Great Kiskadee

Great Kiskadee

Friday, 13 April 2018

Finally...a taste of spring.....

.....but not for long! The weather of the last 2-3 days has been decidedly improved compared to what we have been used to so far this 'spring'. It has been a delight to be out, checking various places for newly arrived birds and other types of wildlife. However, the weekend is upon us, and the weather will be considerably less to most people's liking (so get ready for some lamenting comments about weekend weather by a well-known blogger :-).

I've been out to various places over these past few days, including Rondeau (of course!), Erieau, Mitchell's Bay, St. Clair NWA, Fletcher Ponds and various places in between. With the arrival of warmer weather brought on by southwest winds, it will not be surprising that a number of early migrants have appeared, some of which are first of the year (FOY) for me.

My FOY Brown Creeper was in my front yard.

 Sparrows arrived in a big way. Most abundant was this first one. On some days over 100 individuals were seen at places like Rondeau.
Singing Sparrow
Chipping Sparrows have arrived.
 Fox Sparrows are sometimes in full song. I was caught off guard when I first heard one singing in a thicket at Rondeau, but figured it must be a Fox Sparrow. I eventually tracked it down hunkered in this thicket, where I manoeuvred my way to a more favourable position and got a few pics.
Fox Sparrow
The open grassy areas typically attract sparrows. I got both Vesper and Field, which didn't cooperate for the camera, as well as a couple of Savannah Sparrows, which did. The latter one was playing in the fence by the tennis courts at Rondeau.
Eastern Phoebes are widely scattered in small numbers.
Eastern Phoebe
 Golden-crowned Kinglets are abundant. Their less well-marked relative, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, is  just starting to arrive in very small numbers. I saw my first one today at Fletcher Ponds.
Golden-crowned Kinglet
 Swallows are taking their chances this early in the season, but typically arrive by now. Tree Swallows are the most common species seen, but I caught up to Barn Swallow and Purple Martin today. Rough-winged Swallows have been seen, and Cliff won't be far behind.
Tree Swallow
 I went to Mitchell's Bay today, knowing that a cluster of nesting structures for Purple Martins were already in place in anticipation of their arrival. At first the cluster was devoid of any birds, but after about 10 minutes a lone male arrived, scouting the area for potential nest sites. At this point, the holes are plugged off to deter species like House Sparrows or Starlings from taking over, but I expect they will be opened up soon for the arriving martins.
 Obviously the sky was pretty washed out as I got this next photo of the male Purple Martin.
 Winter Wrens, those small, very active songsters of deep wet woods have arrived. I saw at least half a dozen on my most recent trip to Rondeau, and one was trying out its song. It wasn't full yet, but almost. I am always amazed at the loudness and variety of musical notes that emerge from this small bird when it is in full song.
 The occasional Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has been around for awhile, but in the last few days they are much more easily found. Even though they don't nest at Rondeau, some are already exhibiting territorial behaviour when another one enters their space.
While searching for newly arrived species, one comes across some of the more permanent residents.
 Great Horned Owls are not abundant...they are at the top of the food chain. And nests are often hard to find. This one below had us puzzled the last couple of years as we thought its nest was in one area only to find flightless young in a large willow tree much closer to the path than we expected. I discovered the nest just yesterday, in a well camouflaged site at about eye level. It is a ways from the trail so is not at risk unlike the nest in the cherry tree at Paxton's Bush a few years ago. This next photo was heavily cropped and is shown at an approximate equivalent of about 20X magnification.
 I almost caught this male wild turkey with its tail feathers all fanned out, but had to settle for this photo instead.

Waterfowl are dispersing and are not nearly as abundant as they were a few weeks ago. However there is still a good variety around, and I always enjoy seeing them in their spring-time finery.
Northern Shoveler
Ring-necked Duck
Wood Duck
 There is always more to see than just birds. I saw my first butterfly of the season yesterday....a Mourning Cloak. It is later than usual. Last year I had a couple of Eastern Comma butterflies in late February!
Photo from a previous year
Some mammals are more visible.
Eastern Chipmunk
Reptiles and amphibians are finally able to enjoy some warmer weather, at least until the weekend. The wet woods at Rondeau were very noisy with all of the Wood Frogs chortling away. Spring Peepers were also vocalizing, although they are so tiny I didn't really have much hope of finding one for the camera.
Wood Frog
 While I was out on one trail, Marie photographed this Leopard Frog on the road.
 I heard Chorus Frogs at Fletcher Ponds today. At the Mitchell's Bay trail today I came across this tiny Painted Turtle, which would have hatched late last summer, walking along the same path as I was.
It has been great to be out these last few days. Hopefully the weekend isn't a total washout, but it will get slightly warmer again next week, with a lot more sun!

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