Friday, 22 February 2013

Signs of life....

It is now February 22 so we are inching ever closer to the first official day of spring. The last few days it has been cold and windy, but the forecast is finally calling for weather above 0 degrees Celsius, with the mercury supposed to hit 2 degrees Celsius on Saturday. Not much, but it is better than nothing.

Horned Larks have been singing away in fields since late January, and migrant waterfowl have started to appear. We haven't really had a warm snap with south winds in a while but the next one we get will surely bring with it migrant waterfowl, including probably more Snow or Greater White-fronted Geese, most of the puddle ducks, and maybe a Eurasian Wigeon or two.

Snow Goose - Guelph, ON (March 6, 2012)

It won't be long until the first Blue-winged Teal is reported, followed shortly by the first Eastern Phoebe of the spring.

Speaking of migrant waterfowl, the southwest corner of the province has had a number of great records so far. Blake mentioned on his blog about 10 Ross's Geese at Erieau, and there have been several Greater White-fronted Geese at Hillman Marsh the last week or so (Alan Wormington sent me a photo of 34 the other day - a record high count for Point Pelee).

One activity that I seem to do more frequently as the winter drags on is check the Ebird maps to see where spring migrants are being reported south of Ontario. I find it is more fun to do with species that do not overwinter in North America, since they are "true" migrants to the continent, working their way north to Ontario. Other species, like Killdeers or blackbirds, may travel north in late winter, spurred on by warmer weather. However if a bout of cold weather follows, it seems likely that they may retreat south. Once the South American migrants start showing up, they are here for good! Check out this screen shot of the current map for Purple Martin, where individuals have already been reported in Tennessee. In just over a month's time Ontario should start to see them. Last year, David Bell and I had some Purple Martins in Guelph on March 28. They do have somewhat of a staggered migration with Ontario not seeing numbers of martins until  mid April, but still it is fun to track their movement northward.

Purple Martins in N.A. - February 22, 2013

While small numbers of Red-winged Blackbird and Brown-headed Cowbirds (with occasional Rusty Blackbirds or Common Grackles) overwinter in the south, they don't start "singing" and setting up breeding territories until early March, where I live. This will be happening within two weeks!!

Sandhill Cranes are one of my favorite Ontario species of birds, and their return is something that I look forward to every March. While the odd flock of cranes overwinters, they don't show up in numbers (and pairing up) until March. I took these photos on March 11 of last year.

Hang in there - spring is around the corner!

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely idea: to use ebird large-scale maps to track migrations northward! It will make winter seem a little less long!