What happened to all the birds?

June 12, 2021

Wow, what an interesting migration this May.

It seemed to take quite a while for the Baltimore Oriole and Hummingbirds to return to our yard, but they were few and far between. By the end of May we didn’t see the male Hummingbird anymore, but the female must be looking after some babies as she is the only one that comes by. Hopefully the little ones will be showing up soon at our feeders.

The Orioles were only around for a couple of weeks, and they didn’t even want the oranges that we put out for them. They sucked up their nectar, then came to steal from the Hummy feeder, and soon they were gone too.

The Yellow Warblers and Tree Swallows really showed up in abundance this year, which made it difficult to tell if any of the “special” ones were around.

The Purple Martins set up in their homes all around the county and were often seen buzzing around the wetlands. These birds are like the swallows, but are a bit bigger. The males are a deep colour, almost a royal purple/blue in the sunlight.

I happened upon an Egret at Holiday Beach close to the edge of the water, in the shade with sunlight in behind. It was a male, preening his breeding plumage. I sat at the edge of the marsh and made myself comfortable. I didn’t have long to wait. Within 2 minutes he stretched himself out and the magic happened. After a few seconds, it was all finished. I chimped the camera and felt elated! This time I got decent photos of the feathers being spread in the sunlight.

The shorebirds started their annual march northwards, so it was time to visit Hillman Marsh. Although it was busy enough, there just seemed to be fewer species coming through, and those that visited didn’t stay around very long. We did get a chance to see the Black Throated Stilts, a Western Sandpiper, Golden Plovers, Black Bellied Plovers, Yellowlegs, Dunlins and a pair of Trumpeter Swans. One special visitor was a Leucistic Canada Goose.

Slowly, the warblers began to show up. A few came in early, but this year it seemed that the majority got the Stay at Home order from the Ontario Government, and decided not to migrate. It was either that or the weather. It’s no fun to fly when it’s just too cold and the winds like to blow from the North too often. The warblers need winds from the South to help push them across Lake Erie, but those winds were as scarce as the warblers themselves.

This is not to say that nobody arrived, but if we were looking for the big push, it just didn’t happen. And by the time it warmed up enough for anything to come through, the trees had already popped out their leaves and the groundcover was too deep to see anything.

I know, I sound like a whining child.

Alright, what were some of the highlights;
Warblers – Black Throated Blue, Black Throated Green, Yellow, Palm, we got to see a very rare Kirtland’s way up at the top of a tree (not the best place to get photos), Prothonotary (endangered), Common Yellowthroat, Hooded, Ovenbird, Black and White, Blackburnian, Chestnut Sided, Magnolia, Yellow-Rumped, Parula, Canada, and a few other ones. Have I lost you yet?
Others include – Orchard Orioles, Rose Breasted Grosbeak, various Thrush, a quick glimpse of a flying Woodcock, a Sedge Wren, Sora, a few Red Headed Woodpeckers, various Flycatchers, Terns, Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, Titmouse, Blue Grey Gnatcatcher, a really cute bunch of baby Wood Ducks, a few kinds of Sparrows, Cedar Waxwing, maybe I am dragging this on too long. Skipping to the end of the month brought us a pair of Glossy Ibis, way out on the other side of a flooded field, but at least we can say that we saw them.

My Lady had been pushing me for some time to make a major purchase of something that would help us both see some of the birds that were too far away for our binoculars. I kept putting it off complaining that it would just be another thing that I would have to carry around to go along with the camera and binoculars (and tea, and snacks, and backpack with warmer clothes, and other various stuff). Little did I know she was biding her time for the right moment.

We were able to go out birding with a couple of our friends, and they had a nice scope that brought the distant birds in close enough to identify. When my Lady was able to see one of the rare birds so clearly, she really began pushing in earnest. “You should get one of these” she said, pointing to the scope. From there, they ganged up on me and it became the running line for the rest of the day, even popping up a few times in the following days. It wasn’t just my Lady and our friends pushing me, but also a few members of our birding group got into the act. They were efficient in knocking down my defenses, and after a couple of days I made a stop at the best place in the area to buy optics, and after some humming and hawing, I ended up spending more than a few bucks on some really good equipment. It wasn’t so much that the store saw a sucker, but it was the opportunity to compare products, and select the best product for what my Lady and I would do with it. Of course I am secretly happy about getting a scope and have used it many times over the past couple of weeks, I was just in that “I couldn’t justify it” stage for too long.

Yup I’m one step closer to moving up a stage in the old Birding 101 blog from June 2019. Heck, I’m even starting to learn some of their habits and calls.

Anyway, even though it looks like we saw a lot of different birds, this year’s migration really was very soft. We didn’t get the normal number of birds coming through, even trying multiple locations. Everyone said the same thing, almost becoming a mantra – Slow year eh?

Makes me worry about the future, especially if the warblers couldn’t make it to their breeding grounds this year.

Wow, you actually stayed with me to get to the end?

Thanks so much. See you next time.

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