The Tropics have arrived!
What a difference a week makes! The horizon now shimmers with fresh green leaves, a tentative warmth seeps into our cold bones, a Tree Swallow pair has adopted the newly installed nest box. And colourful, tropical-looking birds are arriving in numbers, bringing lots of FOY joy!
When we left you, we were enthralled by a magnificent Great Grey Owl on a sunny day that followed three days of non-stop raining. After that day, we were spared the rain that kept falling just South of us for many days and brought flooding. That persistent bad weather also kept the birds at bay: very few birds were observed, even less banded! There were days when all the nets were open for the regular six hours and a meagre seven birds were captured! Yet we carried on, cold in the North wind under an overcast sky bereft of birds, safe in the knowledge that they would eventually arrive, driven by an instinctual urge to reach their breeding grounds.
On May 8, a distinct call alerted us to two Evening Grosbeaks! This species is not usual anymore anywhere in the East, so it was a treat! On May 9, we could feel a tremor, a change in the air, a turning of tide: finally, migration had resumed and birds were moving again! Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers were the most numerous species to move through in a total of 49 species detected, including nine of warblers. FOY for that day were Blue-headed Vireo, Orange-crowned, Black-throated Blue, and Blackburnian Warblers. It was a stark contrast to the previous day when only 27 species in total were observed, with a mere two species of warbler. On May 10, migration was “new and improved”: there was a constant stream of high-flying warblers just above the treetops, pausing only so briefly. Yellow-rumped and Palm warblers were still dominant in numbers but the diversity grew: 14 species of warblers were observed (FOY Magnolia Warbler, Northern Parula, Common Yellowthroat, and Northern Waterthrush) with a grand total of 61 species. We captured the FOY White-crowned Sparrow and saw the FOY Northern Rough-winged Swallows! There was a little respite in migration the following day, with only FOY Spotted Sandpiper, and an overall decrease in diversity and numbers. However, it was just a brief pause as movement resumed en masse on May 12: many birds moved through Cabot Head on a calm, sunny, and almost warm day! A total of 73 species were detected, the highest total of the season so far, including 15 species of warblers and 10 new species for the spring. This is the day when it felt that the tropics finally returned to the shores of the Great Lakes, bringing flashy colours and an exuberance of diversity! What else to think when one sees in brief succession males of Scarlet Tanager, Baltimore Oriole, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak? That day was also marked by the return of Ruby-throated Hummingbird and American Redstart! The other FOY were: Red-headed Woodpecker (much to the delight of Orlando, since it was the other dream bird after the Sandhill Crane, for his Canadian trip), Bobolink, Least Flycatcher (the first Empidonax to return), and Common Tern, as well as one male Bay-breasted Warbler. Among the warblers, there were quite a few Cape May Warblers moving through, as well as Nashville, Black-and-white, Black-throated Green and Blackburnian Warblers.
In the short 3-day period, from May 9 to 11, we observed a delightful total of 18 species of warblers! Spring is here for real now! Birders rejoice, the magic of May is being performed again!