Thursday, 24 January 2013

Winter is almost over....

Southern Ontario is currently mired in the coldest stretch we have had all winter. Daily highs here in Cambridge have been between -10 and -15 for a few days now, with daily lows closer to -20. It's sometimes hard to get motivated to go out into "the field" and see what birds are around!

I, for one, like the cold (in small doses), but every year around this time I start to get a bit of cabin fever, wishing it was spring already.

However, there is still hope! The shortest day of the winter, December 21, had fewer than 9 hours of daylight. Fortunately that is long behind us now, with the total amount of daylight for today being 9 hours and 38 minutes. I have started to notice the incremental daylight increases when out birding on recent outings. For instance, the other day I was scanning ducks at Windermere Basin in Hamilton,  well after 5 PM. In late December we would often have to call it quits by 4:30 or 4:45 PM. By the end of February, with spring right around the corner, the day length will be 11 hours and 10 minutes, with sunset happening after 6:00 PM!

Of course, even with this chilly weather, there are signs in the avian world that spring is coming. Some owls are calling more regularly and even starting to nest. The first "spring migrant" Horned Larks have probably arrived last week with the warm weather in southwestern Ontario. It won't be long until we get a pulse of warmer weather, bringing with it the first spring migrant dabbling ducks - especially Northern Pintails.

Of course, one of my favorite pastimes is to search out breeding amphibians in their vernal ponds in certain woodlands. Usually the first wave occurs around March 15, a mere 50 days away! Here are a selection of photos of species we can look forward to in the upcoming weeks, as winter slowly loses its icy cold grasp...

Spotted Salamander migrating
Northern Ribbonsnake

First "lep" of the year - Mourning Cloak

Spotted Salamander on its way to the breeding ponds

Spotted Turtle

Known to some as the Eastern Konk-la-reeee

Gray Treefrog

calling male Spring Peeper

Jefferson Salamander


  1. Nice stuff man! I've tried to keep up with you birding posts, congratulations on your big year. Maybe we can hook up in the field this summer. Hope all is well!

  2. Thanks, Nick! Definitely, I'm looking forward to catching up and doing some herping with you this summer.

  3. Hi Josh!

    Although I live in Ottawa, both of my parents are in Cambridge so I get down there about twice a year (in May and in October). Can you recommend any good spots for herps in Cambridge? My dad is interested in reptiles and salamanders, while I'm interested in just about everything (reptiles, birds, mammals, dragonflies etc.). We found a Red-backed Salamander at Sudden Tract once but that's our most unusual find to date. I would love to see a Spotted Turtle or Spotted Salamander (great photos, by the way!) as those are species I've never seen before.