Cold, grey, and wet: it is April!
Weather in the past week was mostly cloudy and cold, with episodes of rain from time to time. There were not many movements of songbirds during this week with few if any new species detected and very few captures in the nets. Only one day, April 25, had decent numbers of birds captured, mostly of kinglets, while light rain on and off during that morning likely helped bring down the birds.
However, there had been a sustained passage of waterfowl over Georgian Bay, with strong numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers (high of 41 birds on April 26), Common Loons (about 50 birds on April 26 & 27), and Long-tailed Ducks (56 birds on April 28) throughout the week. Of course, when there is less action at the nets, we have more time to scan the bay!
And the sky: Icterids continue to move through in large numbers, with still a lot of Common Grackles but more and more Red-winged Blackbirds, including females. As in most species, males tend to migrate earlier than females, so seeing females indicates a new stage in the migration. That was the case notably with the first female Ruby-crowned Kinglet caught in our nets on April 28 after more than 170 males.
In a rare clear day, April 27, we counted about 50 Broad-winged Hawks milling in a “kettle”, as the gathering of “boiling” hawks soaring in a thermal are called in hawkwatch jargon. A handful of Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks were also seen that day. All the Broad-winged Hawks we could see well were adults: young birds should arrive later. And, indeed, on April 28, among 30 Sharp-shinned Hawks counted, we saw the first young sharp-shin while all the previous ones we could age had been adults.
From time to time, large flocks of up to 50 Black-capped Chickadees have entertained us with their chattering and antics. Luckily (!) they mostly stay out of the nets: it is a feisty bird to entangle and no one wants too many at once in their nets…
With only two days left in April and rain in the forecast, it looks like we would only get three species of warblers this year for April: Yellow-rumped, Palm (only once on April 16), and Pine Warblers. It is not that unusual, with 7 of the past 20 spring seasons (excluding 2020) having that total in April and April 2015 having only two. We will appreciate even more the forest gems when they will show up. And show up they eventually will.