Monday, 26 March 2012

Less than one month to go

It's almost that time of year and I'm getting pretty excited. Generally things start really getting exciting around my birthday (April 25). Last year I had a nice birthday surprise by finding an Eared Grebe and Eurasian Wigeon, and the previous day I found a Snowy Egret, flock of Willets, and also saw Brandon's Neotropic Cormorant.

With this crazy weather I still don't expect the "magic date" of April 24/25 to be much different this year. As many people have alluded to, neotropical migrants usually cue migration by photoperiod as well as a proposed internal clock. These birds in Brazil, Panama, and elsewhere have no idea what sort of heat wave we are going through - no idea that in order for them to arrive at "peak time", they need to leave three weeks early. Once they do arrive on the gulf coast in early April, I wouldn't be surprised if they migrant north quicker than usual since everything is so far along this year. So perhaps instead of having an average arrival date of May 1 for neotropical species X, it may arrive by April 27 or something.

Temperate migrants, on the other hand, seem to be more cued by temperature and local conditions. That may explain why we are seeing extremely early dates of birds like Long-billed Dowitcher, Pine Warbler, various sparrows and swallows, etc. In Ohio, Louisiana Waterthrushes, Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and Yellow-throated Warblers are already on territory!

At any rate, I am done exams on April 18th and expect to be down in Pelee by no later than April 20 this year (I need a day or two to move all my stuff from my Guelph house to my parent's in Cambridge). Between now and April 20, there are a few species that I am targeting.

Boreal Owl, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Spruce Grouse, Sharp-tailed Grouse
 I am currently planning an in-and-out 3 day whirlwind trip to the Marathon area - about 15 hours away. Boreal Owls breed here (and will be calling, unlike on my January trip), American Three-toed Woodpeckers seem reliable (and I'll spend more than 3 hours one afternoon searching, unlike last trip!), and I have a few chances for Spruce Grouse and Sharp-tailed Grouse on the way up. If I get all those species, the only boreal specialty I will still need is Northern Hawk-owl. More on this trip later, but I am currently shooting for the dates of April 10-12ish, nestled in right between exams...

Loggerhead Shrike, Yellow Rail
-the Carden shrikes (code 2) have returned (see I'm not sure yet if I'll tack on a trip to the Carden Alvar after the northern trip, or if I'll do a separate day trip there. I may hold out on going until April 15/16ish, right before my last exam. Yellow Rails (code 3) may even be back ticking in the marsh, depending on how early they arrive this year! If not, I'll still have chances at them in Rainy River and James Bay.

Rare birds that sometimes show up early
-the Piping Plovers (code 2) that breed at Sauble/Wasaga usually show up by mid April. Ideally I could grab these on the way back from Carden on April 15/16th!
-in most recent years at least one Western Grebe (code 4) has been reported sometime in April, and usually is "chaseable"
-Eared Grebes (code 3) also are usually "chaseable" in April
-Cattle Egrets, American White Pelicans and occasional Plegadis Ibises (White-faced or Glossy) sometimes show up in mid April
-other rarities that have a history of showing up before things really get going in late April include ducks like Cinnamon Teal, Tufted Duck, and Garganey; Swainson's Hawk (not in recent years, however); gulls like Mew and Laughing, Bewick's Wren (not recently though), Yellow-throated Warbler, and the odd rare sparrow.

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