Spring Migration 2021
It's been a wonderful Spring to spend time outdoors with some little winged travellers that have been passing through our area. Another season of lockdown has forced us to make discoveries close to home -- and it hasn't been a hardship at all during May!
Among the first arrivals every year are the tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglets. They might be the fastest-moving of the migrants, rarely slowing down in their quest for insects...
This Kinglet was pretty relaxed (as Kinglets go!), and did not show off his red crown, but we can see the tiny spot that becomes a very obvious "ruby crest" when raised.
Another early arrival was the beautiful White-throated Sparrow.
White-crowned Sparrows arrived around the same time, and they do love the birdbaths!
A Brown Thrasher sang his mixture of melodies from the treetops early in May; by the next week, there was a pair of Brown Thrashers gathering nesting materials.
A male Eastern Towhee often called and came out for a brief chat on one of the trails I walked in April and May.
I have cropped this image quite a bit so that we can see the left foot. Although it is deformed, with the middle long claw folded backward, this bird seemed to have no trouble scratching about in the leaf litter in true Towhee fashion.
In mid-May, a Vesper Sparrow was heard, then seen, at the edge of a farmer's hayfield in a tall tree. These photos are also cropped heavily, so that we can see the white eye ring and white undertail feathers... not the best, but he was way up there!
Another Sparrow that I rarely see is the Field Sparrow. This male sang (and hid behind branches!) in late May on the edge of a grass field. No streaking on the breast, a white eye ring, and a pink bill are all field marks of this ground-nester.
An Orchard Oriole sang from almost the same spot as the Vesper Sparrow had used several weeks before.
We didn't have any Orchard Orioles at the feeders this year, but there were a few of their flashy cousins, the Baltimores. One pair seems to be sticking around, and hopefuly will be nesting by this time.
Later in May, Black-billed Cuckoos arrived in the forest to eat Tent Caterpillars -- and hopefully lots of Gypsy Moth Caterpillars too, this year.
We had quick views of a Wood Thrush (and he had a look at us too!),
and a Hermit Thrush, in the forest at SpruceHaven.
There is nothing like the sight of a Scarlet Tanager to take your breath away!
Nice try, little fellow, but ... camouflage just doesn't work very well for you!
We spent a few hours in and around MacGregor Point on a late afternoon in mid-May. A pair of Upland Sandpipers was active in a pasture field near the park, and one of them very obligingly perched on a post along the roadside. We drove past, and I took a few quick shots out the window so as not to disturb him/her. I really like these unusual birds!
A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker drilled away on some scrubby little trees near the entrance to MacGregor.
In and around the wetlands, Gray Catbirds sang their wonderful mixture of songs. When we hear the Catbirds, we know that Spring has truly arrived!
The sights and sounds of Spring Warblers are much anticipated after a long winter. In May, there is often a rush of activity, as birds "drop down" during the night, and then spend the day feeding and resting. Mostly feeding. And moving around very quickly behind branches. There didn't seem to be Warblers in the spots where I usually see them this year, but we did find some nice ones in the area.
The Palm Warbler is one of the earliest arrivals. His tail bobs almost continuously as he feeds on small insects. This tiny, gentle bird must have been exhausted from its night-flying, because it plunked itself down on a branch near us in the morning sunshine, and just rested for several minutes.
Another Palm Warbler, seen a few days later, was ready for action, and perched only briefly before resuming its insect hunt.
Another early May Warbler is the Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler. This female was concentrating on finding insects in an old log -- with good success! Her soft, gray feathers would be much "blacker" if she were a male.
A Common Yellowthroat sang and sang, before appearing briefly along the shore at Lakeside Park.
A Black-throated Green Warbler treated us to a close encounter one morning. He was a gorgeous male in full breeding (alternate) plumage, and proud of it!
"Got me a real nice black throat to impress the ladies!"
Nashville Warblers, with their gray heads, white eye rings, and tiny rust-coloured caps, stayed high in the trees for the most part. On this morning, though, one came down to do some foraging in the lower branches.
On an early May morning, there was a flock of newly-arrived Black-and-white Warblers in the bushes and trees of Lakeside Park. At one point, there were 3 on a single tree trunk. These little birds were tired and hungry,
and perhaps a tad cranky after their long flights!
A Black-throated Blue Warbler was foraging low in the brush and along the forest floor.
I was lucky enough to see the Prairie Warbler when he visited Lakeside Park for about a week in May.
One Warbler (that doesn't look like a Warbler!) that is more often heard than seen is the Ovenbird. This little one had likely just landed in the forest after its long journey, and spent some time preening and relaxing before scuttling off into the undergrowth.
Late in May, the female Magnolia Warblers started to show up. (Males are much blacker.) These small Willow trees were providing lots of food, and some lovely "posing perches"!
In the same tree, a female Cape May Warbler fed and rested. Definitely a "Girls' Tree" on this particular morning...
The previous day, we had seen 3 Cape May Warblers, but they stayed high in the trees. The adult male has beautiful colouring.
On a warm Spring morning, a tiny Redstart (young male) sang in the Dogwood.
Next year, the Redstart will look more like this:
I was thrilled to see 2 Wilson's Warblers this year (both males with their distinctive black caps), in different places. I think these guys might have been the fastest moving Warblers of the lot -- in and out of brush, up to a branch, behind some leaves ... and you want to be ready for the split second when he does this:
Yellow Warblers seemed to be plentiful this Spring. Males, their breasts streaked with rusty red, sang their cheery song from small trees and bushes.
One of my very favourite birds is the Blue-headed Vireo. It tours through our area in the Spring and Fall with its Warbler friends, and often feeds high in the trees. This one was foraging on the ground at Lakeside Park on a day when we were walking there, and showed no fear as it hunted for small bugs. What a privilege to experience one of these pretty little birds at close range for a few brief moments!
And now, most of the travellers have begun nesting, either here or further North. We only have a short window of time to enjoy their song and presence, before they go into hiding, and (hopefully) begin the process of creating and raising a new generation.
After a long, cold Winter of isolation, what a joy it is to spend a few days with our "Birds of Spring." A short time, to be sure, but every moment of early morning sunshine, with newly opening leaves, and colourful little treasures appearing on (ok, mostly behind, but sometimes on!!) branches, is a moment to be treasured.
*I'll apologize again for the fact that you have to sign in to comment on this blog page -- it can't be changed apparently! Please feel free to use the "Comments" page on the main menu of this site if you would rather not comment publicly. Or email me... I would love to hear your special migration stories too!