Great Egret

Great Egret

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Birds are picking up!

It has been a slower than hoped for spring migration here in southern Ontario so far. On some trails one sees more chipmunks than warblers!
I don't mean to denigrate Eastern Chipmunks......they are entertaining to observe, and they also make a great menu item for many predators!

But fortunately the spring migrant birds are picking up in diversity and overall numbers. Some species are less common than they were a few days ago, such as Rusty Blackbirds...they are very hard to come by these days.

White-throated Sparrows have declined.
Other sparrow species are more obvious, such as White-crowned Sparrows.
Both of the previously mentioned sparrows are heading north to their breeding ground, so it is expected that their numbers will diminish.

Field Sparrows are a local breeding species, and can be seen here and there.
Field Sparrow
A sparrow that breeds in the sub-arctic tundra region and northern boreal forest, is the Lincoln's Sparrow. It is a beautiful looking sparrow upon a close examination, with all of its warm colours and fine markings unlike the bolder appearance of other sparrows. Lincoln's Sparrows are just starting to appear in southern Ontario.
Lincoln's Sparrow
Clay-colored Sparrows are an uncommon migrant. At least a couple of them have been at Rondeau in the last few days.
Clay-colored Sparrow
Vireos are becoming more abundant, although I have only been able to photograph Blue-headed Vireo so far this year. I got my first White-eyed Vireo today.
Blue-headed Vireo
Rose-breasted Gorsbeaks have been back for a few days and it is always a delight to hear their melodious songs through the forest.
 Baltimore Orioles are also back en masse. Orchard Orioles are far fewer.
Baltimore Oriole
Scarlet Tanagers are just beginning to show up. Today I had three, but for some reason, I could only find females, and the light was not very good for this one.

The che-winking of Eastern Towhees can be heard throughout the forest edges and shrubby openings.
Eastern Towhee
Flycatchers are back. Eastern Phoebes have been back for a few weeks, but the small grayish-green Empidonax flycatchers just appeared in the last few days. Another flycatcher, the larger black and white Eastern Kingbird, arrived in good numbers in the last day or so.
Bluebirds haven't been all that common this spring, in my experience. I was pleased to see this male towards the end of today's outing.
The Bald Eagles are now feeding young. This nest is the one along the Marsh Trail.

Earlier in the week there was a very cooperative Solitary Sandpiper in a small pond right along the road. I got some decent shots, but had even more success when a friend offered me the use of his Canon 600 mm II lens. (Thanks, Arni!). Arni was the one who, a few years ago, lent me his Canon 500 mm lens, and I subsequently ended up getting my own 500 mm II lens. I don't think I will be switching my 500 to a 600 anytime soon, however.
Solitary Sandpiper
It was right near this same location where today, a Northern Mockingbird showed up. Mockingbirds are not typically migratory like other members of the Mimidae family (thrashers and catbirds), and one hadn't been reported in the park since at least last year to my knowledge, so it was nice that this one appeared. It was very cooperative, at times coming almost too close to focus with the 500 lens.

Of course this time of year, birders are out to see as many warblers as they can. Today I came across at least 16 species, certainly my best outing so far this year. Highlights included a couple of Northern Parula, Canada Warbler, Wilson's Warbler and Northern Waterthrush, as well as the more common species. Unfortunately most were high up in a pine tree, silhouetted and very active, so my photos are few. Yellow Warblers are is hard to believe that back in the 1970s, they were on the Audubon Blue List, indicating a concern about declining populations. Fortunately their decline did not continue.
Yellow Warbler

I saw several Black-throated Blue Warblers, but only this female allowed me to get a reasonable photo.
On the way home, I came across this cooperative Savannah Sparrow singing along the roadside.
All too often, one sees feral cats on the landscape, even in the forest. Feral cats are very good hunters, and quite adept at killing birds and small mammals. Some studies have concluded that there are about a billion birds a year killed by cats!!!
 Fortunately the cat in this tree should pose no threat to the woodland birds!


  1. Fantastic photos of the Northern Mockingbird Allen!

    1. Thanks, Tianna. It was by far the most cooperative NOMO that I have come across.