Birds of Early April
Well, Spring has officially arrived, and on the afternoon of April 4, when I started this blog, it was snowing so hard outside the window that I could barely see the next farm! The previous day had been cloudy and wet, but before the rain, a young Bald Eagle flew in and perched on a piece of driftwood in the (Upper) Floradale Dam for a snack of Carp. The Eagle held the fish with its left talon when it wasn’t eating, and at one point climbed into the shallow water to “stomp” the Carp! I stayed behind some bushes to take these photos, and the Eagle worked on its meal for at least an hour.
A Crow flew in to harass the Eagle, but didn’t stay long when the larger bird made it clear that its meal wasn’t going to be shared.
We made a trip to Mitchell on Monday (April 2) to see if we could spot a few rarities that had been posted on eBird. At the entrance to the lagoons, a Song Sparrow sang and foraged in the undergrowth. Not a rarity, but certainly beautiful!
Canada Geese were present in large numbers, and have already staked out some nesting sites.
Mixed in with a group of Canada Geese in the back pond ("Cell 5”) was a smaller, pinkish-billed bird: the Greater White-fronted Goose. It stayed a fair distance away, and these photos are cropped quite a bit, but we can see the white on the face that gives this bird its name.
In the Sibley guide, the Greater White-fronted Goose is said to have a “speckled belly (variable)”. This Goose decided to give us a bit of a demonstration. The Canada Geese are suitably impressed.
If you look really closely, you can see a hint of orange just above the water -- the orange legs are very different from the black legs of the other Geese.
Greater White-fronted Geese nest in the far north, and it is likely that this bird will soon be on its way.
On the shoreline of Cell 5, we caught sight of a white flash in the sunlight, and were thrilled to see the Ross’s Goose resting in the reeds. This diminutive, pure white Goose (with black wingtips) is distinguished from the more common Snow Goose by its smaller size and lack of “grin patch” (Sibley). Its bill is shorter and smaller, and the head is more rounded.
For comparison, here is a Snow Goose (likely a Juvenile, judging by the amount of gray on the head and back) that appeared in the Floradale Dam in March:
At Mitchell, we also spotted a Male and Female Scaup,
a Horned Grebe (which stayed on the far side of the pond!),
and a few Northern Shovelers mixed in with a flock of 100+ Tundra Swans.
The Swans stayed around until nearly dusk, then flew up in small groups, all heading North!
Meanwhile, back home on the farm, there have been 4 Northern Harriers (2 Male, 2 Female) hunting together, and resting in the hayfields. They don’t seem to be competing for territory at this point, but I would guess that the pairs will likely part company fairly soon.
Of course as soon as there is a bit of snow, a few Horned Larks show up to eat corn again. 13 showed up the other evening when the ground was white. How on earth do they disappear so completely, and then blow in with the snow? Every time I see them, I think it will be the last time for the year, but if we keep getting April snowstorms instead of April showers....who knows?
We are still seeing the odd Snowy Owl in the area; this one was sitting on a hydro pole across the road one evening in early April. Soon these majestic visitors will head to the high Arctic to breed and raise their young.
In spite of the unseasonably cold Spring, the Robins have returned to perch and sing, or pull worms from the frozen lawn,
or feast on sunflower chips from the feeders.
Again, not rarities by any means, but strikingly lovely in their bright Spring colours.
As I complete this blog, the weatherman is warning of freezing rain, snow, and cooler temperatures after a balmy 15-degree day tomorrow. I hope that the rest of our Spring migrants stay in warmer places for a week or so....