In the last week I have gotten out daily to look for herps, birds, and whatever other signs of spring that I could find. We were given 20+ degree weather over the weekend, followed by a few inches of snow and sub-zero temperatures for all of Tuesday. Today was warmer again (about 6 degrees and sunny), and the next few days leading into the weekend look good for mostly fair-weather birding! On to some highlights...
Friday, April 11
After taking off from work, I checked some areas within York Region to see what I could find. Holland Landing gave me three year birds in Bonaparte's Gull, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. It was nice to find a little flock of kinglets, chickadees, sapsuckers, creepers, and some nearby Rusty Blackbirds!
I checked out some flooded fields in the southwestern Holland Marsh and scoured some flocks of waterfowl, turning up some Cackling Geese and Tree Swallows, also new for the year. Ah, spring...
Saturday, April 12
I visited a friend in Guelph on the Friday night and Saturday I took care of some errands at my parent's place in Cambridge. Needing a break in the mid-afternoon I took advantage of the great weather and checked out a favorite trail system of mine to look for some early season herps. I wasn't disappointed, though in hindsight I wish I had my camera with me for the hike, instead of the iPhone with its terrible camera!
Four species of frogs were calling and it wasn't long until I came across my first snakes of the year.
Red-backed Salamanders were common under rocks and I found one tiny Eastern Newt.
Even with the sun hiding behind some clouds the herps were active. I soon stumbled upon several Northern Ribbonsnakes basking on a hillside near a vernal pool and it became apparent that there were 3 males vying for the services of the much larger female (which I watched for a good 15 minutes...).
First snake of the year!!
I also birded some areas south of Cambridge later on and discovered five more year birds - Eastern Meadowlark, Osprey, Sandhill Crane, Eastern Bluebird, and Savannah Sparrow. A Common Raven flew over being harassed by American Crows at one point as well. Watching a pair of Sandhill Cranes while Eastern Meadowlarks and Rusty Blackbirds called from somewhere unseen was certainly a highlight of the spring so far...
Sunday, April 13
After a shindig at my buddy Dave's place Saturday night, I slept in a bit on Sunday morning before leaving to do a day of birding in Simcoe County. Needless to say it was a huge success! Among the 72 species I saw on the day, some highlights were:
-finding two Ross's Geese with a large flock of Canadas. I was pretty excited with these birds as I had only "found" one previously in Ontario, and Ross's Goose was a new Simcoe County bird for me. Cue distant record photo!
-Snowy Owl just chilling on a sprinkler system
-new year birds!! Greater Yellowlegs, Winter Wren, Barn Swallow
-a metric ton of waterfowl, highlighted by Canvasbacks and Cackling Geese. Large numbers included roughly 200 American Wigeon, 80 Northern Shoveler, 750 Northern Pintail, and 850 Green-winged Teal. No Eurasian Wigeons or Garganeys, though!
- Ruddy Duck at the Stayner lagoons
Monday, April 14
Back in the office...After work I checked a new area in King Township for me - the north end of Bathurst Street along the south edge of Lake Simcoe. It was absolutely rocking (for King Township) and I had an enjoyable few hours before dusk. Some highlights:
-Bank Swallow with a bunch of Trees and Barns
-flyover Black Scoters (spring migrants?)
-Bonaparte's Gulls, Caspian Terns, and Greater Yellowlegs
-2 Horned Grebes
-large number of typical mid April ducks
That's all for now! I was going to include photos/sightings from the last few days in the Kawartha Lakes area but this post is long enough as it is. As we continue to move into spring I will try to post updates a little more frequently - whenever my birding (er...working) schedule allows! I also have a whole ton of Panama posts to crank out, and some more stuff from Europe.