Nature Notes for May 25, 2012
May is the favourite month of all birders at this latitude. While many migrant birds are still passing through our area, other species are fledging their young.
On Victoria Day weekend, my husband and I did our annual bird banding demonstration at Presqu’ile Provincial Park. Some of the birds which we captured, such as Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat (another warbler), Swamp Sparrow and Baltimore Oriole nest in the park. All of these, except for the Swamp Sparrow, winter in the tropics. Swamp Sparrows winter in the southern U.S. and Mexico.
Others, such as the Swainson’s Thrush, Blackpoll Warbler and Lincoln’s Sparrow are travelling much further north to nest in the boreal forest. The former two winter in the tropics, while the Lincoln’s Sparrow winters in much the same range as the Swamp Sparrow.
Tuesday’s late afternoon thunder showers forced some migrating shorebirds down onto the west beach in Port Hope. They were a mix of Dunlin, Ruddy Turnstones and Semipalmated Sandpipers. These birds are heading to nesting grounds in the high Arctic.
At the same time, many birds that breed locally are raising their young. The media made much of the Mallard which chose to nest in the enclosed courtyard at Northumberland Hills Hospital. When the ducklings hatched, the duck family required rescuing and was escorted to the open water of Lake Ontario.
Families of Canada Geese are stopping traffic near the Ganaraska River in Port Hope. These good parents bring their offspring to the carefully maintained lawns which the town so thoughtfully provides. This is perfect grazing habitat for a goose.
Another species of goose, the Brant, is just now migrating through the Great Lakes basin, en route to breeding grounds in the high Arctic. They fly in a V like Canada Geese, but their voices are very different. One field guide describes the flock call as “a constant, low, murmuring, gargling sound.”
On a walk around my neighbourhood today, I heard many American Robins calling excitedly. This probably means that they have newly fledged chicks. The parents are sounding an alarm to the chicks and at the same time, warning off potential predators, such as the local crows, squirrels or cats, by calling attention to themselves and away from the youngsters.
The young American Crows that I heard a few weeks ago from a nest in the top of spruce on my street have probably fledged. They are probably being taught by their parents that garbage day is a good day to go scavenging in those green plastic bags conveniently placed at curbside. Two crows have been feeding in my small garden on the spilled sunflower seeds under the bird feeder.
I’m sure that I should be preparing for the onslaught of Common Grackle fledglings. These large youngsters beg loudly and incessantly after they leave the nests. They could probably feed themselves, but instead harass their parents, insisting on being fed even though food is right in front of them. They will no doubt be accompanied by even noisier European Starling families. When both arrive together, the racket can be deafening.
Birders enjoy the constantly changing bird life around them, whether the birds be rare migrants or common fledglings.