Easing into the warm side of Spring!

As we are moving further into the merry month of May, we are experiencing the subtle shifts of the Earth warming and greening, with new casts of birds entering the scene while the stalwarts of the first half of Spring (AKA the cold side of Spring) are vanishing into their northern redoubts. 

Weather this past week was moderate, with clear, cool and calm conditions most days, letting us open all 15 nets their daily six hours. The exceptions were on May 11 when an overcast sky bled rain in late morning, and on May 13 with a wind storm through the night and the morning until a fierce but short-lived thunderstorm brought an end to the wind after it moved away (allowing the nets to be open for a couple hours). The good weather conditions were good for migrating birds, though not necessarily for bird watchers and bird catchers (sometimes the same people): banding was slow throughout the whole week, despite many hours of mist netting. Diversity was there, notably in the long-awaited and always-celebrated stars of May, the wood warblers, with days of 17-18 species. Two new species of warblers were detected on May 13, Wilson’s and Blackpoll Warblers. On that same day, a small flock of eight Cedar Waxwings were seen, the third earliest arrival at Cabot Head (after May 3, 2012 and May 8, 2005); despite typically being a late arrival at Cabot Head: FOYs are May 17 or after for all the other years. One FOY Scarlet Tanager was also seen on May 13.

Still on May 13, a Lapland Longspur was hanging out on the rocky shore at the tip with a Horned Lark, both birds of open land and wide horizons. It was seen by birder extraordinaire Ted Cheskey while doing census. Unfortunately, they both flew away, depriving the rest of the crew a glimpse of this rarely seen species: only three observations in Spring (2003, 2016, & 2019), the definition of “sparse”?

Bobolink (through its flight call) and Brewer’s Blackbird (kindly calling while perched) were the May 14th addition by our current ‘censuser in chief’, the aforementioned Ted. Once again, these birds did not linger long enough. Unlike a very accommodating Northern Mockingbird, first detected by Emilie but seen by everyone, still on May 14. This species was detected in 13 of the previous 22 Spring seasons, from May 10 to June 10 but with only one to six detections per Spring.

It is always nice to see a not-too-frequent bird. It was again the case in the morning of May 15 when a Golden-winged Warbler was seen by everyone (except… me!), the 23rd species of warbler of the Spring. This species-at-risk has been detected in 12 Spring seasons from 2002 to 2018 and again last Spring after a gap of a few years. 

We always – always – keep our ears and eyes open, ready for the unexpected. One visit that I am certainly eager to welcome would be from American White Pelican: one imagines that a large, soaring, slow, white and black bird would be easy to detect, so I like to imagine that we have not missed them, simply that they have not deigned yet to pay us a call. Why pelicans, you rightly might ask? Well, six of them were seen on the beach at Singing Sands, barely 50 km as the pelican flies from us, on May 14. I also got an excited call on this day of writing (May 15) by a good friend who had just seen six Pelicans flying over his outdoor education centre near Waterloo, a first for him at his workplace (of more than 20 years!). So, White Pelicans are cruising around in the Ontario sky, possibly even above you as you read these lines!

A daily bird census is done each day of migration monitoring.