Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Spring has sprung in Niagara

The first two and a half weeks of April were a mixed bag weather wise, but with one steady theme: cold temperatures. Most days throughout the first half of the month were well below the average temperature for that time of year, and despite several teases winter would just not slink away. That has changed in a hurry however, and the last week or so has seen a flood of new migrants appear throughout the province. So far my birding and herping has kept me fairly local here in Niagara but I have been out a handful of times. Below are some photos from a few of those outings.

During the first two weeks of April I stayed fairly close to home as I had a number of projects on the go that I wanted to wrap up before spring really sprung. That was largely a successful venture and I even saw and heard a few birds from my office window during the process. Fish Crows have become a semi-regular feature here in Niagara Falls; I see roughly equal amounts of American and Fish Crows near the house. Soon it will time for some nest-searching! Speaking of nests, a pair of very vocal Merlins has been terrorizing the local songbirds in our neighbourhood. Last week they spent a few days investigating an old nest in a willow tree two yards over and visible from our backyard. Fingers crossed that they will nest! I haven't photographed these Merlins yet, so this old photo from Pelee will have to do.

Merlin - Point Pelee National Park (April 15, 2013)

All the way back on April 9 the first mini-pulse of songbird migration was detected. A walk at Port Weller was quite productive; among the 36 species was an Eastern Phoebe, an early-ish Barn Swallow, and quite a few Horned Grebes in various stages of molt. After disappearing for a few days I was happy to see five Red-throated Loons. Port Weller seems to be an excellent locations for that species and most visits from autumn through to mid April produce one or more Red-throated Loons.

Horned Grebe - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region 

Horned Grebe - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region 

Red-throated Loon - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region 

Eastern Phoebe - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region 

Northern Cardinals, while remaining resident in southern Ontario throughout the year, provide one of my favorite signs of springs when males belt out their cheery songs on the first warm, sunny days in late winter. By this time of year, Northern Cardinal songs ring out through the suburbs and thickets almost continuously. This male tolerated my close approach as he inspected the old fruits from a sumac.

Northern Cardinal - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region 

Port Weller is one of my favorite two places to visit in Niagara Region; the other being Wainfleet Bog of course. While Port Weller is a human-made pier that lacks any high quality ecotypes, it also attracts migrant birds quite well. By mid April the species composition is changing daily or even hourly. My two or three visits a week are enough to be intimately familiar with the local birds, so much so that it is very easy to detect when new migrants have appeared. On April 13 a little wave of birds arrived, including some Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Hermit Thrush and a dozen Golden-crowned Kinglets. Despite the dim lighting I manged to snap a few photos of the kinglets that I was happy with. Kinglet photography is definitely an advanced class! Fortunately for me this time I had one or two males quite interested in my pishing, and they sat still long enough for some photos.

Golden-crowned Kinglet - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region 

Golden-crowned Kinglet - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region 

Golden-crowned Kinglet - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region 

Golden-crowned Kinglet - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region 

Golden-crowned Kinglet - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region 

Golden-crowned Kinglet - Port Weller east pier, Niagara Region 

My next post will cover some of the birding and herping highlights from the last week.

1 comment:

  1. Kinglet photography is indeed a challenge and it is always a treat when cooperates, or at least sits still for the same split second as the camera's shutter!

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