Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Field birds and forest mammal

I did some early morning birding in some old fields near Buckhorn. As I walked among the hawthorn trees and juniper thickets, I flushed three Field Sparrows and one Song Sparrow off of nests. There were at least eight Clay-colored Sparrows singing. I also flushed a pair of Common Nighthawks who seemed very distressed - I quickly moved on.
Clay-colored Sparrow
Late in the morning, I briefly strayed into the forest edge, at the edge of a large pond.
Mother bear watches me closely
I soon saw half a dozen large piles of bear scat, deposited recently in a patch of violets. It looked very fresh. A rustling sound about 30 metres away revealed the very close proximity of a mother and two cubs. The cubs quickly climbed a tree while their mother stood at the base with her gaze fixed on me. I took a quick photo and headed off in the opposite direction. In retrospect, I think it was fortunate that I paused to consider the droppings. Had I not, I might have had a much closer and more consequential encounter with the mother bear.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Golden-winged Warbler

So far, these have been difficult to find - there appears to be much more suitable habitat than Golden-wings. The tally so far is three Blue-winged Warblers and only a single Golden-winged, plus several birds I didn't see that were singing the typical Golden-winged song.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Cerulean Warbler

Cerulean Warbler
The Cerulean Warbler is another rare species known to breed in the area. There are estimated to be fewer than 1000 pairs nesting in Canada and numbers in the US are in decline. This spring I will be checking suitable habitat (mature hardwoods) for their presence.

Today I visited a woodlot we had skied through last winter - we'd made a mental note to return to observe the breeding birds. While much of the woodlot seemed perfect for Ceruleans, I found none until I was deep in the lush core. I stopped to listen to a Red-headed Woodpecker calling when I heard the first of many Cerulean songs. I estimated that there were not fewer than four males singing. Given the season, I can't rule out the possibility that these were migrants. I'll return in a few weeks to get a better sense of what's going on.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers

Blue-winged Warbler
Some of the county roads running south from Stony Lake hold good habitat for Golden-winged Warbler, a species designated as threatened species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). There is evidence that Golden-winged Warbler populations are negatively impacted through introgressive hybridization with the very closely related Blue-winged Warbler. We hope to monitor suitable sites in the coming weeks, when the males are singing on territory. A casual drive today turned up a single male Blue-winged Warbler (see photo) and a single male Golden-winged Warbler.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Summer warblers

We awoke to the song of a Warbling Vireo in the yard. These birds are common breeders in the open parkland around the locks at Burleigh Falls and Youngs Point but in our yard, they seem to be transient. In the hardwoods, I heard a first Scarlet Tanager of the season. Warbler numbers are low although many of the resident species are on territory. Here are some of the more common ones.
Black-throated Green Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Northern Waterthrush

Monday, May 12, 2008

Grosbeak vs. Grosbeak

More Blackburnian Warblers are singing in the patches of eastern hemlock along an adjacent cottage road. Each year, a few remain to breed.

A handful of Evening Grosbeaks continue to visit our feeders. Here is a brief video showing the usual outcome of an encounter between Evening and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks at the feeder.

Friday, May 9, 2008

...more arrivals

Common Merganser swims by the dock
We heard a few timely arrivals around the house this morning, including a Baltimore Oriole and Common Yellowthroat. Off the dock swam a pair of female Common Mergansers.

A bike ride through the hardwoods turned up some new arrivals including four Black-throated Blue Warblers, an American Redstart, a Northern Waterthrush, and Yellow-headed Vireo. I heard Ruffed Grouse drumming in two areas.

The number of singing Ovenbirds seems to have doubled from yesterday.
Other birds seen and heard included Broad-winged Hawk, Great Crested Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Blue-headed Vireo, Blackburnian Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Nashville Warbler.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Migration continues

Migration proceeds. In the morning we heard our first Yellow Warbler of the season. Blue Jays are particularly abundant at the feeders with up to 30 attending at a given time. Numbers of White-crowned Sparrows are omnipresent this week - today we saw up to eight at once and heard their song wonderful song continually. Shortly before dusk, we heard a Brown Thrasher.

A walk up through the hardwoods revealed some new arrivals - Ovenbirds sang in only a few territories. No doubt more will arrive in the coming days. We also heard Black-throated Green, Palm, Nashville, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Blue-headed Vireos and Least Flycatcher.

In the evening, I paddled back into the cattail marsh to check on the status of the Wood Duck box. There was a lone male twenty metres from the box but there was no sign of the box being used. Also present in the bay was a female Common Merganser, a pair of Mallards, a pair of Common Loons, several Swamp Sparrows and a Belted Kingfisher.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Yellow-rumped Warbler and Rose-breasted Grosbeak

The pace of migration is picking up. We wake up to warbler song filtering through the strident calls of Evening Grosbeaks and Red-winged-blackbirds. The above photo depicts one of a pair of male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks that visited the feeder yesterday evening. The Yellow-rumped Warbler is abundant right now. The bird shown below allowed us to capture a few snippets of his distinctive song.