| May 26, 2005

Feature article, May 26, 2005

Feature article May 26, 2005

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The Birds of Spring

As we wait for the warm rays of a summer sun, what are the birds doing? This spring the migration of the birds from the south seems to be on a slow train, with some birds coming when expected, and some coming later or more slowly.

Down at Point Pelee, the southernmost tip in Canada, and a haven of rest for migrating birds who have flown across Lake Erie, there has been a slow migration, though at the same time there are a few who have made it when expected. But looking at any one species it seems as if there are not as many coming at once, but they are drifting in over a period of days. Obviously the weather is a huge factor. Cold and wind can affect the ability of the birds to survive the arduous trip from the south.


I have just returned from a trip to Point Pelee, where it was a delight to see many different species but there seemed to be more people than birds - because of the low numbers of any one species. On the flip side of the coin, there were a few surprises that flew in. The Kirklands Warbler, a rare and endangered bird that likes to nest only in Jack Pine that are about 10 feet tall, is usually found in an area of Michigan. Lets hope the individual that has been hanging around Pelee will either find a mate or make its way to Michigan. Then there were the American White Pelicans, much further east than usual. The Glossy Ibis, a bird of more southern swamps, does show up periodically, and this one was very accommodating to the bird watchers. Likewise, the Laughing Gull readily seen on the southeastern coast of the United States was a surprise.

Back at home, I find the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have returned in my absence, and have had reports from a couple of people that they first saw the hummers on May 10. I think this is a couple of days later than usual. I have had a number of reports of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, the earliest being on May 7. The beautiful males and the drabber females will enjoy your feeders. The first report of a Baltimore Oriole is for May 9, and the same date for the Scarlet Tanager. Again some seem to be on time, some seem to be late. Is it because the trees are late coming into leaf? Many of these birds and the small warblers need the protection of the leaves, as well as the opportunity to find the newly-emerging caterpillars who are feasting on the young leaves.

Another bird I have had reports on is the American Bittern. This mud hen, as it is called by some, usually hides in marshes where it will stand with its beak pointed straight up and be difficult to see in the cattails and reeds. This year, the slowness of the growth of these plants gives us an opportunity to see this usually well-camouflaged marsh inhabitant, where it is often heard thunder-pumping its mating call, but difficult to locate.

Now the birds who are here must make the most of the remaining spring and coming summer to raise their families. Let us hope they all survive, whatever the weather!

Helm is enjoying the first Morels (Morchella esculenta) of the season, found May 20 and 21.

On Saturday, May 28th, from 11.30 to 1.00, the Nature Lover's Bookshop, 62 George St., Lanark, will have a book signing & discussion with Chris Earley, an interpretive biologist at the University of Guelph and author of Warblers, Sparrows & Finches, Hawks & Owls and more recently Waterfowl. Refreshments will be served. Many thanks to all who have called in the reports. Share your sightings, call Jean at 268-2518 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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