The Magic of Migration
Updated: Jul 21
Cape May Warbler in Blossoms
Can anything compare to Spring? Trees in blossom; migrant birds returning to their breeding grounds in full, brilliant colour; a sense of optimism and hope, as Nature once again ushers in a season of new beginnings! Most of the photos in this post were taken close to home (Elmira area). As I walked and waited in some of our local parks, and along trails, I was encouraged by the diversity of species passing through, or preparing to stay for a few months.
Yellow-rumped Warblers are some of the first and most common returnees in the Spring. I had ventured out late one afternoon in early May to see if any of these pretty birds had arrived, and was pleased to find a small flock feeding among the young Maples in a local swampy area.
Arriving home at dusk, I was surprised to see about 6 Yellow-rumps in a Tamarack right in the yard! It was nearly dark, but we managed a short photo session...
There was a bit of a fallout of Warblers at Lakeside Park (KW) one morning in early May, and it was a real joy to stand and watch, as the tiny travellers landed in nearby trees and foraged hungrily. Flashes of orange, yellow, blue, black and white appeared and disappeared quickly as we stood and watched in awe.
A male American Redstart actually sat still for a moment!
His song is unmistakable.
There were Blackburnian Warblers, both male and female, in the crowd. The males are such flashy fellows, with their brilliant orange throats.
Plenty of vocalizing was happening between bug-catching activities!
And some resting after a long night of flying was important too.
A female, perhaps?
A single Northern Parula flitted about, high among the Maple leaves,
and a stunning male Black-throated Green Warbler played peekaboo behind leaves and branches. What a beautiful black throat this guy had!
A Black-throated Blue Warbler sang and moved about quickly up in the trees,
then flew down to feed in the low shrubs and along the forest floor.
Female Black-throated Blues look completely different from the males. Both have a small white patch on the wing (that is not always visible!).
Several Black-and-white Warblers scuttled, Nuthatch-like, up and down tree trunks. Very rarely do they pause as this one did for a few moments -- he was likely another worn out wee migrant, having flown who-knows-how-far during the night.
If you really use your imagination, you can see a touch of orange on this Orange-crowned Warbler!
Beautiful Bay-breasted Warblers moved too quickly for photos; this male was part of a small mixed flock along the Lake Huron shoreline near the middle of May. He is damp from his bath in a small water hole.
Palm Warblers usually greet us on the way into Lakeside. These Warblers seem to be less worried about human presence than some of their travelling mates.
It's always a treat to see a Canada Warbler! This little gem was bouncing around in the undergrowth along the roadside in MacGregor Point Provincial Park near the end of May. Such a gorgeous bird he is...
There were lots of Yellow Warblers this Spring, chasing each other and feeding non-stop in the trees at Snyder's Flats. They are such endearing wee birds, with their cheerful songs and sweet faces...
This is an adult male, with the well-defined rust-coloured stripes on his belly.
And this is a coy little female...
Male Cape May Warblers were seen in relative abundance this year. There were 5 or 6 in the small trees at one time (Lakeside Park).
Driving home from Lakeside Park after a morning "Warblerfest", I checked in on a wild cherry tree along the roadside. What a thrill to see a Cape May Warbler in the blossoms! I pulled over and took a few shots out the car window.
Apparently Cape Mays are unusual (for Warblers), in that they have straw-like tongues that enable them to sip nectar during migration and Summer. Like other Warblers, they eat insects, but can enjoy sweet flower-juice as well.
Not a Warbler, but we often see Vireos travelling with the Warbler flocks. A pair of Warbling Vireos was foraging and singing in the small trees near St. Agatha.
And we saw several Blue-headed Vireos in the area.
This is the Red-eyed Vireo, looking soft and lovely in the forest light.
Sneaking up on a bug....
We have hosted some wonderful "yard birds" this Spring. White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows stayed around for a couple of weeks, then all left one night in late May. White-throats arrived first, with their striking yellow/black/white faces, and white throats.
Some White-throats (both male and female) are not as brightly marked as the ones above. There are Tan-striped White-throats, and a range of colouring from the Tan to the White-striped Sparrows.
These lovely little birds stay such a short while, but are welcomed eagerly for the time they are with us!
White-crowned Sparrows dropped in about a week after their cousins.
Song Sparrows, content to stay this far North for the Summer, gathered nesting materials, and sang from the treetops.
And pairs of tiny Chipping Sparrows were preparing to nest as well.
Red-winged Blackbirds enjoyed a rainy day in early May.
And pairs of House Finches, common though they are, brighten a Spring evening in the apple trees.
This lovely male posed in the Sumac for a few moments.
I was thrilled to see a Brown Thrasher in the yard in early Spring.
And he brought a friend! The two of them ate seeds and dried mealworms from the feeder-board,
and grubs and other delicious treasures from the ground.
Stole this peanut from another bird!
These photos were taken at Snyder's Flats, but Tree Swallows used many boxes around the farm this year too.
Stunning Baltimore Orioles always brighten up the yard.
These males, returning before the females, were finding food in the apple blossoms.
They have a habit of eating the blossoms too, but there are lots on the trees to share.
And what a masterpiece the Northern Flicker is! His patterning is exquisite.
We went for a drive around MacGregor Provincial Park, and found some lovely birds:
This Great-crested Flycatcher flew down to a post beside the car, and seemed curious about why a camera was pointed at him/her.
It was wonderful to see an Upland Sandpiper -- and even better when its mate appeared! These birds have a hard time finding suitable nesting habitat, as many grassland areas have been developed or converted to cropland.
The Wilson's Snipe looks as though he will tip forward with that long bill!
It's always a relief to see grassland birds like the Meadowlark gathering food for young. Against almost insurmountable odds they have been able to raise a family!
Now we move into Summer, with a quiet time of nest-building, egg-laying, incubating and staying safe from predators. And soon.... babies!!!
We wish all of our little feathered friends a successful season of family-rearing!