Pelee are migrants.

We had to stop on the side of the road to look at this lovely couple:

Red-tailed Hawks, like many raptors, are sexually dimorphic and the females are generally larger than males. These two were sitting right beside each other, and one can take an educated guess that the larger bird to the left is the female. Red-tails sitting side-by-side is another classic Spring sight.

As we got into the park itself we pulled over to look at some Snowdrops that were poking out of the disappearing layer of snow.

Birds were definitely moving. Many Ring-billed and Herring Gulls were moving North from the Tip. Handfuls of Red-tailed Hawks and Turkey Vultures went by, as well as single Red-shouldered, Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks.

There was some yelling and flailing when this Glaucous Gull went over.

We headed down to the Onion Fields later in the day to look for puddle ducks. Nothing beats seeing hundreds of almost a dozen species of ducks crammed into tiny little pools in the fields. It's an explosion of color and activity, and another timeless classic early spring event in birding. We found a/the Eurasian Wigeon with the masses.

Our next stop was Hillman Marsh, where we were treated to a Ross's Goose and hundreds of Tundra Swans - another one of the highlight sights and sounds of March in Ontario.

And interior! The real Canada Geese.

It was good to be able to finally see some change taking place. After being to Pelee earlier this January, it was evident that life indeed was on its way back North.

Another exciting bit of news is that I'll finally be down at Pelee for a good bit of the spring migration. Usually I'm up in Algonquin in May - an equally dynamic place to observe the Spring migration (but a little... you know, slower and with less Kentucky Warblers) but this year, Murray Shields and I are renting a house down near Wheatley and I'm leading guided trips out of there every day from May 2 - 12. It's a wide length of time and should produce a wide spectrum of birds, a little bit more than the "Yellow-rumped Warbler this week, Chestnut-sided Warbler next week" deal that I'm used to up North.

And the best part is, you can join too! It's a tad difficult getting a place to stay down there during migration (ask any seasoned veteran that books these things months in advance) but we still have a couple of spaces left - plus you get to hang out and see birds with a like-minded group of people. Plus I don't come with a Comfort Inn room booking. All the juicy deets are listed on this page here:

 But you don't have to be a member to join us, just let me know by e-mail and I'll see if we have space.

Enjoy your Spring ladies and gentlemen! I'm going to see if I can dig up some more birds!